OnRoute to California

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel to the Where 2.0 conference in Santa Clara CA as part of the OnStar Student Developer Challenge.

The Challenge was created for college students at Michigan, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, U Toledo and U Texas to create voice-controlled applications that run on the OnStar in-vehicle platform. We were given access to the QuickFuse voice development environment to work with and test.

I decided to develop an application similar to Glympse, the live location sharing application for mobile phones. The application was designed to allow drivers to seamlessly share the location of their vehicle with friends and family in real time via a website and Android phone application.

I branded this service as OnRoute, playing off the OnStar name and the phrase “en route”. After learning html, php and Javascript, I was able to put together a simple service that allowed the driver to speak the phone number of their friend or family member to start sharing their location. The other person could then use that phone number to create an account and view the car location.

The “about” page for OnRoute is still online.

I was selected as one of six semi-finalist teams selected from the original group of entries from Michigan, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, U Toledo and U Texas.

Of the six semi-finalist teams, three were from Michigan and the other three were from MIT. I was the only one-man team selected as a semi-finalist.

After going to the conference Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, we presented our applications to the judges: Robert Scoble (scobelizer.com), Daniel Jacobson (Netflix API), Matthew Ervin (The Plum Group(Voice Apps)), and Jeff Liedel (OnStar VP). The presentations went well, but clearly the best presentation of the day was from an MIT group with an application called “EatOn”, which allowed drivers to find nearby restaurants. “EatOn” ended up winning the $10,000 Grand Prize, which they definitely earned.

Despite not winning, I was very happy to be selected as a semi-finalist. The talks I was able to attend were very interesting and useful. Highlights of talks include:

The presentations on NFC and QR codes were particularly interesting because I’ve been working on Android applications that utilize both these technologies.

All in all, the trip to the Where 2.0 conference was great. I met some very interesting people and heard some interesting talks. I thank OnStar for selecting me as a semi-finalist.