iSadde ELM 327 Bluetooth OBD2 Module

iSaddle_ELM_327Being a geek can sometimes become pretty expensive. Different devices offer differing amounts of geek fun for the buck.
Every car and pickup manufactured from 1996 forward has what is known as an OBD2 port. OBD is short for on board diagnostics. The OBD2 port was originally mandated as part of emission control efforts.

There are plenty of consumer-oriented OBD2 port scanners. However, with the proliferation of smart phones and tablets, something new has come along that many people have yet to become aware of. Inexpensive Bluetooth and WiFi enabled OBD2 modules are just the ticket to pair up with your favorite smartphone or tablet.

Torque ProI purchased an iSaddle ELM 327 module from Amazon which is currently priced at $14.99 and is an Amazon Prime item. This particular unit will work with Android and Windows only, so I can only use it with my Android devices and not my iPad Air. If I want to use an OBD2 scanner with my iPad I would need to buy one that says it specifically works with iOS devices. So, if you intend to get one of these devices for use on an iOS device, be SURE that you search for iOS OBD2 and read the user comments to make sure what people that have purchased the specific item you are looking at have to say about it.

The iSaddle ELM 327 module simply plugs in to the vehicle’s OBD2 port. OBD2 ports are always located on the driver’s somewhere immediately under the dash. On my 1998 Ford F-150 pickup, the OBD2 port is located almost directly below the steering column just under the dash back a bit from the bottom edge. I can easily leave the unit plugged in full time if I wish.

To make use of the device after plugging it in, simply start up the engine and then pair it up with Bluetooth to your Android phone or Android tablet. On my unit, the Bluetooth password is 1234.

Next, it is necessary to have an app that can take advantage of the ELM 327 Bluetooth unit. In my opinion by far the best app available is an Android app called Torque. There is a free version of Torque and a paid version called Torque Pro that sells in the Google Play store for $4.99. I went ahead and purchased the Pro version figuring that the extra functionality was well worth the price.

With this setup, I have Torque Pro in my Galaxy Note 3 set up to automatically connect to the iSaddle ELM 327 module every time I take a trip in my vehicle. I have Torque Pro set up to automatically monitor various engine operating parameters and create a CSV or comma separated value file of each new trip. I have included GPS position history using the phone’s GPS, which enables me to bring each separate trip up on a map right inside of the Torque Pro app.

Torque Pro also comes with standard virtual gauges such as speedometer, tachometer, etc. However, it is possible for the end user to easily create his or her own virtual analog or digital gages. The graphics in Torque Pro are really quite good making for very realistic-looking virtual gauges.

Torque Pro is extremely customizable, so I would suggest spending a significant amount of time with the app looking through all of the different options. For example, I now have an instant MPG readout on a 16-year-old vehicle which I think is pretty darned cool!

I have to say this is one of the most enjoyable $20 dollars I’ve spent in a long time for this combo. Once upon a time people who were serious about knowing what was going on with their vehicle’s engine would spend a fortune on physical gauges. Torque Pro in conjunction with an ELM 327 OBD2 port module makes it possible to create as many virtual gauges as you would like and your particular car supports.

The Gadget Show Live

Gadget Show LiveThe Gadget Show Live is the UK’s closest thing to CES, but that’s like comparing a boxing match to invading Iraq. Where CES takes over most of Las Vegas, the Gadget Show occupies a couple of halls at the NEC outside Birmingham. Nevertheless I popped over for a day to see the latest and greatest tech on show to us Brits and it was fun. I was there for GNC two years ago and this year the show was definitely bigger with a bit more variety. 3D TV was the thing in 2012, but 2014 is electric vehicles, 4K / UHD TVs and multi-rotor aerial vehicles. That’s not to say there weren’t other niche products and I’ve captured a few in audio interviews that I’ll post over the next few days.

Samsung were demonstrating their curved Ultra HD TVs and all I can say is, “Wow!” The screens were totally amazing – almost more real than real – and the detail was incredible. Even the flat, non-curved, versions were pretty stunning. Although the curved versions still have crazy prices, I can’t help but wonder if flat 4K resolution TVs will only be on-sale for a few short years before curved ones become mainstream.

