Henry Wong and Fensens: Why Can’t ALL Cars Have Backup Sensors?
We who pay overly close attention to new cars and technology tend to lose focus on the big picture. We get so googley-eyed over the Connected Car, we sometimes overlook the unconnected ones.
Not Henry Wong. Henry and his team are the force behind Fensens, a fledgling entry into a very practical area of the Connected Car market.
Fensens is a backup monitor for every other car that doesn’t already have a monitor. They believe it should hit the market at under $200.
Think of how many vehicles that could be. Passenger cars and trucks, smaller commercial vehicles, fleets, etc.
I’m thinking it could be a big number.
You attach Fensens to your license plate holder, and then use an app to connect it to your Android or iOS device. Simple and elegant. Now your 1992 Nissan will let you know when you’re getting too close to the Mercedes behind you. Or you’ll know when your cherry 1987 BMW 320i with 75,000 miles is getting too close to the garage door.
Fensens will be a cheap and cost-effective way to add a layer of safety that a lot of people never had before.
We took a little time to talk with Henry about Fensens and other technology topics. Enjoy.
Q: What is idea behind Fensens?
A: The idea behind Fensens is to save lives and avoid accidents through a simple and smart wireless proximity sensor that anyone can add to an older model vehicle.
Q: What sparked the idea?
A: I’ve personally experienced drivers asking their passenger to get out of the car to see if they have enough room in the front and back when they parallel park. I’ve seen people trying to gauge how far they still can pull up or have enough room in front when they drive into their garage or parking space; especially those with cars that have a higher hood with low front visibility. I have also seen people tie a tennis ball to the rafters of their garage to signal when to stop the vehicle.
Q: How is it implemented in vehicles?
A: Fensens mounts easily on the front and rear license plates. It has 2 universal mounting holes that are standard to all U.S. automobile license plates. The sensor provides proximity feedback wirelessly via an Android or iOS app. The app will allow you to choose an alert you can see, hear or feel. Sensor range starts at 3 feet and goes down to zero inches, or contact. Fensens can be configured to match variations in plate placement as well.
Q: Where or when can people get or pre-order it now?
A: We plan to do a Kickstarter campaign later this year. Be sure to check our website (www.fensens.com) and Twitter feed (@fensens) once we get closer to our campaign launch. Our goal is to come to market with an affordable product that helps avoid accidents and provides peace of mind for less than $200.
Q: What are your next 3 steps for Fensens?
A: We’ve already completed our first step by obtaining a provisional patent. We are currently working on the second version of Fensens. This new version is a much slimmer design that should fit in most, if not all vehicles. I say that because the license plate areas of a few cars have a little too much overhang from the license plate lights in the back. We are also working on a better user interface for the app. Once we have all of that set, we’ll calculate what our Kickstarter award tiers should be and launch the crowdfunding campaign.
Q: Do you envision Fensens as a stand-alone product and app? Or do you see it interacting with Automatic, Mojio, Cargo.ai and other connected car platforms?
A: For now, we envision Fensens as a stand-alone device and smartphone app. In the future, we do see integration into other connected car platforms. We believe the new sensor and app can be used in other applications, vehicles, and industries. Think of a forklift. We are accustomed to their “beep-beep” alerts that let us know a forklift is nearby. Now think of a forklift with a Fensens. The forklift would still sound an alert of its presence. But Fensens would help the operator make smarter decisions by helping him understand his proximity to obstacles, merchandise, and people.
Q: What is the state of Connected Car technology from your point of view?
A: This sector is expanding quickly and is more exciting than ever. Due to the nature of the automotive industry, it does take some time for new technology to get into the car; understandable given their commitment to safety.
However, in the past couple years we’ve seen a lot of new technology being integrated into cars, and many companies working on the intelligent, autonomous car.
I’ve got over 18+ years of diverse global experience in semiconductor, technology, and consumer electronics with fortune 500 companies in 3 continents. The last 2 years, I’ve be exposed to IoT (Internet of Things) products ranging from health, fitness, smart home, and have seen huge explosion from all players in the ecosystem.
I’d like to see how we can refine M2M (Machine to Machine) to C2C (Car to Car) where we see cars communicating with each other for a much safer, intelligent, and stress-free drive.
Q: Where do you see the space for the independent developer within the Connected Car movement?
A: There is still a lot of opportunity in this space, as the movement is still fairly new. Just like Internet of Things – the connected car will be a huge opportunity for a new developer to provide “smarter” and safer technology products that add value to the driving experience.
Q: What do you see as barriers to the success of that vision? How do you overcome them?
A: Two potential barriers are standardization and interoperability. Think about the last time you rented a car or drove a different one. Remember how long it took to get used to the dashboard and controls? Consumers don’t want to deal with different or complex system from car to car. The function needs to be intelligent yet simple to use and understand. Solutions need to work across different automotive platforms and systems. For example, you might want to have the same or a personalized experience with certain settings or controls such as infotainment, connectivity, safety, and comfort.
You can see it with the way automakers are implementing Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto. No matter the platform, the interface is the same. I believe standardizing interfaces or communication protocol across all automakers will be very important to the interoperability of smart sensors between each vehicles, road infrastructure, drivers, and pedestrians.
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: Last but not least, I would like to thank my current and original team for making Fensens an exciting ride so far. They desire a lot of credit.
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