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CAN-based passive telematics software hitches ride on the Raspberry Pi

Jul 11, 2018 — by Eric Brown — 1256 views

On Indiegogo, Network Sorcery is pitching “UCAN” software for a CAN-equipped Raspberry Pi board that enables passive, real-time decoding of automotive telematics data over the CAN Bus. UCAN initially supports GM, Infiniti, and Nissan cars.

San Diego based Network Sorcery, which publishes information about network communication protocols, including the RFC Sourcebook, has gone to Indiegogo to launch a telematics program that runs on a Raspberry Pi 3 equipped with a CAN adapter board. The Linux-based UCAN software passively extracts and decodes telematics data in real time via the CAN Bus, offering “more detail and up to 50 times the volume of data than OBD2 (or OBD-II) based systems can provide,” says Network Sorcery.

UCAN UI display shown with video feed from promotional video
(click image to enlarge)

Unlike OBD2 telematics loggers, UCAN is said to be capable of decoding states such as door position, lighting, and HVAC. In addition, it doesn’t suffer from the same “performance and safety concerns” as OBD2, says the company. Performance is said to be faster than OBD2 because it’s a passive decoder without a requirement to request data.

Diagram showing UCAN vs. OBD2 solutions

The UCAN Indiegogo packages start at $40. This gives you the software plus two free years of updates. A $50 package offers only one year of free updates, but adds “limited” support packages for GM, Infiniti, and Nissan cars. Like the $40 package, the package enables you to vote for the make or model you want the company to focus on for future profiles.

Deals ranging from $60 to $70 include a Raspberry Pi 3, but not the CAN adapter, power supply, or vehicle interface cable. These hardware bundle packages, which offer one or two years of updates, are the only deals with a promised ship date: September 2018.

UCAN consists of data reader and decoder software that runs on the Raspberry Pi. The data reader service reads raw data from a CAN adapter via a Socketcan interface. It then publishes a stream of text strings containing the CAN data.

The data decoder subscribes to this data stream and outputs a stream of tag/value pairs that contains the decoded data. This data can then be utilized directly by applications running on a web-connected phone, tablet, or computer.


UCAN requires a CAN adapter that provides a Socketcan interface under Linux. Initially, the software targets the Raspberry Pi, so you need an RPi-compatible board such as the recommended PiCAN2 board from Tronixlabs Australia. The PiCAN2, which can be found for as low as $49 at Copperhill Technologies, is equipped with a Microchip MCP2515 CAN v2.0B controller with MCP2551 CAN transceiver, as well as a CAN port. Other Raspberry Pi add-on boards with Socketcan support include Sfera Labs’ Strato Pi.

The UCAN software is still in the experimental stage, and contributors are expected to act as beta testers. Funds will go toward the expansion of the current automotive profiles, as well as the addition of new automotive models and ports to other hardware platforms beyond the Raspberry Pi. Eventually, Network Sorcery plans to develop an “automotive grade version” of the technology.

Despite its drawbacks, one advantage of OBD2 is that it’s so widely adopted. This is one reason why we see more telematics solutions using OBD2 than CAN. These include’s Raspberry Pi Zero W based AutoPi dongle, Klashwerks’ more recent, Android based Raven dashcam device, and iWave’s Linux-based Connected Car Device. More advanced fleet computers such as Acrosser’s Linux-ready AIV-APL1V1FL, often support both OBD2 and CAN interfaces.

Further information

The UCAN software is available on Indiegogo starting at $40 — or starting at $60 with a Raspberry Pi. The hardware bundle packages promise a September ship date. (This is a flexible funding Indiegogo campaign, so the software is likely to move forward even if the campaign fails to reach its $5K goal.) Yearly subscription updates beyond what’s available in the Indiegogo deals cost an optional $25 a year. More information may be found on the UCAN Indiegogo page. More should eventually show up on the Network Sorcery website.


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One response to “CAN-based passive telematics software hitches ride on the Raspberry Pi”

  1. David J Smoot says:

    Backer #1 and a coworker is backer #2…

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