With the increase in smart car apps to track gas usage and driving habits, it was only a matter of time before one of these apps used that tracking for somewhat invasive advertising. Dash Labs is the latest start-up to take advantage of the on-board diagnostics systems required in all cars made after 1996. Their Dash reader plugs into the 16-pin connector to the car's electronics that is generally used by mechanics and inspectors to figure out why the engine light is on. Their reader, thoug, connects to a smartphone app that they bill as "Fitbit for your car," diagnosing car problems and unsafe driving habits. There all sorts of benefits — Dash won an Energy Department contest for its potential to improve vehicle safety and gas efficiency — but the normal gravitational pull of commercial app development has pushed the company to think about how all the data it collects can be used to serve ads.
So far, Dash Labs has siphoned 15 million data points, just from a "small number of closed beta participants," according to Advertising Age's Kate Kaye. "Each time a Dash user starts her car, the app begins harvesting data that can be transferred from the device to her phone via Bluetooth or WiFi connections," she explains. Location data, for example, can then be used by gas stations or other retailers to push out relevant ads. Oh, you drive by that Taco Bell every day, maybe you want to try a Doritos Loco taco? Or a billboard network might use the data to improve its road-side ads, explained Dash Labs CEO Jamyn Edis. Most likely, Dash will sell these data sets to other car related companies, like Experian or Equifax, to use for their advertising.