In two months a Vancouver-startup called Mojio will start selling its connected car module, a plug-in device that connects your car to the cloud via T-Mobile’s network and your phone via Bluetooth. While there are a several gadgets in the market that promise to turn your unconnected car into a connected one, Mojio has an interesting take on the market. It wants to turn its plug-in car module into a application development platform.
We first reported on Mojio back in 2012 when it kicked off an Indiegogo campaign for its module, which plugs into the onboard diagnostic (OBD) port in all cars made in the last 18 years. Like competing devices Mojio’s module can upload acceleration, braking and engine alert information into your smartphone, but Mojio layered on a bunch of other apps that integrate that driver data with social networking, contacts, calendar and SMS features on your phone.
Mojio launched the device in beta with its Indiegogo contributors last year, and in October it raised a $2.3 million seed round led by Relay Ventures. Now it’s getting ready to release its commercial module to the public with several upgrades it’s hoping will set it apart from competitors like Automatic and Zubie, CEO and co-founder Jay Giraud told me an a recent interview.
Most significantly Mojio is opening up APIs to developers, letting them design apps for the gadget the same you’d design apps for iOS or Android. Those apps can tap into all of the vehicle diagnostic and location data Mojio draws from the car’s control access network (CAN) as well as social networking and communications tools Mojio has built into Mojio’s cloud-based platform. Those apps can be added to a user’s module from what amounts to connected car app store, Giraud said.
Giraud said Mojio is working with multiple developers for its upcoming launch. One developer he did name, however, is Glympse, which is looking to integrate cars into its location sharing app. Right now Glympse lets you share your location temporarily from your smartphone, but inside of Mojio it becomes a beacon that would allow you to keep constant tabs on the location of your car.
Second, Mojio is partnering with T-Mobile US to connect its module to its HSPA+ network and sell the module through T-Mobile’s retail channels. Mojio hasn’t finalized the exact pricing details, Giraud said, but its looking at two separate payment models: one in which you buy the device for $149 with no subscription fee whatsoever (including no data connectivity charges) or a monthly subscription fee around $6, which includes access to both its cloud-based services and network access. Customers who signed up for the monthly plan would pay nothing for the hardware, Giraud said.
Mojio finds itself going up against a growing number of in-car module makers and an app makers, each with a slight different approach to connected vehicles. Zubie also offers mobile network connectivity charging $100 a year for a subscription. Automatic relies solely on Bluetooth to communicate with your phone, while Dash recently launched its own software-only service that uses any off-the-shelf to diagnostic interface gadget to connect your smartphone to the car.
By launching with a stable of third-party apps, Mojio hopes to differentiate itself from that pack. That strategy means attracting developers, which themselves are attracted to devices that ship in large volumes. While that developer community could take a while to build, Mojio’s module will have plenty of functionality to make it useful in the interim. Mojio’s future roadmap also includes new hardware advancements, Giraud said. Mojio is looking into a building a module that includes both LTE and Wi-Fi connectivity, which would not only connect cars to the internet but the tablets, smartphones and other Wi-Fi gadgets passengers bring with them.