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The spy in your car

The spy in your car
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First Published: Thu, Jun 17 2010. 11 14 PM IST

Monitoring pollution: Logica is lobbying with several governments, mostly in Europe for now, to use the Emo data to drive differential fuel pricing. Hemant Mishra/Mint
Monitoring pollution: Logica is lobbying with several governments, mostly in Europe for now, to use the Emo data to drive differential fuel pricing. Hemant Mishra/Mint
Updated: Thu, Jun 17 2010. 11 14 PM IST
Bangalore: On a hot April morning in Bangalore, Logica Plc sets up a demo of its real-time emission monitor dubbed Emo. The technical architect of the device, Shanmugasundaram M., fits his Ford Fiesta with a detachable Emo chip and the car is taken for a spin.
Emo gets busy recording emissions and driving behaviour. Logica is lobbying with several governments, mostly in Europe for now, to use the data to drive differential fuel pricing. The Emo chip from Shanmugasundaram’s car was connected to a computer that threw up bright blue, green and orange bar graphs to indicate carbon dioxide emissions and driving behaviour such as hard braking, acceleration, idling and over speeding. Logica’s proprietary algorithms translated engine data such as temperature and revolutions per minute (RPM) which Emo recorded into emissions and driving behaviour data.
In the final version, data from the chip is transmitted wirelessly to a reader, says Vishal Aggarwal, programme manager, global innovation, at the British technology company. He has been involved in the Emo project from the beginning in early 2008.
What started as an idea on Logica’s internal portal was developed in Bangalore—by a 25-member team of electronics, software and automotive engineers—and piloted in a southern European country that the firm doesn’t want to reveal. The pilot will conclude in July.
In India, emission checks are done periodically to comply with government limits. But Emo is a world away from the monitoring devices used now, which at best indicate emissions under idling conditions, when exhaust gases are at their lowest.
G.B.S. Bindra, global innovation director at Logica, says the firm is holding discussions with oil companies and European countries on differential pricing, to reward good behaviour. If a driver owns a fuel-efficient car, maintains it well and drives responsibly, he could be charged less based on real-time data from Emo that’s beamed wirelessly to fuel stations.
Emo consists of three parts: a matchbox-sized plastic case with a chip inlaid, wireless data readers at fuel stations, and back-end systems at oil companies to compute the price for individual customers based on the data.
Monitoring pollution: Logica is lobbying with several governments, mostly in Europe for now, to use the Emo data to drive differential fuel pricing. Hemant Mishra/Mint
“Many people will like it,” says Bindra. “People who drive efficient cars…and those who drive with a sense of responsibility.”
That may be some distance away from getting applied in India, where fuel prices are tightly regulated. The government-appointed Kirit Parikh panel recently recommended freeing fuel prices but has faced criticism from several quarters that are keen on continuing subsidies.
Globally, Emo has found recognition with The Economist naming it among 10 game-changing innovations that will help combat climate change. In November, Bindra exhibited Emo at the The Economist’s Carbon Economy Summit in Washington. In March, at least 100 drivers at the annual Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles, a rally in Morocco for women drivers, used Emo-fitted cars. Logica, as a group, has a history of innovations—including clearing house automated payments in the UK in 1984 for inter-bank transactions and the mobile phone short message service in 1993. The company spends about 1% of its £3,702 million revenue (as of December) on innovation.
S.P. Gautam, chairman of the Central Pollution Control Board, commended the Emo concept. The effectiveness of the product will depend on how well it is implemented, he said.
Logica says the country’s emissions and fuel consumption will drop 12-14% if the system was fully adopted and differential pricing implemented. This is no small measure, says Gautam. “Even a 1% reduction is welcome in a country of a billion people.”
Logica’s Bindra hopes India will implement the Parikh committee’s recommendation to free fuel prices. “The moment fuel prices get deregulated, we would look at India.”
YES WE CAN
Logica Plc
Started operations (in India): 1996
Made in India: The company that innovated the SMS now wants to bring about a revolution on the roads—reward people for good driving by putting a chip in the car. European countries may be the first adapters
poornima.m@livemint.com
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First Published: Thu, Jun 17 2010. 11 14 PM IST