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Case Study:

An Android App for eBikes :   A unique App in many ways
Issue Avoidance

The KSS App is an Android App for eBikes developed by us at Skillion. The App has been designed to help riders enjoy their eBikes and keep track of their rides. The App includes a number of features such as:

  • A moving map and auto-router
  • A bike computer to track of a rider’s progress
  • A dashboard to control the eBike via a Bluetooth IF module
  • A find-a-bike feature to find other KSS App riders and friends

….and much more.

Most biking Apps fall into the following categories:

1. Apps that use the phone’s GPS to track the ride for example Strava, Endomondo, Map My Ride, Cyclemeter, Bike Hub, Map My Tracks and,

2. App that are fitness trackers (Garmin, Wahoo, Strava, Endomondo)

The problem with these Apps and most others is that they are often difficult to read while riding, hard to operate while, work in isolation from other Apps, are not always very accurate, are not connected to the bike or bike systems, undermine instead of improving rider safety and rely on the rider personal phone that can put it at risk.

Fundamentally most phone Apps used for bikes are not designed ground up to be “for the rider” and miss the point, that the rider is “digitally disconnected” while riding. Being “digitally disconnected” occurs when the rider is attending to the ride but loses their awareness of what services and relevant data is available. This occurs because the phone is not accessible, put in the pocket or back-pack or cannot be operated because the rider cannot command the phone or receive information from it.

The KSS App has been designed to overcome these problems and includes a number of features to make it easy to use while on the go.

First, the KSS App is an integrated App with multiple features in one. A car can solve this issues with a large screen for example a “Tesla”. A large screen is impractical on the handle bars of a bike. A smaller screen means that not all the necessary information is available. To overcome this the KSS App uses “modes” which allow the rider at the touch of a button to switch between various screens quickly. Modes and mode selection is a method employed by Airline cockpit designers to solve the same issue. Currently there are 10 modes with many more being added. For example if the rider wants to check their performance on the Bike Computer then move to navigation via the Moving Map they just press the one button and the KSS App screen displays the Moving Map.

The “discovery” of modes was only made through extensive field trials and the background the founder. Since 2014 Skillion has been developing eBike and eBike technologies. Skillion developed a complete IoT system for tracking and controlling a fleet of eBikes it has developed in Australia. Skillion’s founder was an Airline Pilot for Qantas and led the development of a $270m 747 engineering refit. The linking of these 2 unrelated industries was a unique insight that Skillion had to create this feature.

Secondly is the IF module and Thumb controller. This is an electronics module that connects to the eBike motor and, via Bluetooth, to the phone and KSS App. The Thumb controller is fitted near the hand grips and allows easy operation by the Thumb while riding without looking down. One press on the mode button and the KSS App switches modes. This keeps the rider “heads-up” offering them the best opportunity for high “situational awareness” another method employed by Airline and Fighter cockpit designers.

The IF module and Thumb Controller was an innovation required to “clean-up” the handlebars of the bike. Our prospective customers demanded that we not clutter them up with loads of devices. In this case we were able to remove the typical display and Thumb Controller used on most eBike with the KSS App and the IF module and compact Thumb Controller. This offered one single display in front of the rider.

Third are the special features that are only on the KSS App including: Find-a-bike, Flash Messaging, Tours and HAWKeye. HAWKeye is a rear camera that uses cameras and AI to detect vehicles approaching from behind the rider. HAWKeye is a stand-alone device, check it out at hawkeye.bike. It has been integrated seamlessly into the KSS App.

Find-a-bike plots the location of other bikes using the KSS App on the display. This is very useful when riding with others as you can see if they become seperate for example if they are not keeping up (or getting too far ahead) have take a wrong turn or have stopped.

Flash messaging offers quick messages to be sent to (and from) other KSS App riders. This is useful if riders want to send simple requests for example “slow down”, “turn left”, “wait there” and so on. The messages are preset and can be sent with only a simple set of presses from the Thumb Controller. There are multiple messages and custom messages can be created.

Tours offers a way for riders to share routes and details of rides they love. Any route can be defined even ones that have mapped out on a computer but not ridden. Media files can be added for example a video about a particular sight’s history. Tours is great for bike hire shops as it offers a virtual tour to improve the riding experience and keep customers coming back for more.

Forth is the use of audio (yet to be implemented) this means key sounds or words are announced. For example when the rider changes modes from Bike Computer to Moving Map the words “Moving Map” are announced. This keeps the rider “head up” and again improves the situational awareness of the rider.

The fifth and final feature discussed here is the Sentry mode. This electronically locks the bike and alerts the rider if the bike is disturbed via messaging. The KSS App allows the owner remote from the bike to interrogate the system, turn the motor off, sound a siren, track the bike’s movement and even view a live video of the rider (or thief). The KSS App can be downloaded onto any phone device including low cost Android phones. The rider can have this phone dedicated to the bike inexpensively and not risk their personal phone.

There are many more features and functions of the App that are not detailed here.

To develop a sleek, easy to use and highly functional App we undertook extensive field testing as a continual process. When new features were developed we would release the App with this feature and test it extensively in the field. In some case the feature needed rework as its function was not as intended.

In one such case we developed an auto-router for the moving map but it was routing via roads. This we deemed undesirable as there were great biking paths directly to the destination. This occurred because the App was using the Google API that defaulted to car travel. We modified our App to favor bike trails and made the ride much safer and more fun.

The App is available for free on the Google Play Store

Skillion has been developing App for many years and has helped many companies develop theirs. If you need help please contact us.

Pete Cooper, CEO of Skillion

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