Curved Samsung Screen

Volkswagen brought along the XL 1, a diesel plug-in hybrid, which surprisingly is not a concept car: it’s for sale if you have a fat enough wallet at somewhere in the region of £100,000. At a more realistic level, VW had a bunch of demonstrator e-up! electric cars, which at a little under £20,000 are much more affordable, though the equivalent petrol version costs closer to £8,000. I took a test drive in one and can report that it’s exactly like driving an automatic car, only quieter and with plenty of low speed torque. Top speed of 80 miles per hour and a range of 100 miles make it a perfect second car for the well off.

XL1 Front

 

XL1 Side

 

XL1 Rear

Sony’s been touting the waterproof features of the Xperia Z2 devices and they put their money where their mouth is at Gadget Show Live with a water-filled tank. Not content to simply leave the smartphone in the bottom, a team of scuba and free divers showed that the Z2 was usable under water to take photos. Outstanding.

Xperia Z2 Underwater

Finally, when I was at the show in 2012, Parrot were showing off the AR.Drone and pretty much had the airspace to themselves. Quadricopters were everywhere this year with DJI‘s mulitrotor devices (below) down to Hubsan’s tiny copters that fit in your hand. The future is three-dimensional but not quite in the way the TV manufacturers were hoping.

Multirotor Aerial Vehicle

There was plenty more and I’ll be putting the interviews out over the next few days – expect content from Sony, Canon, Optoma, Toca Boca, TP-Link, DJI and others.

The Gadget Show Live is on until 13th April 2014.

Ford Electric Concept Car

Ford LogoTodd takes a look at Ford’s C-Max Solar Energi concept car, which amongst other things, features a solar panel roof that uses a special light concentrator lens similar to a magnifying glass to improve the efficiency of the photovoltaic cells. Ford reckons that a day’s worth of sunshine is enough to charge the hybrid’s battery, which is good for 21 electric-only miles.

This is good news for the environment as it would reduce yearly carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions from the average US car by as much as four metric tons – the equivalent of what a American house produces in four months. This probably assumes a perfect sunshine record and maximum electric mileage each day, but, hey, every little bit helps.

Review by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Velodyne Lidar for Driverless Cars (and other things) at CES

HDL_pageheaderTodd and Don interviewed David Oroshnik from Velodyne about their lidar systems.

The lidar system David demonstrated has 32 infrared beams that can see 360 degrees from the spinning sensor and 10 degrees up and 30 degrees down for a 40 degree field of view.  These sensors are used in self-driving cars and mapping applications.

Velodyne Lidar sensors are not available to the public and, as David said, would cost as much as the car does right now. Look for Velodyne Lidar sensors to become part of future consumer products.

For more information see VelodyneLidar.com

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network and Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

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Uber – Google Driverless Cars: The End of Drivers?

uberlogo[1]When I went to L.A. in July, I used Uber to travel back to the Airport. Of course, that was during rush hour, which is not a smart move. But the driver – an L.A. native – knew the shortcuts to get me from Venice Beach to LAX in a faster time.

So how would a driverless car do it?

Local independent transportation company Uber announced today they want to invest up to $375 million for 2,500 driverless cars from Google when they become available toward the end of the year. Their investment also included a commitment to share data with Google for the trips.

Google – who has been developing driverless cars since 2008 – just showed the GX3200 earlier this year at the Detroit Auto Show. The GX3200 is a four-person, 3 suitcase car with built-in Wifi and a charge that can get up to 750 miles.

For Uber, this could mean faster rollouts in cities they never planned to be a part of. Having 1-2 cars in towns with populations less than 10,000 is a reality. You don’t even a dispatcher living there, since the app takes care of the process.

Uber is in 24 cities in the U.S. – Just adding Honolulu last week – and 18 worldwide locations. Of course, major hurdles in some areas as labor unions petition this service and new regulations trying to shut down the Uber Taxi service.

