BCycle Dashes into New Markets with Smart Bikes

Business Situation

Station-based bike-sharing systems provide a premium user experience, but they can be initially expensive and inflexible. What if BCycle could eliminate this high upfront cost, lower the overall system cost, and improve the operator and user experience?

BCycle’s hardware design team planned to introduce a best in class smart bike, combining the best of bike-sharing hardware design with an innovative on-bike touch screen interface. To power this smart bike, new backend services were needed, as was an architecture that could support many more connected devices. BCycle turned to us to build upon their flagship mobile app and software-as-a-service backend to create the BCycle Dash smart bike system.

"Dash Smart Bike would not exist without Core. They augmented our team with an incredible level of expertise that allowed us to control the product’s entire tech stack—from development for IoT devices, mobile, and web to a cloud-based backend."

Stephen Adam | Software Engineer Manager | Trek Bicycle

Our Solution

Station-based bike-sharing relies on few internet-connected kiosks and many bicycles, with communications driven by the stations. The introduction of many internet-connected bicycles, where each bike was now responsible for communication, created new problems that the existing software architecture couldn’t handle. We solved this problem by providing an updated architecture built around two core Microsoft Azure technologies: Azure IoT Hub and Azure Service Fabric.

To solve the BCycle Dash smart bike information challenge, we designed and built a suite of microservices designed around the capabilities of Service Fabric and the requirements of the Dash system. The team utilized IoT Hub and Service Fabric to provide device management and to connect the bikes to the existing software-as-a-service backend.

All bikes are registered with the system and given secure, bike-specific credentials to use for communication. The existing backend can leverage API endpoints within the Service Fabric application to "ask" a bike if it's available for check out. Stream-based processing of incoming IoT Hub messages can notify operators of bike status (e.g. bike location, battery level, firmware versioning).

After successful deployments of station-based systems around the country, BCycle is now positioned to revolutionize bike-sharing with a novel concept: the bike as the station.

The Bike is the Station

Dash is two things: an evolution of BCycle’s bikeshare product to meet a different price point at the same quality, and a response to disruptive competition. By adding a low-power computer, touch screen and modem; each bike becomes its own station and differentiates it from other smart bikes. To save power, the bike minimizes local processing and relies on the cloud. The touch screen and local RFID reader allows the bikes to be deployed in existing systems, providing additional flexibility to operators and familiarity to existing customers. Also, the flagship BCycle mobile app can be leveraged for sign-up, check out, mapping, navigation, payment processing, and many other features.

New Features Include (for Dash-Based Systems):

  • GPS data from bike sent securely to BCycle via IoT Hub.
  • Active monitoring of bike state to proactively alert operators
  • Turn-by-turn directions, powered by the mobile app, displayed on the bike screen.
  • Geofencing of stations to provide intelligent management of bike operations.
  • Return bikes to any legal bike parking location (no dock required).
  • Ability to check out with RFID card, mobile app, or user ID and PIN.
  • Mobile Unlock System for a quicker bike checkout.
  • Intelligent bike-driven flows for automated maintenance ticket management and problem reporting.

The Results

With the success of the mobile app and living the agile mindset every day, the BCycle team will be able to deploy the Dash nationwide in Spring of 2018. The BCycle app and Dash smart bike have become central to BCycle's current and future product offerings. It allows both casual and card-holding members to access the benefits of their bikeshare system to help them solve their transit problems and explore their communities.

About BCycle

BCycle is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Trek Bicycle and offers a rider-centric bike-sharing system, combining state-of-the-art bicycles and supporting hardware with high-performance, cloud-based, software-as-a-service. Its mission is to revolutionize the way people use public transportation to help solve environmental, health, and infrastructure challenges that modern communities face. Its programs provide more than 1,500 bike sharing stations and over 15,000 shared bicycles to users via a mobile application, website, and in-person kiosks.

Technologies Used

ASP.NET Web API 2

Identity Server

Microsoft Azure

Azure SQL

IoT Hub

Service Fabric

Stream Analytics

Xamarin

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