Apps now competing with plug-in devices to record driving data

Iconosys, a developer of safety, security, and privacy-oriented technologies for modern-age personal technology devices and platforms, officially released My Max Speed™ last month, an app where users log their rates of speed every 5 seconds as they travel. What we are witnessing is a new battle between physical, plug-in devices like Car Checkup and CarMed vs. smart phone apps that use your smart phone's GPS capability.

I have reported on other driving recording devices before, but those were physically attached to the vehicle via the service port. So, I’m not surprised by this app, especially after visiting Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) research center in Dearborn a few weeks ago.

Fact is, tying apps with hands-free driving plus voice activation with Ford’s SYNCH says the industry is taking smart-phone technology serious; and so should you. As the industry pulls it into the car, apps like My Max Speed™ gain even more credibility over physical devices like CarCheckUp and CarMed.

My guess is, the industry is headed toward the black box approach like we have in aircraft, but physical boxes may no longer be necessary. That way, auto accidents and incidents can still be litigated with factual, recorded data, not just hearsay.

Now imagine the look on a judge and the officer’s face if you have data to prove their speeding system wrong. Perhaps that explains why some states are allowing judgment calls to be sufficient to give you a speeding ticket. What’s next? Use that judgment to override technology data in court?

CarCheckup

When CarCheckup first offered me a unit to review a number of months ago via its DittoePR rep, Jim Hoff, I admit I was a bit skeptical. After all, I had already reviewed a competitor, but more from a news release perspective.

For the record, I was not paid for the review, and the unit was shipped back after review. That freed me up to ask, how different is this product than other brands, like CarMD and CarChip Pro, for example?

For those who want to listen to this product review, here's the link to my review article: CarCheckup serves car owners with more than just engine codes

Bottom line was, I found CarCheckup does much more than just read engine codes. It reads and stores data from your car's on-board computers, continuously logging driving and engine performance, much like a "black box" records the flap angle and engine speed in a commercial airplane.

Once I received the latest CarCheckup automotive scanner and data logger in the mail, I was immediately impressed with light weight and the small size, literally fitting into the palm of my hand; plus the unit had no buttons, dials or switches.

I then read the tri-folded quick-start guide (much to my wife's surprise), but had to put the project on hold as my writing agenda was quite busy that day and getting ready for Autorama. A week later I was finally free and plugged it into my Chevy HHR. Point is, it was that easy!

After logging mileage for about a week, I unplugged the device from my HHR. Then I plugged directly it into my computer by swinging out the USB plug on the device and into the USB port on my computer port.

Much to my surprise, my computer which runs Windows 7 (64 bit) instantly installed the drivers. So, no additional software was needed, which I found convenient.

I then logged into the carcheckup.com website and proceeded to register for an account. That took longer that the whole process of log-in, which took only a few minutes, and required me to select a primary vehicle for the device. Unfortunately, my HHR was not on the list, so I had to request it be added.

After the setup was completed and I logged back into the system, I was met by a nice dashboard screen with some options to choose from. I selected the download data tab and it took about 5-10 minutes to retrieve the data that I had recorded into the device.

I found Trip Summaries as the greatest purpose for this product: Think Highest Speed, RPM, Extreme Braking, and more! It even reports trip time, miles traveled, the highest attained speed, plus the time spent at various speeds. That in my mind is probably its greatest asset next to code reading; and a feature CarMD does not have.

One area that fits the life of parents with a teen driver is the Hard Driving indicator, which spells out the number of hard accelerations, extreme accelerations, hard brake events and extreme brake events, over and above fastest speed.

While each of these functions plus a few others can be graphed, only an engineer could appreciate the angle of the throttle, for example.

Frankly, when it comes to distance, I noted then I would prefer a GPS location as well; as distance doesn’t tell exactly where my kid drove for the evening, or my sales/service rep drove for the day. But that’s one dad’s opinion who now enjoys grandchildren.

