Summary:

Zubie has separated itself from the growing pack of vehicle-data tracking companies with a big opening round of funding.

Zubie Key and app
photo: Zubie

Automatic Labs challenger Zubie just picked up $10 million in a Series A round led by Castrol InnoVentures, Comporium and Open Air Equity. The company makes a device called the Zubie Key that plugs into a car’s on-board diagnostic port and communicates information about driving habits, vehicle health and location to your iPhone or Android device.

The device is very similar to Automatic’s Link, which we’ve covered extensively before (Link made it onto Gigaom’s Connected Life gift guide). The key difference is Zubie relies on an embedded cellular radio for its connection, while Automatic links directly to your smartphone using Bluetooth. That approach gives Zubie a few advantages, most significantly the ability to track and transfer car data when the driver and his smartphone aren’t present.

But that kind of cellular connectivity is also expensive. Unlike its competitors, Zubie charges an annual fee for its service. The device costs $100 up front and includes the first year of service, but it charges $100 to renew the service each year.

A lot of quantified car apps and gadgets are hitting the market, many of them connecting to the OBD-II port that was built into all cars made in 1996 or later. Automatic’s Link and Zubie’s Key are both commercially available on their websites and through online and physical stores, while recent Techstars NYC graduate Dash expects to launch its own car connectivity device early next year. Other startups like ZenDrive are building software-only car apps that track driver behavior solely on the smartphone.

Zubie, however, is garnering interest from an interesting set of investors beyond the usual Silicon Valley set. The company was incubated by Best Buy, and the Castrol InnoVentures that led its Series A is the strategic investment arm of the Castrol motor oil and lubricant division of BP.

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