Japan’s SmartDrive unveils vehicle analytics solution, poised for operational testing



This is the abridged version of our original article in Japanese.

Our readers may recall that we recently reported on Japanese stealth startup SmartDrive. The startup has been developing vehicle tracking and bigdata analytics solutions, and fundraised tens of millions yen (or a few hundreds thousands dollars) from Japanese startup investment fund Anri back in February.

The company unveiled the details of their service and announced today that it will launch a test operation by nstalling their device in test vehicles next month. The test will be conducted for one month in Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City, a new city in suburban Tokyo.

SmartDrive will distribute their device to about 20 testers in the area and ask them to track the condition of their cars and driving data, which will be used to improve the product.

Health tracking app for your car

Their solution is comprised of a small accessory and a smartphone app. By connecting the accessory to an OBD (on-board diagnostics) interface to a car, it will be synced via BlueTooth with the app on a smartphone. Various metrics, like fuel efficiency or engine stats, will then be transferred to your smartphone. This process is similar to health tracking apps that obtain data via body sensors.

We’ve seen several startups like Y Combinator-backed Automatic (launched in 2013) and New York-based Dash Labs (launched back in June 2013) as well as several Kickstarter campaigns like this and that providing similar tracking solutions using the OBD interface.


Bigdata solution on top of people’s driving records

SmartDrive does not have a clear business model, but CEO Retsu Kitagawa aims to monetize it via B2B2C.

For example, if an auto insurer, or a car dealer uses the SmartDrive solution and lets customers use it, they will be able to get details from customers’ vehicles and provide a cheaper insurance package or better follow-up services. US auto insurer Progressive provides an OBD device called SnapShot to better serve customers. The more types of cars these companies can acquire data from, the more fields the solution can be applied to.

SmartDrive is repeating stress tests to prepare for the operational test. We will feature them as soon as more details become available.