Saturday, July 14, 2012

iPhone app for the Karma

Sorry, I don't have one... but wouldn't that be cool?

Along the same lines as my experiments with the Raspberry Pi, there are lot of interesting data you could get from the car (and indeed the attached charger, assuming it doesn't also send data to the car while charging, which would be even cooler).

Ignoring the really geeky low level metrics, some of the obvious things that would be fun to know are:
  • How many different routes (beginning and ending location pairs) have I travelled in the car?
  • Metrics for each route... average, min, max of: distance, time, cost (electric + gas), electric usage, regenerative braking, temperature, ICE usage, fuel burned. 
  • Charge-to-charge stats (as above, but all activity between charges)
I'm sure Fisker have more pressing issues to deal with, but supporting common devices with apps would be very cool.  Even cooler though, would be to provide an API for developers to access a wealth of information over the USB and bluetooth.  Then developers could go nuts and provide a variety of different tools and user experiences for accessing and using this sort of information.

One of the trendy things happening in consumer computing these days is "gamification".  This is the provision of certain metrics with goals and rewards designed to incent the user to improve some performance.  It is used in fitness, budgeting and finance and other areas where users want to set themselves objectives and measure their improvement.  Gamification taps into some basic psychology - apparently we are quite motivated to beat targets and enjoy some kind of reward for doing so... even it seems when these rewards are exceptionally abstract, even entirely virtual!

Some of the new EVs reaching the market have a very simple in-dash gamification using some simple graphic to indicate how economically the car is being driven.  So far these have included a green 'eco ball' that most be floated up and maintained at a particular level by driving economically (gentle acceleration and braking, basically) and in another vehicle some animated butterflies that appear when the drive is similarly efficient.   Frankly, I'm not a big fan of such in-dash frippery - I really like the modern, elegant styling of the Karma dash and instrumentation (though a few display options would be nice).  However, if the vehicle's operating metrics are available for application developers to access, then we can have a range of analysis tools and gamification options available.

I notice that the Ford Motor Company seems to have embraced "the car as a platform" in just this way.  This seems both useful and exciting, though I don't have any first hand experience with the features they are promoting.  Hopefully the experience is as good as their marketing suggests, and not just gimmicky.

If my plans for extracting Karma data (such as it is available via the OBD-2 port) come to fruition, then I'll probably have a bash at writing an iPhone/iPad app myself, being fairly versant in such things.  One step at a time though...

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