An Indian tech company that is making your car a smart car

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A lot of us don’t realize this but our cars are smart cars and if tapped into efficiently, can be made smarter. An average car on the road is designed to work with a computing system so intricate and powerful, that it may even leave sophisticated rocket directional systems behind. The reason why we don’t see this side of the car is that we haven’t been exposed to it- the manufacturers don’t advertise it, the insurance companies have nothing to d with and the servicing guy, well, may not understand it himself.

For a car to carry out various process every day like the auto locking system, braking system, the entertainment system docked inside and other such processes; it does a lot of computing, and the delivers the final output. Cars are designed to calculate, analyze and then accordingly act upon things like oxygen intake while it is running using the sensors to ensure that the air-fuel ratio is just right. Just like this, every little system in the car involves certain processors and sensors that enable it to make these decisions.

An Indian tech startup from Pune called CarIQ taps into this potential that already exists in your cars and dig through all this data to enable it to make informed decisions. It helps you make sense of the data that your car is constantly churning as it functions. The technology uses a simple device that is connected to the cloud and gets plugged into your car’s electronics system. This device gets its connectivity to the cloud from a SIM card inside just like you can connect to the cloud using data on a SIM from your smartphones.

The potential market for this concept is huge since almost every car manufactured in the last one decade or so can work well with this device, as it will definitely have an electronic system built in. Analyzing the big data such cars generate every day actually paints a picture of your car’s health. If this is used efficiently, it can predictive breakdowns and warn the user about any other possible malfunctions so that it can be fixed on time and at the user’s convenience. Another application of this smart data can be to look at traffic trends if enough number of cars are using this technology at a given time in a region. Things like road traffic conditions and pollution levels can be monitored in real time for specific coordinates.

The founders of the technology explain that when the device detects that the car is in an area where there is a lot of pollution using its sensors, it automatically adjusts the oxygen ratio in the cabin. This data from one car and then several cars on the road can create an air quality map, just like we have traffic movement maps for real-time commuting. Moreover, this becomes an inexpensive means to accumulate this data and present the results in real time. Seeing this data, many users may choose to completely avoid taking a certain route on the road and instead go to a road that has better air quality level.

The device will also add basic intelligent data functionalities like the distance for which the car has driven, car speed data plotted along a timeline and can also alert you when your car service is due. To add more fun and engaging features, the device has been wired to gamify your experience of driving. Users get a score for their fuel efficiency, speeding, how frequently and with how much force does the user apply brakes and what that means for the car’s health. This will not only aid and improve driving quality but also give you a sense of why certain parts tend to malfunction if used in an improper way. This can be extremely beneficial for first-time drivers and learners. Driving teachers can use this to explain driving concepts in a more engaging format to the students. You can also compare your scores with your friends’ and turn it into an interesting game.

The founders of the service explain that the best benefit to the user that the device will reduce or eliminate situations when the driver can feel that something is not right but is unable to identify the problem. Sometimes, especially on Indian roads, you may feel like the AC is not working properly and you may even get it serviced. However, there is now way for the driver to know exactly what the problem is. The device may throw up results like leakage of gas which otherwise would not have become known to the user.

Industry experts have even called this as the ‘FitBit for cars’ with the obvious risk of it going down the same road. Globally users of FitBit and other wearable health devices have admitted that their excitement about the product wear off quickly as more and more data is generated and the user is overwhelmed. The founders of CarIQ are well aware of this phenomenon, and they are prepared to tackle it.

Sagar Apte, one of the co-founders, have said on record, that they are aware that Indian consumer market is not ready for a product like this. The device retails at around Rs. 5000 to Rs. 6000 and there is a need for a lot of education about this segment of connected devices. Sagar Apte mentioned that they had sold a few thousands of the devices in the last one year when the company came to the market. He went on to explain that this is exactly why CarIQ has taken the approach of enterprise market rather than selling to customers. They are now working with insurance companies so that when a consumer buys an insurance policy, a CarIQ device can come in bundled up.

This also allows the insurance company to have an additional touch point with the user, which was earlier restricted to only once in a year when the time of renewal came. It is an interesting proposition since it will allow the insurance company to suggest more relevant renewals and price points.

What to do you think about this technology? Are you willing to try it and see how it can help you understand the health of your car? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.