Dash: Your Car Gets An API

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Last week I had the opportunity to get hands-on with the Dash’s new interface and learn about its upcoming API (previous Radar post). The internet-connected GPS has gone through quite a few changes since the Beta unit was released.

dash keyboard

The first thing I noticed is that the interaction with the device is very different. The search interface now has a QWERTY keyboard (instead of alphabetical). When you search you are given the choice of searching Yahoo! Local or the on board data (the locations of airports, gas stations, food, hospitals and other POI types). The new hardware is much, much slicker.

The maps on the device now always show traffic. They are using data from Inrix to get down to arterial side streets. They are also pulling from their own historical records (gleaned from Dash users like yourself) when calculating routes and where realtime data is unavailable. When looking at the map the realtime traffic is in a solid line and the historical (predictive) is dashed.

The web portal (called My Dash) has also received a refresh not the least of which are custom Placebase maps designed to highlight traffic. On the portal you can create (and share) new sets of POI, import KML, and send it all to your car. This will be very handy for taking all of your Platial and Google My Maps in the car with you.

At the end of the month the Dash will get a RESTful API. At the user’s initiative lat/long coordinates can be sent to a server. The Dash will consume a GeoRSS feed. This is just the first release. In the future they may add HTML pages, search and even the ability to poll. The device I saw did not have any API-driven apps loaded, but I can imagine great ones (update my location and finding out who from my YASN contacts are nearby).

I am excited for the Dash. I want to be able to send content to and from my car. I relish the idea of being able to sync geo-content between my computer and my car. The devices are spendy (at $599 with a monthly charge of around 10 for the GPRS) and available for pre-order. It’ll be shipping in Q1.

The Dash has reinforced two trends for me. One is the need for multi-touch on an screen-based device. As I navigated menus and maps I kept trying to flick and expand like I would my iPhone. It only worked on one screen. The rest are button or slider based. As Tim commented about the Kindle, the interface felt dead. In the Dash’s defense the product team realizes this. They are concerned that multi-touch requires too much attention whereas the buttons and sliders, while less sexy, are more precise

The second is the need for a ubiquitous internet connection. My phone has it. The Kindle has it. My camera (when equipped with an Eye-Fi SD card) has one when wifi is around. The new Garmin Forerunner 405 will also take advantage of wifi. Now my car will (Radar post). More and more the internet is going to be needed for every device.

(Image courtesy of Dash, more on Flickr)

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