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Interview with Ron DeLong, inventor of the ScanGauge
Posted Wednesday, February 21/07 in General
The ScanGauge has become such an indispensable tool for fuel efficiency enthusiasts that some people, when shopping for second-hand vehicles, have stopped considering pre-1996 models to ensure that a ScanGauge can be used.
In other words, it has quickly become the fuel saver's favourite gadget.
With this in mind, I set out to learn more about the history of the ScanGauge and its inventor, Ron DeLong. I recently spoke to Ron on a range of topics: his background, how the ScanGauge came to be, and some future plans for the magic little box.
In the beginning ...
It started back in 2001 with a brand new Ford F-150 pickup truck that Ron had bought. It wasn't running right, and its fuel economy wasn't up to snuff. Said Ron, "the 500 cubic inch engine in my 1976 Eldorado convertible was getting better mileage than this truck!"
At the Ford dealership, Ron described his fuel consumption concerns to the technician, who plugged a box into the truck's OBDII port and took him out for a drive.
"The technician was saying: 'these trucks are really sensitive to driving habits,' and he was using instant feedback from this monitor to give me pointers on what to do to increase fuel economy."
"I said: 'Sure, but I don't have my own little box to tell me what I'm doing!'"
The light bulb went on ...
Fortunately, Ron was well positioned to take this "Eureka!" moment and do something productive with it.
In his words, he'd been "doing data" for a long time, having graduated as an electrical engineer from Cal Poly Pomona in 1975, and with years of work in the automotive industry.
(In fact, your vehicle may be equipped with another device that Ron developed while working at Motorola, in collaboration with MIT. If you're driving a Honda with side airbags, those airbags are controlled by an "E-Field" electric field sensing microchip that determines the presence, location and size of the vehicle's occupants to tailor an appropriate airbag response in the event of a collision. Other OEM's are looking at the E-Field chip, and the technology has potential beyond the auto sector.)
Full time retiree ...
Ron retired from Motorola to start Linear-Logic and work full time on the ScanGauge. The business now employs 5 people in Mesa, Arizona, where the programming and assembly is also done.
The first version of the ScanGauge went into production in late 2004. Last June (2006), the ScanGaugeII came out.
Who uses the ScanGauge?
According to Ron, it's been embraced by 3 general groups...
Customer feedback ...
After the launch of the original ScanGauge, the most frequent comment received at Linear-Logic was related to aesthetics: customers wanted a sleeker package, and a display that was easier to read. The ScanGaugeII was Linear-Logic's response: 1/4 the size, but with a larger display and user-selectable backlight colour.
Ron says another common request was for the ability to reprogram the unit in the field. While the company still accepts units back to be reprogrammed with the latest version of the software, they're trying to get away from this with a secure interface that will permit customers to download the software and upgrade it themselves by connecting the ScanGaugeII to their home computer.
Trials & tribulations ...
I asked Ron what kinds of challenges he faced while developing the ScanGauge.
"What takes the most time are the vehicle incompatibilities & bugs," he says. He spends a lot of time troubleshooting different vehicles and the way they communicate (or don't communicate) about their various systems through the OBDII port.
He adds that he has discovered some manufacturers are notably worse than others at following industry protocols.
Looking ahead ...
What might we see in future ScanGauge versions/software releases?
Old school blues ...
Another question that comes up frequently in fuel economy forums is what kind of fuel economy instrumentation is available for pre-OBDII vehicles. I asked Ron if he had any plans to offer a ScanGauge that would work with older cars.
"We considered it for some of the more popular vehicles, but even within the same model year there are protocol differences that make this complicated," he said.
By the sounds of it, Linear-Logic has its hands full improving a good product for a growing market (OBDII-compliant vehicles), rather than worrying about a relatively small group of folks driving a declining number of older vehicles.
Which raises the final question:
"It has been successful mainly through online sales and word-of-mouth," Ron says. "We are only now making a concerted effort to get it into stores and promote it more through advertising."
I can personally attest to the success of the word of mouth process because I've been part of it. I've been directly responsible for several people getting ScanGauges, and have likely indirectly influenced many more through this site and in the forums.
As an unapologetic fan of Linear-Logic's work, I for one am happy that Ron DeLong had trouble with that Ford pickup back in 2001. Future plans for the ScanGauge sound exciting - which is no surprise to me, given the enthusiasm that Ron projects when talking about his work. I wish him and his company continued success and look forward to the future evolution of the ScanGauge.
darin AT metrompg D-O-T com, or here