What is OBD and How It Connects Cars to IoT?

What is OBD and How It Connects Cars to IoT?

What is OBD and How It Connects Cars to IoT?

The inception of computerized cars in recent years made automobiles more fun and enjoyable to use. An even more exciting feature of cars nowadays is the OBD. OBD, an acronym for Onboard Diagnostic, dates back to 1968 when Volkswagen premiered its onboard computerized system.

This OBD system had the ability to scan and diagnose the Volkswagen at the time and this facilitated easier repairs and fault diagnosis. In 1996, the system became a household name for automobiles in the US as a result of a legislation passed in the United States. Excited yet? Let’s see what underpins this amazing technology.

IoT applications of OBD

IoT applications of OBD

What is OBD?

OBD is a computerized system embedded in the schematics of an automobile which allows connections with external electronic devices in order to harness its diagnostic capabilities. Essentially, the OBD runs it diagnostic checks with the Engine Control Unit (ECU), reporting pertinent details to the externally connected device.



The OBD used by cars in recent times often referred to as OBD II is quite different from early age OBDs. OBD I was predominant in automobiles produced between 1980 and 1995 and it required basic computing skills.

OBD I had no coding format and no data connection points. It only relied on sensors to run basics engine diagnosis. One major limitation is its inability to test emissions components for their functionality.

OBD II set the bar even higher by making use of advanced computing and scanners for the downloading of codes. The functionality deficiency of OBD I is corrected by OBD II which is imbued with the ability to test emissions. Cars produced in the last 20 years are equipped with this sort of OBD. It should be mentioned that there was also ALDL technology (Assembly Line Diagnostic Link) which was developed by General Motors before the standardization of OBD II.


How OBDs Connect Cars to IoT

Below is the schematic diagram of how the OBD can be used to make the car an interconnected ‘thing’.


Block diagram for engines diagnostic via the internet of things(IoT)

The CAN-bus data collection collects data from the ECU (containing diagnostic information) and then feeds the data collected to the CAN-bus converter. The converter then processes the received data into decimal raw data that is readable and understandable. The information is then sent to the cloud.

Some existing devices make use of this technology and some of them are discussed below.


This is a revolutionary device that promises to transform your vehicle into an extendable IoT platform. Whether it’s the latest Tesla or the 2000 model of Ford, as long as the vehicle has an OBD port, you’re good to go. The dongle is equipped with GPS, 4G connectivity, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and an accelerometer.

It is also connected to the cloud and there’s a dashboard you can visit to visualize relevant data about your vehicle. In addition to this, it also sends SMS/email alerts when the need arises. You can even connect an external hardware to install drivers, widgets, or projects.

AutoPi Intelligent

AutoPi Intelligent OBD-II Car Dongle


This is the smart IoT product that promises to turn your car into a smart machine. The hardware is the part you can easily plug into the OBD port. With the software solution provided, you can track the car using real-time GPS tracking, you can also monitor the driving behavior if you lend the car.

This device also goes further, providing a connected service center that notifies you in case you have an emergency breakdown.


The Samsung Connect Auto

This device is accompanied by an Android app for the collection and interpretation of data and error codes. To make use of this device, you connect the Samsung Connect Auto to the OBD II port in your vehicle, then after running the diagnosis, you make use of the app to diagnose the fault.

You use the “Virtual Mechanic” feature and you enter the error code as displayed on the OBD dashboard for interpretation. For instance, if an error message “PO3xx” is shown on the OBD dashboard, you navigate to the Virtual Mechanic feature on your phone where you input “PO3xx”. Then, you get the interpretation which indicates Ignition system and misfiring.

The “Find my Vehicle” feature gives the user the ability to locate the vehicle using the GPS, although this feature is limited. The Samsung Connect Auto helps you in getting journey details, hours spent driving and fuel costs. It also offers 4G LTE hotspot for a number of people in the car precisely 10.

Samsung Connect Auto


Most of the devices presently available provide pretty much the same functionality- they leverage the power of the internet in making your car management easier and more comfortable. Considering the fact that the average car on the US road will be almost 12 years old by 2019, more devices with this ability are expected.

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