New startup Moj.io connects dumb cars to smartphones

New startup Moj.io connects dumb cars to smartphones

A Canadian startup is manufacturing a new, on-board device that creates intelligent, connected car services targeting an app-centric consumer base.

Moj.io is a device that plugs into the onboard diagnostics port of a vehicle for real-time data to deliver Internet-enabled applications to a smartphone. Essentially, the device tricks out any vehicle made after 1995 into a 21st-century connected car.

The Moj.io device uses a T-Mobile cellular network for machine-to-machine (M2M) communications by sending data up to the cloud. The company's core service delivers automated, location-based services but a central focus is on driver safety and convenience, says Jay Giraud, CEO of Moj.io.

By plugging into a vehicle computer's OBD port -- available in all cars manufactured after 1995 and intended for mechanics to get information and diagnose problems -- the Moj.io device can track real-time data for speed, motion, fuel levels and more.

Among the apps being developed for Moj.io include:

  • Family Connect: App that sets a top speed and a safe driving zone, sending alerts to smartphone if the vehicle is outside an intended zone.
  • Drive Smart: Disables incoming texts and calls when the parking brake is engaged.
  • Vehicle Locate: Real-time tracking to show your car on a map.
  • Tow Alert: Notifies you if your car is broken into or being towed away.
  • Mileage Tracker: Expediting the process of tracking miles for business expenses.
  • Auto Text: Automatically syncs with your calendar and sends notifications to contacts if you're running late.
  • Virtual Mechanic: Provides basic diagnostic information and fuel levels.
  • Good Driver Points: Rewards system to be shared in social media circles or with insurance companies.

Many auto manufacturers now offer connected car services, for example GM's OnStar and Ford Sync, that include features such as vehicle location finder, text message alerts and in-vehicle navigation. But Giraud emphasizes the value of Moj.io is retrofitting any car after 1995 to become "connected" and an open platform to create a never-seen-before marketplace for car apps.

"There are more than eight million developers who are excited to build apps for cars," says Giraud. "We're creating a platform for an app store in vehicle transportation."

Indeed, Bill Weihl, Facebook's manager of energy and sustainability, has jumped aboard serving as an advisor. Moj.io has an open API to allow developers to make communities within Facebook.

The in-car devices, once installed, could also potentially communicate with other Moj.io-enabled cars to provide a real-time view of traffic information. This vehicle-to-vehicle data could ultimately help cars avoid snarled traffic jams or even avoid collisions with each other, says Giraud.

Giraud also sees opportunities to modernize fleet management. With apps designed to track top speed or suppress text messages or phone calls, fleet managers could get a comprehensive view of drivers and fleet safety at a relatively low cost.

The company is trying to raise $100,000 in funding on Indiegogo, offering the devices for $89 with monthly subscription rate of $7.99.