Still, the question begs – do you want a driverless car? I would be more happy to have a car show up for me to get in and drive to my desired location. Having some control at this stage in the autonomous car period will make me feel safer.

With newer Google Maps – including the recently purchased and implemented Waze software (predictive software that finds alternate routes) – I could see a driverless car act just like my Uber driver from July.

Would you get into a driverless car?

Audi Presents: Spock vs. Spock

Audi LogoIf you are like me, then you probably do whatever you can to avoid having to watch commercials. Once in a while, though, it is worth taking a few minutes to check out an exceptionally well done ad. Such is the case with Audi’s new commercial, which features Mr. Spock vs. Mr. Spock… sort of.

Most people would recognize that Leonard Nimoy played the role of Spock in Star Trek the Original Series, (as well as in several Star Trek movies). The newly rebooted version of the Star Trek movies features Zachary Quinto as a young Spock. The Audi commercial has each actor playing himself, with the actor’s version of Spock overlapping him.

Basically, the two agree to have a race to the country club. Whoever gets there last has to buy lunch. The entire ad is sprinkled with subtle (and more obvious) things that Star Trek fans will immediately recognize. At the start, the two Spocks are playing a game of 3 Dimensional Chess against each other.

What might not be as obvious to viewers is the song that Leonard Nimoy sings in the commercial. It is called “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” which appears on the “Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy” album. Yes, he really did record that song!

Is Your Subaru a Self-Starter?

Subaru logoCars that suddenly start themselves might sound like something out of a novel by Stephen King. Its a creepy concept! Your car, a man made object that definitely is not sentient, somehow develops the ability to start itself and run its engine via unknown means. This is the type of thing one expects to see in scary movies, not in real life.

Yet, that is exactly what has happened. Subaru is recalling 47,419 vehicles in the United States that have become “self-starters”. The recall affects some Legacy and Outback cars from the model years 2010 through 2013. It also affects Impreza sedans from 2012 through 2013 and XV Crosstrek crossover vehicles from 2013. This information comes to me from Reuters, who got it from documents filed from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

How are these vehicles able to start themselves? The answer has nothing to do with magic or the supernatural. Instead, it is due to an unexpected quirk in the remote starter key fob. Dropping the key fob can result the vehicle’s engine starting – even if the ignition button on the fob was not pressed. The engine can then run for up to 15 minutes. It is also reported that the vehicle can continue to start, and stop, all by itself until either the battery in the key fob dies or the vehicle finally runs out of gas.

If you are the owner of one of these creepy vehicles that has gained the ability to start itself, you should be getting a letter from Subaru shortly. They will replace the remote starter fob at no charge. The recall only affects vehicles in which Subaru of America remote starter accessory kits have been installed. The recall will begin in April.

When I think about the key fobs that let drivers start their vehicles remotely, it makes me think of convenience. It lets a person warm up his or her car before they have to get in and drive to work. After learning about the Subaru recall, I’m going to be wondering how many “zombie” vehicles were out there, spontaneously starting themselves, in the wee hours of the night.

Ready for Car Sharing? – FORD2GO Launching in Germany

Ford_logo Ford Motor Company will launch FORD2GO in about 50 German Ford dealerships in the second quarter of 2013. FORD2GO will be the first automotive manufacturer-backed car sharing program in Europe. The program is a partnership between Ford, The German Ford Dealers Association and DB Rent (the people behind Flinkster car sharing). They will start out with around 500 cars.

DB Rent has developed a web-based reservation and booking system including an iOS and Android app.

A Ford Motor Company-sponsored poll shows that 56 percent surveyed said they would consider car sharing. Of the people interested, 27 percent would be most attracted by reduced travel costs, 26 percent by convenience of place and operating hours, 23 percent by a straightforward booking system and 22 percent by a reduced impact on the environment.

Ford2Go_02

Ford’s German trade network includes 527 Ford dealers, 257 affiliated branches and 1083 Ford authorized repair shops, any of which would be able to take part in the program.