Still, every car owner can at the very least can still use the Trouble Code readout, especially when that ‘CHECK ENGINE SOON’ light comes on. Question awlays is, how soon? In my case, my HHR was running fine; so no codes were indicated.

According to the website, the system does allow for an explanation and information in the form of two separate reads: present codes and pending codes. With that information you would be well armed so as not to be lied to by a service technician.

Iconosys App

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For an earlier TN review of this product by Don Bain, I suggets reading his article, entitled Pulled over for speeding? Get a second opinion!!!

This newest product is indeed an app, requiring no additonal physical device to plug-in. According to the Iconosys website, Iconosys and its client-side app development team are specialists in developing solutions for Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, Flash/Chumby, Palm, Windows Phone/Windows Mobile, and Symbian platforms.

For the record, Iconosys, the devoper of the app has developed and owns nearly 500 Smart Device retail grade apps, which are classified under 1 of 4 categories -- Safety Apps, Lifestyle Apps, Celebration Apps, and Arcade/Fun Apps. This ranks Iconosys as a leader in the mobile communications market, where as their technologies are developed into retail grade Smart Device applications or apps.

According to the latest Iconosys news release, MY MAX SPEED™, tracks and displays the fastest speed of your drive within each 5 minutes and is accurate to .0001 using GPS. Then with an exportable spreadsheet compatible with Microsoft Excel that is logged on at all times, a record of your rate of speed can automatically be stored showing intervals of 5 seconds onto your mobile device.

This may be great for teenagers who want to prove to their parents that they are safe drivers, or for parents who want to keep track of their teenagers driving.

Additionally, app users pulled over for driving over the speed limit can confirm in an instant that their rate of speed matches what the law enforcement officer reports. In some cases this may save the consumer hundreds of dollars in the event that the law enforcements method of capturing the rate of speed is flawed.

Of course, the legality in court may be challenged by prosecution. In my opinion, it’s only a matter of time when that will happen.

Still, having proof that speeding did not occur can impact other citations the driver may be exposed to, not to mention their auto insurance company.

Features of the app include:

1) The large display shows rate of speed in large format, showing you your highest rate of speed in past five minutes of driving/traveling

2) Store rates of speed every five seconds in a spreadsheet format

3) Store speed snapshots in five minute segments for evidentiary purposes

4) Export speed reports to Excel, Word, Power Point or other software

5) Tap on the spreadsheet sheet display in the app on any specific speed instance and get a daytime map

6) Send your speed reports to another thru email and or share on Facebook

Infosys is careful, though, to note MY MAX SPEED™ is intended for entertainment purposes only. Gee, wonder why? The company is obviously watching its own legal back.

So, Iconosys does not advocate the use of this app while driving or to violate any laws. The website says to please buckle-up, put the phone down, and drive safely!

Torque News reporter Assessment

OK, it's not an apples-to-apples comparison. Each has its strength, its weakness, but each has its focus; and both do them quite well. Still, I think the app approach is cheaper in the long run and more likely to have a future with customers, because the cost is minimal by comparison. Furthermore, it uses a device that customers already own.

I'm now waiting for someone to garner the service code data directly using an app instead of a physical plug-in device. One would think that Ford and GM would be on this like white on rice, especially when that "service engine soon" light comes on.

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About the Reporter: After 39 years in the auto industry as a design engineer, Frank Sherosky now trades stocks, futures and writes articles, books and ebooks like, "Perfecting Corporate Character," "Awaken Your Speculator Mind", and "Millennial World Order" via authorfrank.com. He may be contacted here by email: FrankS@TorqueNews.com
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Additional Reading:
CarCheckup serves car owners with more than just engine codes
GMC releases free shopping app for smart phone
Ford expanding intelligent vehicles with Driver Safe technologies
State business ranking by CNBC reflects same criteria important to auto industry
Why Obama's proposed CAFE standards to 56.2 mpg IS feasible