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Carvoyant Is Ready To Put Your Car In The Cloud

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Carvoyant, a startup that’s been busy developing a platform that will tell you exactly what’s going on with your vehicle’s general health (and what that blasted “check engine” light means), is today ready to start shipping its devices to early adopters and developer testers. It has also signed a couple of agreements with auto dealer partners, who will be the first to distribute the system more broadly to potential customers.

For those unfamiliar, the system Carvoyant offers is somewhat similar to companies like CarMD, for example, as it also involves a transmitter that’s plugged into the car’s onboard diagnostic port (OBD) in order to capture and analyze the data stream from the car’s computer. This is how Carvoyant knows what it means when warning lights on a car’s dashboard appear, but it will also go a step further. The company wants to help you proactively prevent problems, too, by alerting you to issues like a battery that’s about to die, for example, or even a teenager who’s driving too fast.

However, unlike other companies operating in this space, like CarMD, or AutoMD, or apps like RepairPal, Carvoyant isn’t about building just a gadget and/or an app; it’s about developing a platform. On that front, the company is today also opening up early access to developer partners, who could use Carvoyant data in their own third-party applications – including those listed above, for that matter.

While there have been a lot of announcements related to the “connected car” coming out of this week’s CES event in Las Vegas, Carvoyant founder and CEO Bret Tobey tells us his team skipped the big show. “We chose not to go to CES, and stayed home and started shipping instead,” he says. “That’s been working out well. We’ve been selling to dealers for a couple of months now, and those rollouts are in progress.”

While he doesn’t yet have permission to announce Carvoyant’s early auto dealer partners, he does have a total of 400 units committed to two dealers currently, and is in various stages of discussion with others, ranging from the initial introduction to the nitty-gritty of detailed deployment discussions.

“When we looked at Carvoyant, we knew that in order to really grow an economy around connected cars, we needed three things: obviously, we need drivers. We need developers. And we need the distribution channel. And automative dealers – that’s the natural point of aggregation of most services,” says Tobey.

The company now has a Jumpstarter page where interested users and developers can sign up to receive one of Carvoyant’s devices, which will begin shipping in March (or sooner, if enough critical mass occurs ahead of that time). The devices plug into the OBD port, and then share data over the cellular network directly with Carvoyant. This is a bit different from the company’s first implementation - an Android app that synced with the device, then communicated only when your car was parked within range of your home’s Wi-Fi network.

The new devices are offered at $149, but if there happens to be a dealer sponsor in your area, you might be able to receive a full or partial discount, in exchange for opting in to data-sharing with that business. That decision is entirely under your control, however, and it’s more about you telling that data partner about your check engine light, or other issue, as opposed to them spamming you. Tobey insists that Carvoyant’s goal is to build an open platform where users and developers are in control.

The company’s tagline even reiterates this: “your car, your data, your control.” (For developers, it’s “your API,” instead.) Carvoyant has also been working with MIT’s CloudCar.mobi initiative, which is about creating a true open framework for vehicle data through better standards.

The signup page has just gone live here.

Carvoyant previously had seed funding from Tampa Bay-based incubator Gazelle Lab, but has now raised a partial seed round of around $300,000 with investors who include SK Ventures (SK is Eric Norlin and Paul Kedrosky), Stage 1 Ventures, and other angels.