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Integrated Vehicle Management App (Part 1)

Now is the era of smart phones and apps that run on them. While doing our own work on Windows Phone 8 we were debating on what kind of application to build. An idea came based on the experience of one our team members. He had recently bought a vehicle and given a 3 months wait period. During these 3 months, he and the dealer had no clue on where the vehicle is and if it will really get delivered in 3 months or earlier or later. What if there was a way to track the status of construction of the vehicle? Similarly what if after purchase we could keep a tab on our vehicle via the application itself? Thus was born the idea of an integrated vehicle management application.

The high level features of the vehicle management applications were thought to be as:
1. Pre-sales: Augmented reality (AR) based display of vehicular details when viewing vehicle from phone's camera
2. Booking: Booking details confirmed from the vendor on the phone app via backend integration of existing dealer management system with our vehicle management server app.
3. Manufacturing: Regular alerts on manufacturing process and the construction stages shown via 3D model of car. Additionally ability to suggest modifications like seat design, interior finish, exterior paint etc. to the OEM 
4. Delivery: Vehicle Readiness for delivery at dealer location notified via app
5. Daily Use: Managing vehicular alerts, vehicular details, Bluetooth connectivity, Insurance management, RTO or any other such vehicle aspects
Let's detail out the features listed above to show the finalized set of requirements with which we have built in the "Vehicle Care" (the name we gave to our app) application.
The journey starts from the moment we go to a dealer/vehicle showroom with intent to purchase a vehicle. We access the "Vehicle Care" app on my smartphone and as we view a car, using the camera of my phone, we can see details of the car augmented onto our phone screen. We can view detailed specs of the car, see any promotional videos and even look up reviews on social networking sites, right from the phone while viewing the car. No need to discuss with a salesman any longer. The app via the augmentation can even display available loan options.

Having finalized the car to buy, next we make a booking with the dealer who confirms the booking in this system. The dealer's dealer management system is configured to then send a message to our server application our mobile number (or any other appropriate field) to identify us. The server passes the booking information to our phone app via notification in a format that our phone app understands. This hence allows our app to remain dealer agnostic and work with any dealer out there.

As part of the booking details, we can view the expected delivery date, delivery status of our vehicle, the dealer details along with a map to guide us with directions to reach the dealer, and other details of the vehicle like engine details and features of the vehicle. Through the app, regular alerts on the manufacturing process are delivered to us and we can view the 3D models of the vehicle as it goes through the various construction stages. We also have the additional ability to suggest modifications like seat design, interior finish, exterior paint etc. to the OEM before the respective stage is crossed. This gives us a sense of ownership of our vehicle much before it is actually delivered to us. Once the vehicle is ready for delivery the dealer informs us through a notification. Using the phone app we can track several bookings made over a period of time and we can also track all the vehicles that we own.

Once the vehicle is delivered, we can now exploit several more features of my app. We can now interact with our vehicle using the app on a daily basis. We configure the phone app to display details of this new vehicle along with all other vehicles that we own and are previously configured with the app. The "Vehicle Care" app helps us care for our vehicle in several ways. Regular alerts are sent to us in advance like for service dates as well as Insurance premium due dates. The app can connect to our car to read the various sensor data like tyre pressure levels/ fuel levels / engine oil levels and all this can is done from within the comfort of our home. We can turn on the AC of my car while approaching it so that We are greeted with a comfortable environment in the car. There is even a facility to remotely lock /unlock the doors or switch on/off the engine of the car using the app.

Typically cars today are equipped with anti-theft alarms, but the challenge say in an apartment complex is that when the alarm sounds off, no one is sure whose car is it? With the app, a alarm sounds off on the phone as well due to direct connectivity between the vehicle and the app. Another possible way to protect the vehicle is the optional alarm that we can configure based on proximity of the phone. The system could be set to sound off an alarm in case the car is switched on and is moving without our phone in blue tooth range. This is optional because we may not be driving the car on a particular day. All in all, the app helps me immensely in managing my vehicle(s).

When we talk of features in a car we can broadly split them into two categories, giving commands to a car remotely and accessing data from the sensors in a car on the smartphone app while being seated inside the car. We came across few players in this field who talk about providing APIs to help us implement our idea. We shall talk about these players in more detail in our next blog.

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