IoT for the car care ecosystem
Modernizing car maintenance
Over the past couple of decades, the vehicles that keep us moving have become more reliable, more efficient, more powerful, more technically advanced… and a lot more complicated to maintain. Even for the mechanically inclined, the days of doing small repairs or even oil changes at home are long since passed. For the typical driver, it’s now almost impossible to fully understand what’s under the hood.
At the same time, passenger vehicles have become costly enough that the average car loan term is now over 70 months, and the average car on the road in North America is now over 10 years old. Clearly, replacement is not an option. But when onboard electronic systems or specialized mechanical parts fail unexpectedly, the financial impact to a household can be severe.
Traditionally, a vehicle’s maintenance schedule has been defined by the manufacturer and then implemented locally by dealerships and independent repair shops. But a generalized schedule can miss the signs that an individual vehicle sends, and those notifications may not always come when they’re needed. It’s no wonder that everyday consumers don’t always trust their mechanics to put their needs before a steady revenue stream.
Still, for anyone driving a vehicle beyond its warranty period, there’s a constant ticking clock. What will fail next, and when? Will I be stranded? Stuck with a major expense? In an ideal world, every driver would have the time, resources, and skills to learn about the intricacies of their cars. But this reality isn’t practical or possible.
Enter Vehicle Mind, an IoT-powered “virtual mechanic” that integrates with a vehicle’s onboard diagnostic systems to give owners a deeper level of transparency and predictability regarding their vehicle’s current condition and future maintenance needs.
Co-Founder and CTO, Vehicle Mind
“We tested other IoT providers, but none could match the international roaming coverage, prices, and the developer friendliness of the Soracom Console.”
Bridging the data gap between vehicles and their owners
“The current car care ecosystem was built to support a different generation of vehicles and a different generation of drivers,” explains Roberto Cialdella, Marketing Director at Vehicle Mind. “The relative lack of modern digital tools makes it hard for both drivers and repair shops. We want to support both vehicle owners and the automotive aftermarket by offering a revolutionary set of products and services to help modernize the industry.”
The Vehicle Mind Hub offers an opportunity to bring an aging passenger fleet to parity with current vehicles in terms of onboard telematics capability. This all-in-one service gives any car a voice to communicate potential issues before they become emergencies.
The device plugs into a car’s OBD-II port and communicates with the Vehicle Mind smartphone app using its own 4G/LTE connection, providing status and diagnostics at a glance, making maintenance more convenient for car owners, and helping older cars to operate in a more environmentally-friendly way.
With Vehicle Mind installed, users can:
● Receive proactive insights to keep their cars healthy
● Get plain-English explanations for technical trouble codes
● Understand the severity of check engine light diagnostics
● Get safety alerts based on GPS location tracking
● Get alerts when a parked vehicle moves, gets towed (i.e. to locate the car), or leaves a geofenced area
● Coordinate safety alerts for engine issues, battery status, towing, and impact detection
● Log trips and create expense reports
● Access roadside assistance and a mechanic hotline for advice
In addition, the app equips drivers with digital maintenance tools such as service timeline tracking, automated reminders, and even driving scores to keep vehicles in ideal shape.
“The key benefit to using Vehicle Mind is seeing your car’s status in the palm of your hand,” says Cialdella. “You’re up to date on fuel level, battery power, and engine status. You don’t need to be in your car to see how it’s doing and when maintenance is needed.”
Coverage, cost, and control
After two years in development, Vehicle Mind is now operational across Canada. Behind the scenes, Soracom enables nationwide coverage across the world’s second largest country by land mass.
“We tested local cellular carriers and also a couple of other IoT data providers,” says Abhay Ghatpande, Vehicle Mind Co-Founder and CTO. “But none could match the international roaming coverage, prices, and the developer friendliness of the Soracom Console.”
Beyond base connectivity, Vehicle Mind uses Soracom Beam, which provides on-the-fly protocol conversion to minimize device-side data bandwidth requirements, and Soracom Gate, which uses the Layer 2 tunneling protocol to ensure a secure, bidirectional connection for enhanced security and simplified networking.
“As our platform expands, we will definitely use additional services,” says Cialdella. “The sales and service support is incredible. As a small startup, we sometimes struggle to get even a response to our enquiries. But the Soracom team is amazingly responsive and treats us like a partner.”
“We were facing some issues with the connectivity on our device. Soracom engineers went out of their way to help us debug our problem,” adds Ghatpande. “This is an unprecedented level of service we have experienced.”
Services in use
• SORACOM Air: smart connectivity for IoT
• SORACOM Beam: IoT protocol conversion
• SORACOM Gate: private IoT LAN
A foundation for true innovation
Vehicle Mind set out to help modernize an industry and improve the automotive maintenance experience for drivers everywhere. In just a few months since launching in November 2020, the team has already made significant progress toward that goal, with growing revenue, positive national press coverage, and a steady stream of 5-star customer reviews.
Vehicle Mind is now building on that initial success with the pending release of both an online maintenance booking and prepayment service and a new suite of digital tools designed for independent repair shops. With a broad base of both private mechanics and well-established maintenance franchises already on board, these new offerings position Vehicle Mind as a breakout service for both everyday drivers and the companies whose mission is to keep them on the road.
“Vehicle Mind was born out of our own frustrations with the lack of control and transparency we experienced when maintaining our cars; not to mention the resulting stress it generated for us and our loved ones,” says Cialdella. “One thing became clear: the car care market was ripe for change.”
One driving factor to this adoption has been Vehicle Mind’s 4G connectivity, which provides an edge over Bluetooth enabled competition.
“There’s a major competitive advantage that comes with offering drivers the ability to access their car’s data remotely vs having to stay next to your car to get any visibility on how it’s doing,” says Ghatpande. “People love that the Hub comes with its own 4G connection and it doesn’t have to rely on their phone being nearby to do its job.”
Vehicle Mind has proven that Canadian drivers are ready for a better way to manage car health and safety. Control and ownership are back in the hands of owners and drivers. In the coming year, the team is looking forward to bringing their service to drivers in the U.S. as well.