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Aegis Mobility's Driver Behaviour Blog

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Introduction to Cogosense Part 2

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Introducing Cogosense Part 1 of this blog described the initial idea of Aegis, and how due to small thing called the iPhone, we got left in the dust as carriers rushed to shore up their networks. Part 2 will be dedicated to the calm and calculated pivot that Aegis executed.

First our CEO resigned. He was my cofounder, and is still a good friend, so no names will be used here. The consequences of this action would make a great case study on how not to handle an investment in a tech company. Suffice it to say a cofounder will treat an investor's money as if it was his own. Founder and Angel Investor interests are usually completely aligned. In the best interests of the company we should have stuck a paper bag on his head and propped him up in the corner till he calmed down.

We did carry on, the solution was modified to remove the carrier integration and an "over-the-top" solution was developed. Instead of intercepting voice, text and data media streams in the network (where they should be intercepted), we wrote software to intercept them on the handset after they had been delivered. The FleetSafer app was born. This worked very well on Android, and not so well on that iPhone device that had already caused us so much grief. Well that's ok we thought, 80% of the market is Android, we just need an iOS solution that is good enough. What we discovered was, the 20% of iPhones were in the hands of the decision makers. Literally at one logistics company we lost a deal for 5000 truck mounted Android tablets because the CEO had an iPhone and we couldn't prevent his device ringing.

This led to a lot of pressure to solve the problem, which led to the abyss of "private APIs". Anyone familiar with iOS will know that Apple only condones the usage of published documented APIs, but with a bit of digging you can find a wealth of undocumented functionality. By the time iOS 5 was released in 2011, we could make iOS match Android feature for feature. The problem was in iOS 6 Apple commenced waging a war against illicit usage of its devices. It seemed a funny concept back then, not being able to use a device you owned as you saw fit, but Apple doubled down with each subsequent iOS release. The amount of money poured into staying ahead of the game became more than Aegis could bear. In February 2015 the company shutdown, the investors cut their losses. I don't blame them, but I think a paper bag could have saved them a lot of money.

A dedicated team of ex employees kept the services going for the Aegis customers. Freed of the burden of executive salaries, leaseholds and server farms, we reduced monthly expenditures 10 fold, we migrated everything to the cloud and automated all key tasks. By June just 5 of us were keeping the lights on. The decision was made to found Cogosense in September, and negotiations started with Aegis to acquire the technology. By Christmas we had a deal.

From this whole experience I discovered it is extremely hard to execute a pivot when you lose half your vision. Over the years of Aegis it became clear Distracted Driving is just not enough to justify a standalone product, but the idealogical inertia had set in at senior levels and we couldn't shake the self image we had created of being a "Distracted Driving" company. The two of us had it right in the beginning, it is a "call forward on drive" feature. I always wonder what would have happened if we had applied the paper bag, kept calm and carried on.

In part 3, I will talk about Cogosense: what we do and what we did with FleetSafer.

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Introducing Cogosense Part 1

Posted by on in Uncategorized

Cogosense Technology was founded in late 2015, it was the successor to Aegis Mobility Inc. that was founded in 2007. Our goal was to develop software to combat the growing problem of mobile phones causing distracted driving.

My background is mobile phone infrastructure, so naturally my first idea was that this was a problem that should be solved in the core network. Your carrier knows you are moving and should just be able to handle the calls and texts on your behalf (it was a much simpler world back in 2007), By the end of 2007 Aegis Mobility had developed the world's first "call forward on driving" feature. If you were driving you calls were forwarded to voicemail, or another number of your choice and texts were queued in the network until your journey was completed. We were rightfully very proud of our accomplishment and off we trotted to the carriers armed with our PowerPoints and a demonstration running on Blackberry devices (remember them, they used to be King).

We had a mixed reception from the carriers, mostly the reaction was "What! You are going to stop the phone from ringing? We don't want that, our customers don't want that". Even if it could save their life and the lives of those around them? we asked. We persisted and eventually we found one midwest based carrier that cared about human life more than profit. They allowed us to test the solution on their network, and guess what it worked!! Yes, back in 2007 Aegis Mobility successfully demonstrated "call forward on driving" in a live carrier network.

