Zubie Deal with automaker hints at potential of connect-car tech (copy)

Mount Pleasant-based Zubie is testing its devices on rental cars. Provided/File

The connected-vehicle company Zubie is experimenting with using its technology on rental cars, testing the waters of an emerging trend in the industry.

Zubie, which is headquartered outside Minneapolis with offices in Mount Pleasant, says it recently tested its devices on a fleet of rental cars in Athens, Ga. The owner of the Hertz Corp. franchise there plans to install them permanently, saying they helped track down vehicles in the scrum of the Atlanta airport.

Zubie's device, which plugs into vehicles' diagnostics ports, tracks information about location and speed. It can also diagnose engine trouble from afar.

"Our vehicles were often difficult to find in the mass of airport rental returns," Rich Sinda, the Hertz franchise owner, said in a statement. "Zubie made it quicker and easier to pinpoint those vehicles so we got them back to the lot and back out on rent sooner."

Zubie said the arrangement was among the first of its kind.

Across the industry, connected-car technology is becoming more prominent. Avis Budget Group, for instance, said earlier this year that it would fit 50,000 vehicles with so-called telematics devices. That's less than a tenth of its fleet, but the company has said it plans to install them on every vehicle by 2020.

Zubie's business is built largely on selling its devices to businesses with lots of vehicles to manage, or companies that want more information about your car, like dealerships and insurers. But rentals could open it to a new market — one spokeswoman Maria Reitan says it now plans to pursue.

Coder conference

Charleston's developer-minded Syntax Conference returns next month with a lineup of speakers that promises to get into the weeds of the tech sector.

The two-day gathering starts June 7 at the North Charleston Marriott, and it'll be preceded by a series of workshops on June 6 at College of Charleston's North Campus. This is the conference's third year.

Syntax's aim is to put on a relatively technical conference, and it's offering three tracks this year — in front-end development, back-end development and emerging platforms like chatbots and the Internet of things.

Speakers include engineers and developers from several high-profile companies, including Amazon Web Services, Bank of America, IBM, Mailchimp, Microsoft and Wal-Mart.

The June 6 workshops cost $200 to attend, and the full conference costs $350. Tickets are available online at http://syntaxcon.com.

Legal consultation

The law firm Turner Padget is giving free legal advice to startups in South Carolina, promising to dole out $1 million in consultations a few thousand at a time.

The firm calls its small-business program "Palmetto Propeller," and it says 40 companies around the state have enrolled in the past year. The program's members get $2,500 in legal services, and the firm is planning networking events and seminars as well.

Turner Padget requires companies to apply for the program, and it says it's vetting them to make sure they have a viable model. The law firm has offices in five South Carolina cities, including Charleston.

Companies can apply at http://palmettopropeller.com.

Reach Thad Moore at 843-937-5703. Follow him on Twitter @thadmoore.