What do you think of car sharing? Would you make use of it if it were available in your city?

For more information about Ford Motor Company, go to http://corporate.ford.com/

Hyundai’s Technology BlueLink and More

Bluelink Hyundai showed off a lot of technology at CES 2013, BlueLink, haptic control, gesture control, face recognitions, advance heads up display and connectivity with your smart device. The infrared motion sensor, senses distance, motion and proximity. It allows you to change things with just hand gestures.  You can even reconfigure your gear cluster. They are also working on eye tracking software that can warn the driver if they are falling the asleep. They are developing face recognition software that would prevent the car from being stolen plus make things better for the driver.  When you buy a car a profile is set up for you and anyone else that is going to drive the car. When a person gets in the driver seat if the car recognizes that person (they have a profile) it will adjust the seat position, audio and climate control to the person’s preference based on their profile. If someone tries to steal the car and the car doesn’t recognize the person the car will not start or do anything.

It uses MHL Protocol to connect to your smart phone. Everything is in real-time. Navigation is projected on the windshield, so the driver can see the directions without ever having to take their eyes off the road. BlueLink Telematic System allows things to be  reconfigured remotely from an app, the web or using the in-car system. You can reconfigure heating, air conditioning, gage cluster, fan position and power. It keeps track of the health of the car and whether it needs maintenance. It can even tell you where your car is located when you lose your car in the parking lot of a mall. It is like putting remote start on steroid.

You can find more information about BlueLink and other Hyundai technology at the BlueLink website and the Hyundai website.

Interview by Allante Sparks of F5 Live.

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Chrysler’s Uconnect System

Chrysler Uconnect Chrysler showed off improvements to its UConnect infotainment system. Chrysler is working on adding its many features as possible to the system, while making it as easy to use as possible. They are working with human interface experts in order to achieve this end. The various radios that are included within the Uconnect interface are AM/FM radio, HD radio and also Sirus XM radio with Premier lineup. If you use Sirus XM radio and you mark a song or sports team as a favorite, than when those songs or that sport teams appears on a Sirus station you will an alert and shortcut straight to it. The radio system also has a replay feature which works similar to a DVR it captures data in the background while you’re taking call. When the call is finished you can then come back to what you are listening to and rewind it back for up to an hour. In the center console there is a media hub which includes: a USB port, Bluetooth streaming audio port, SD port, aux port and a USB charging port. The USB charging port is a 2.5 amp charger and can be used to charge an iPad. You can use the system to change the climate inside the car using your voice.

They have also improve the navigation system within the car. Chrysler has also included one step navigation using voice command, requesting navigation information either using an address or “find nearest” (as in find nearest coffee shop). The on-screen map also shows traffic indicators from the nearest Sirus XM traffic center. These indicators include accidents, road work and general traffic information. The UConnect access in Chrysler vehicles has been integrated with MAP (Message Access Profile) system that is used by Android and Windows phones. This allows you to send text messages using the voice recognition button on the steering wheel. The message goes to Nuance which translates it into text and then back to the phone and then it is sent off. You can also use it to read off incoming text messages. This allows you to send and receive messages without your hands ever leaving the steering wheel.

The Uconnect also has embedded apps which have an integrated cell connection using the Sprint Network. This allows you to make certain calls without having to use your phone. There is a 911 button which will take you directly to the nearest 911 center. There is also an assist button which will connect you to either roadside assistance, a Uconnect assistant or vehicle specific assistance.

The Via mobile system that Chrysler is introducing integrates internet radio stations that are on your smart phone into the Uconnect system. You enter your login information for your favorite music applications including Pandora, Slacker Radio, and iHeart Radio into the Via mobile website (once you register your vehicle with Uconnect ) then those apps are paired with your vehicle. This forces you to use your vehicle controls so you’re not distracted by your phone. It does use the cellular data from your phone.

Chrysler will be announcing later which vehicles this full system will be available on, they were showing it off at CES 2013 in the Ram 2013.

Interview by Scott Ertz for the F5Live.tv network.

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