As you browse the archive of dashboard screenshots on the Dashboards by Example blog, you’ll find information dashboard projects spanning an incredibly diverse range of needs and interests. Dashboards fit the business intelligence presentation needs of every industry I can think of and we’ve seen examples from bottle filling lines to the situation awareness dashboard from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. Regardless of the business sector or niche, the one thing you can count on is the unique ingenuity of the dashboard designer.
In the course of interacting with Dashboard Spy readers who submit their dashboard examples for discussion on the blog, I’ve come to realize that there is an amazing amount of skill and versatility among business intelligence dashboarders. The design solutions that arise can be surprisingly clever.
And every once in a while you stumble across a dashboarding project that has that extra spark of passion that comes from real personal interest and involvement. Today’s dashboard example is a combination of passion and cleverness that resulted in a very cool mobile dashboarding environment.
The phrase “Mobile Dashboard” probably makes you think of cell phones or PDAs, but no, the mobile dashboard device we’ll look at today is a couple of thousand pounds heavier than your iPhone.
So what weighs 5,000 lbs, cost $30,000, produces 300 or so horsepower and can display the KPIs and metrics of your business in a dashboard display?
The answer is Ed Pardo’s Nissan Titan pickup truck. I kid you not! Ed Pardo of Buffalo, NY is a Dashboard Spy reader and talented I.T. pro who has literally taken the idea of mobile dashboards to the streets.
When Ed told me his dashboarding philosophy and showed me a couple of pictures of his mobile dashboard project, I knew I was in for a treat. Here is Ed on what business dashboarding should be:
Dashboarding is nothing more than getting the right information to the right viewers in the shortest time with minimal interaction. The best way to do this is by leveraging technology to provide the presentation. If you can “think outside the box” and don’t let the vendors dictate what is possible, you can benefit from technology in ways not imagined.
Let’s take a look inside Ed’s Nissan Titan:
“Looks just like a normal car” you might be saying. Well, take a closer look at the bottom of the picture and you’ll see a shiny red mouse. Ed is an exceedingly neat as well as clever hacker and it’s to his testament that things look so normal in this picture. I suggested to him that he should be featured in the pages of Make Magazinefor his attention to detail!
So how this this unique mobile dashboard platform come about and what can it do? Let’s hear it straight from Ed:
I started this about six years ago while I was in the middle of working on a security management platform at work. I was interested in creating a virtual Secure Operations Center (SOC) and was attempting to use a laptop. I had heard about some guys that had built custom computers to put in their cars as media servers. Just think, the worlds largest iPod!
I got into this to see what the engine control system (OBD II) was doing in my vehicle, just curious I guess. I have since saved family and friends hundreds of dollars by reseting the check engine light!
The setup is basically an XP Pro computer except for some custom pc parts to make it work in a 12V environment. Add in some specialized software and you now can have a information dashboard in your vehicle.
The biggest challenge was how convert the voltage to work with a device that was used to a steady 120V. In a car, the voltage fluctuates depending on the speed of the motor or what else is drawing from the battery. There are now many sites that offer parts or even ready to run computers for your vehicle.
After I have figured out all the logistics and wiring, then the fun started. The software interface(s) (Centrafuse or StreetDeck are two) have evolved to be very user friendly while driving; large buttons, automated application switching, etc.
As a proof of concept, I connected to the internet (not while driving!), accessed the corporate network via remote access and launched my enterprise dashboard. I then sent a picture to the vendor to show how I was using their software in a way they had never imagined. I then created a slide deck titled “The worlds first mobile SOC in a Nissan Titan pickup”!
I have the following functionality enabled in my vehicle:
- In-dash 7″ VGA touchscreen
- GPS mapping
- Infrared backup camera
- Bluetooth phone integration
- OBD II connection to monitor engine stats (created custom screen using PalmerPerformance DashCommand)
- 10k song shuffle
Additional Functionality NOT used
- XM Radio
- DVD player
- Voice Command
- WiFi Internet (can be used for real time traffic alerts or Google Earth maps)
I have made the computer portable so that I can use it in my house or on my boat if I want!
I put in extra effort to make this as invisible as possible. The stock truck didn’t come with Navigation so I purchased the dash hood from the factory system so it would look unmodified. I then used a Xenarc 7″ VGA touchscreen monitor with dual inputs; one for the pc and one for the backup camera.
The CPU lives under the driver seat (this is my second case) and all the wiring has been hidden. This case is actually a desktop case that I modified the power supply to work in both environments. I replaced the mouse with a Touchpad and use a mini USB keyboard.
Here are the day and night dashboards that I run in my Nissan Titan to show what’s going on. Throttle, Timing, Intake, MAF, MAP, Short, Long, and Engine readings are shown.
What’s Ed up to next?
After finishing my truck, I have turned my attention to my home wood shop (WoodFORGE) but don’t have a website yet. I may move the computer in there as I am already working on a dashboard for the shop (motor temp, room humidity, air filter pressure, etc.).
We can’t wait Ed! Thanks for letting us have a glimpse into this great dashboarding project!
If any fellow Dashboard Spy readers want to contact Ed Pardo, please send him an email at woodforge at roadrunner dot com.
Hubert Lee, The Dashboard Spy