Once upon a time, apps were pretty simple. Most were little more than websites that had been optimized for pint-sized smartphone screens. (Remember GasBook?)
Then came social networking integration. Apps like Waze leveraged the power of the crowd to track traffic, roadway construction, and other issues in real time.
Now we're entering the next phase, in which apps interface with wired, add-on gadgets. That's offering new ways for smartphone users to keep tabs on all sorts of things, from the temperatures in their homes to their cars' fuel economy. A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about one such app, Automatic, which can act as a driving coach, a mechanic, and a first-responder. Today, there's a similar app in development called Dash.
At first glance, the two apps look awfully similar. Both make use of a dongle that plugs into a vehicle's onboard diagnostic port, which then communicates with a smartphone app. Each app tracks mileage, fuel economy, dashboard warning lights, and a host of other things.
Dash, however, has a few features that deserve special mention:
1. Dash includes a social element that lets users compare fuel efficiency with drivers who take the same commute or who drive the same car. Given the high price of gas these days, that should offer useful data for auto shoppers.
2. Dash allows users to customize the app interface. So, for example, if you're really interested in your RPMs, you can put that info front and center on your smartphone screen, which may be easier to see while driving than your in-dash display. (Check the video above to see how that works.)
3. Future iterations of Dash will offer the ability to use smartphones as dash-mounted cameras. For GoPro enthusiasts hoping to document a fast lap, or for Russian commuters wanting video of the next meteor blast (or insurance scam), this could be a big deal.
That said, Dash has one problem that Automatic doesn't. Automatic is already in production, and it's set to debut in May. Dash, on the other hand, is a Kickstarter project. The start-up has set a lofty goal of raising $750,000, and it's got just 38 days to pull that off.
Slightly more frustrating: some other group on Kickstarter claimed that it owns the rights to the word "Dash", so Dash had to change its name to "Lynk" for the Kickstarter project. As branding goes, that's a substantial setback.
If funded, Dash/Lynk should debut about six months later. It will be available for both iPhone and Android devices.
Interested? Pitch in by contributing to the project on Kickstarter. For a pledge of $69, you'll be one of the first in line to receive the Dash/Lynk dongle when it ships.
Remember though: Kickstarter is all or nothing. If a project doesn't make its goal, the creators get nothing, so if you're a fan, spread the word.