Bringing Find My to VanMoof’s electric bikes was not an easy feat.
Apple recently announced that it was finally opening up its Find My network to third-party products, and VanMoof, an electric bike company, would be one of the first brands to support the new location technology. Dutch outlet iCulture was not only able to get some early hands-on time with the new bike that supports Find My, but they were also able to interview Job Stehmann, VanMoof’s head of product design.
The executive talked about how the company became one of the first brands to support Apple’s new third-party Find My accessory program and says that the partnership actually began through a forum post.
We already expected Apple to do this sooner. They were working on their Bluetooth network and so are we, but in a different way. We thought: it is quite logical if they open that up, because it is possible. In the end it all started with a forum post. One of our developers initially made contact and they were apparently actively looking for good partners to work with and something that could bring something new.
That was in June or July and it went pretty fast after that. After that, we started calling the engineering team and a program manager there every week.
The executive said that working with Apple was a good fit for how the company already operated when it came to innovating new technology.
No, that was the great thing: it fit very well with how we work. It’s technology first, so it’s not like you sit down on the time it needs to be finished. Of course you agree: it would be nice if it was ready, but in the first instance it is about the technology and that it works. Only later are the strategies aligned.
That’s a lot of fun: it’s real product and engineering first and the rest all comes later. This is how we work at VanMoof: technology first and if we are confident that it will work well, it will go into the market.
Job did not hold back, saying that the process for getting everyone on the same page and the ability to bring the technology to something as big as a bike was quite difficult.
You share your prototypes with Apple and they also go through certification there, so they also look very critically at what it looks like and how it behaves. We have sent many prototypes there. And because we have an office in San Francisco, it was very convenient to drop a bike at all developers’ homes.
Still, it was quite a challenge, because it is not the case that we just drove to Apple Park. It was also funny because Apple is used to working with small Bluetooth devices such as earbuds. This was something different. It’s a big thing that led to questions such as: where should I put it, how does it work? And it contains several elements, such as software that must drive the motor, software that controls the display and locks. It has an anti-theft system. So they were also sometimes a bit lost. There is also an anti-theft system. With other partners it is more straightforward, with one chip. When implementing this you will have to deal with a lot of dependencies with the other software we have written. So it really isn’t easy.
The executive also confirmed that, rather than being a chip that you drop into the product, Find My is software that your product can integrate with.
No, it is some software on their part, some kind of sample software. We have rewritten it so that it works on our chipset. It took us a little over half a year, about three quarters of a year to make it work with the bike and also make adjustments on their side so that it works properly. So it is mainly software.
The more devices there are, the better the network will work, which is also the intention of opening it up. But it is not really easy to get it working properly. If chip manufacturers support this themselves, then it is a matter of buying the right chip. But not everyone can do that and not everyone is crazy enough to put in three quarters of a year of development and put a large team on it. I think many others will come and I hope so.
VanMoof announced that it would be offering Find My on its S3 and X3 electric bikes on all orders placed on or after April 7.