VZW launches vehicle telematics subscription based service | Hum

 

hum components
Image Credit: Verizon Telematics

 

Verizon has launched HUM, an aftermarket subscription based service that will attempt to prevent vehicle problems before they happen.

HUM is based on a do-it-yourself installation through the ODB-II port of your vehicle, and interfaces with the user via appified smartphone and an in-vehicle module that clips to the visor. For $14.99 a month (based on a 2-year subscription) you can monitor the ‘health’ of your vehicle, contact help and manage maintenance.

CEO of Verizon Telematics Andrés Irlando states:

“By modernizing traditional ‘roadside assistance,’ hum is designed to deliver ultimate peace-of-mind behind the wheel…Now, in addition to being protected with live help and emergency services, drivers will know what their check engine light means and will be empowered with information and knowledge on how to get the problem fixed and what it may cost.”

 

smartphone UI
Image credit: Verizon Telematics

The spec sheet states that the system, which is nothing less than an aftermarket On-Star, can pin-point your location and dispatch road-side assistance, detect a crash and help authorities locate a stolen vehicle. This suggests that the on-board equipment contains at the very least: Stand alone GPS, an accelerometer/gyroscope, a cell-based subscriber line that is seperate from the owners smartphone and a Bluetooth radio.

Specific Features:

  • Pinpoint Roadside Assistance for breakdowns, flat tires, overheating, dead battery or virtually anything else that might require towing or roadside assistance.
  • Incident Alert & Emergency Assistance notifies the hum emergency response center if the system detects an incident. Help will be dispatched to the vehicle’s GPS location if an accident is confirmed or if there is no response from the driver for additional support. Drivers can also initiate a call at the push of a button to speak with a trained, live agent.
  • Auto Health & Diagnostics helps predict and prevent mechanical issues before they become bigger problems by giving subscribers’ insights into their car’s health via the hum web portal and smartphone app.
  • Mechanic’s Hotline connects subscribers with ASE Certified Mechanics providing personalized, immediate and unbiased consultation related to their vehicle’s repair and maintenance issues.
  • Parking & Meter Tools help drivers find where they left their vehicle — using the hum smartphone app — while also keeping tabs on how much time is left on the meter.
  • Maintenance Reminders and Alerts can be set for oil changes, tire rotations and more. Additionally, hum will automatically alert customers to vehicle troubles and general manufacturer recalls.
  • Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance is available at the subscriber’s request – hum can provide information to authorities in order to help locate the stolen vehicle.
  • Travel & Repair Discounts include hotels, vehicle rentals, related travel expenses, and auto maintenance.

THE GOOD NEWS

  • It is compatible with over 150K vehicles on the road today.

THE BAD NEWS

  • It is compatible with over 150K vehicles on the road today.

On the surface, it would seem that having this kind of vision into the operational state of your vehicle is a good idea.  It certainly seems to appeal to the emotional state of security when you contemplate your kids or spouse driving alone on a dark highway if anything were to happen. It would also seem like a great idea to be armed with the information one would need when taking a less-than-optimal vehicle in for repairs, so as to not get ripped-off by un-needed repairs as suggested by a less than honest repair shop.

However, everyone should be at least a little cautious about empowering their vehicle to communicate its position and state of operation to the good guys via cellular networking. If it’s possible for the people you authorize to have insight about your vehicle over the Internet, that means unauthorized access to the vehicle is also possible.

2 weeks ago, I reported a story that demonstrated how a vehicle could be compromised using a dongle connected to the ODB port on a vehicle that had the ability to connect to the Internet. If it has any kind of radio that relies on a discovery-mode for a connection, it can be crawled for such a connection. Once that connection is established, it can be contacted from anywhere through the cellular connection.

For Verizon Telematics to ensure that point-to-point encrypted connections could be established between the vehicle and any other organization the vehicle could communicate with, means that Verizon Telematics had to have established the encryption protocol with these organizations. Since the security aspect is not addressed in the press release and the privacy policy seems to be non-existent, I’m somewhat discouraged by the rush to market services by cellular providers like Verizon and AT&T in light of the fact ‘car-hacking’ has been in the tech headlines for the past month.

Verizon 2 stars

For these reasons alone, I would encourage anyone looking to acquire Hum and incorporate the service it brings into their lives to ask questions about security and privacy aspects of the service before deployment. The Electronic Frontier Foundation rates VZW with 2 stars when it comes to data retention and it’s privacy policies.

 

 

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