I’m a big Audi fan and a Gadget Geek, so anything that plays to both these passions is a win. So I recently succombed and bought an iOBD2 from www.iOBD2.co.uk.
OBD (or On-Board Diagnostics) is a pretty near industry standard for a diagnostic connector on most modern vehicles. It allows the appropriate equipment access to an array of information from the vehicle, including detailed self diagnostic error codes.
For many years the connector was for the purvey of the motor industry allowing them to attach to expensive diagnostic monitoring equipment, suck their teeth and land you with an expensive bill for merely telling you why the engine fault light had come one.
More recently more generic equipment became available for independent garages, so slightly less teeth sucking, but a bill is a bill.
Obviously a number of entrepreneurial individuals developed connectors & cables and associated software to allow anyone with a laptop to access the same information. This was a great boon for DIY mechanics and also brought the equipment into the affordable realm of the smaller garages.
So to the iOBD! As the name suggests originally developed for iPhone (or iPad) it was a standalone connector that could wirelessly (via WiFi) send the data to an iPhone. The manufacturers of the device, XTOOL, also developed an app to display the various data feeds in a user friendly manner. These dashboards give you access to information that may not be usually available via your normal dashboard and allows the more savvy home mechanic to ensure their vehicle is performing at peak and also detect any engine management error codes. They could then effect a repair or if too difficult at least be forearmed with the right information to ensure a fair charge ensues from the local garage.
The manufacturers then developed the Android version which works over Bluetooth, but in exactly the same manner.
So this is all fine and dandy, and I have quelled my gadget itch for a while.
However two things strike me as opportunities, one for a better use for the device and second for the industry in general.
So first, I am planning at some stage to change my Audi (and yes probably for another Audi), and it came to me that this device would be great to assess any used vehicles I went to test. The seller should not be averse to the device being attached and the “vitals” could be monitored and any engine management codes also picked up. With a little research before the visits, you could easily assess what things to look for as signs if impending issues. Considering that the device recently got dropped in price in the UK to £45, this is a small price to pay to start initially assessment for a used vehicle purchase.
The next idea that came to me, was with the advent of “smart” vehicles and the prevalent fashion for all things connected and Bluetooth in vehicles, it is not beyond belief that a cheap option for relaying the OBD signals via Bluetooth could be done. However this would mean the industry relinquishing what is a sizeable revenue stream I suspect from ongoing maintenance.
It would only take one forward thinking company though to start this trend, and the rest I suspect would follow.
In the meantime I’ll satisfy myself with my dashboard mounted smartphone telling me exactly what my ignition advance is and whether my Alpha Sensor is working. (And no I don’t really know if that matters)