[…] an app is required to use many of the smart features of its bikes – and that app relies on communication with VanMoof servers. If the company goes under, and the servers go offline, that could leave ebike owners unable to even unlock their bikes
While unlocking is activated by Bluetooth when your phone comes into range of the bike, it relies on a rolling key code – and that function in turn relies on access to a VanMoof server. If the company goes bust, then no server, no key code generation, no unlock.
Rival ebike company Cowboy has a solution
A rival ebike company, Belgian company Cowboy, has stepped in to offer a solution. TNW reports that it has created an app which allows VanMoof owners to generate and save their own digital key, which can be used in place of one created by a VanMoof server.
If you have a VanMoof bike, grab the app now, as it requires an initial connection to the VanMoof server to fetch your current keycode. If the server goes offline, existing Bikey App users can continue to unlock their bikes, but it will no longer be possible for new users to activate it.
In some cases, a companion app may work perfectly well in standalone mode, but it’s surprising how often a server connection is required to access the full feature set.
Perhaps we need standards here. For example, requiring all functionality (bar firmware updates) to work without access to an external server.
Where this isn’t technically possible, perhaps there should be a legal requirement for essential software to be automatically open-sourced in the event of bankruptcy, so that there would be the option of techier owners banding together to host and maintain the server-side code?
Yup, there are too many examples of good hardware being turned into junk because the OEM goes bankrupt or just decides to stop supporting it. Something needs to be done about this.