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Bike Hunters

Interning, innovating and inventing: Eus Goed's first week at VanMoof

Interning, innovating and inventing: Eus Goed's first week at VanMoof

Hi! My name is Eus, and I just started my internship at VanMoof. I’m a third-year Software Engineering student, and a friend told me about VanMoof – “it’s a really cool company” she said, “you should check them out!”

So I did. I’d never heard of VanMoof before, but I was blown away by what they were doing. Everything is getting ‘smarter’ nowadays, but I’d never thought of adding that sort of tech to a bike. Stealthy integrated locks, keyless unlocking, anti-theft location tracking… I think it’s pretty amazing.

So when I heard my application got accepted, I was super excited. The first day started with a tour around the offices, setting up all my equipment, and getting on with my first assignment: assembling Bluetooth trackers for bike hunting.

Hold up – Bike Hunters? I knew the bikes had location tracking, but didn’t realize there were actually people dedicated to getting them back. I read a few of the blog posts about their work, then watched all of the Bike Hunters episodes. I thought it would be super cool to try, going out there and hunting stolen bikes. So when I got invited to join the next hunt, I replied pretty quickly – “Hell yeah!"

I got a tour of the systems used for Bike Hunting, and saw how all the locations of the bikes could be found. It was browser-based, and you had to pull up the data for each individual bike, then you could see its last known locations on a map.

It was effective, but it was also pretty complicated and not optimized for mobile use. Obviously, that’s pretty important when you’re on-the-go. My internship is mainly with the R&D Mobile Development team, so I saw a great opportunity to improve this, and pull all the bike location info into a simple app that the team could use when they’re hunting. I was pretty sure I could make something useful, so I took the initiative and started working on it myself.

In the backend, there’s a separate page showing the most recent updates from all bikes that have been reported stolen. So my first step was to adapt that data into a format I could decode in my app. By iterating through this info and grouping locations by the bikes’ unique IDs, I got a list of individual bikes paired with the locations they’ve sent. Then I sorted that list by location, so we could prioritize the bikes that are closest. This makes a big difference when you’re out there hunting, so you can plan your movements and recover missing bikes much more efficiently. I designed the user interface to be as simple as possible, so you can just click on a bike and it shows a live map with all the locations.

This made it much it easier to see where you are in relation to the bikes. And by this point I was already Bike Hunting myself – so I could test the app every time I went out. After each Hunt, I would come back with improvements to implement. There were too many location circles overlapping on the map, so I made a way to toggle them on and off individually. But then there still were a lot to switch off every time, so I added a button for showing or hiding all the radiuses at once.

It got to a point where I was pretty satisfied with what I’d built, but there was still room for improvement. The next step was to add an overview of the last locations of bikes. This way you could easily see which bikes had good location data, and if there were any other stolen bikes in the same neighborhood.

So, when we got a ping that the first Electrified S2 had been stolen, it was time to put my latest build to the test. A colleague and I geared up and set off to Amsterdam’s Bos en Lommer area in pursuit of its last location. We’d brought along the latest version of our custom Bluetooth scanner, and it pairs really well with the new app – now you can zero in on a much more precise location, then the boosted scanner leads you right to the target. And sure enough, the scanner lit up as soon as we arrived on the scene. We checked a couple of bike racks nearby, and there it was: a brand new Electrified S2. We knew from the logs that the bike hadn’t moved for a while, so we cut it free and brought it back to base.

All-in-all it’s been a pretty action-packed first week! I’m really proud of the new app, and it’s already making a big difference to the way the team searches for missing bikes. It’s really cool that VanMoof gives me the freedom to follow my own initiative, and I can’t wait to get started on my next project. But right now I’ve got to run – I just spotted a missing bike nearby!

Sound like your kind of adventure? Check out the VanMoof Jobs Page – we're always looking for smart new minds to join team VanMoof.

Eus Goed

About this author

Intern Eus Goed's two favorite things are inventing techy solutions and finding stolen bikes – he's right at home in the VanMoof R&D team.