So why in 2020 can't you activate Call Forwarding on Drive? Technology overtook us in a matter of months. Remember Blackberry? The iPhone was launched in June 2007, data became king, carriers were struggling to keep up with demand for data bandwidth. Their networks were creaking under the load. All their resources were directed to add capacity. Any projects that did not add capacity, or had a potential to destabilise the network were canned.

As a company we had to abandon a $9M investment and pivot to something else. 

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Aegis Mobility and CBC (Consolidated Buying Company) announced today a partnership to promote FleetSafer, Aegis Mobility’s distracted driving solution, to CBC’s SME (small and medium enterprise) and independent fleet operator members. 

Aegis/CBC News Release

This is an important win for Aegis because it provides an effective sales and marketing channel to small and mid-sized fleets. It’s also an important win for CBC’s members because of the potentially devastating impact that a distracted driving incident can have, both emotionally and financially, as eloquently communicated in CBCs marketing materials. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_crash-total.png

The reality is that smart phones and tablets are becoming an indispensible tool for many SME and independent fleet operators; however having those tools in vehicle also presents a significant business risk. Distraction from the use of smart phones while driving is a leading cause of accidents, which can have sizable costs from bent metal and injured workers.

But these accidents also come with the risk of liability and potentially significant judgments in cases where the smart phones can be shown to be a contributing factor to the accidents (for more information see the Aegis white paper on risk and liability). While even the largest of the Fortune 500 companies are affected by such events, the impact can be even greater for the SME, potentially putting companies out of business all together. FleetSafer provides a cost effective method for the SME to actively manage the use of smart phones and tablets and enforce company cell phone use policies while employees are driving on the job, and can provide a return on investment through avoided accidents.  

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Despite the growing awareness, media coverage, accidents and fatalities from distracted driving, we have seen a steady trend in responses to our annual survey. Company attitudes and their approach to managing distracted driving have changed little over the past few years. What has changed is a drop in the level of confidence respondents have in the enforcement methods being used. On the one hand we have growing awareness of the distracted driving problem, while on the other we have decreasing confidence in policy enforcement. And the response seems to be to stick with the same monitoring and enforcement methods. Is it time for a new approach?

The NHTSA just released a new study that shows Distracted Driving accounts for 15% of economic impact motor crashes cause, which tallies up to $129 billion when looking at the overall societal harm caused by these crashes.  Surely it is time to take a more proactive approach and look at technology solutions to help curb these distractions and further promote safe driving behaviors.

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Aegis Mobility's COO Brian Simmers recently had the pleasure of being a guest on the Peggy Smedley Show (www.peggysmedleyshow.com), the voice of M2M & Connected Devices, to discuss the use of technology to prevent distracted driving within the ecosystem of the Connected Car. The audio interview can be found here.

While car manufacturers have made great strides in making driver interaction with mobile capabilities safer and less distracting, the presence of the mobile device itself in the vehicle continues to be a major problem. The problem at a high level is three-fold: 1) not all cars on the road today, or in the near future, are "connected" with the high-tech features necessary to limit driver distraction 2) use of the vehicle controls is optional and 3) drivers are addicted to their mobile devices and the way they ring, ding, feel and look.

To truly eliminate the problem today, additional technology solutions are needed. This technology must automatically activate using flexible trigger methods and allow people to access the features that they want, but in a safe manner and in a way that they can't override.  In the future, the car itself can be part of the solution and we envision a world where the car can tell the network what devices are in it and whether it is driving or not, and the network can mediate the calls, text and data traffic based on this contextual information.

During the interview, Brian Simmers discussed a number of topics including the success of the Aegis Mobility FleetSafer solution for distracted driving due to mobile use in enterprises and our pioneering partnership with the State of Iowa and their TEXTL8R distracted driving software aimed at teen drivers in their state.

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