In recent years, the use of bicycles in cities has grown considerably. Increasingly used by professionals and private individuals alike, the bicycle has become a major asset in the fight against global warming by relieving congestion in cities. However, its appeal remains relative. Despite financial support and urban planning efforts, many cyclists are still reluctant to make the bicycle one of the world’s main means of transport. Indeed, the bicycle in its classic form can sometimes suffer from a dusty, unattractive image, making it unable to compete with other modes of transport.

Added to this are other fears intrinsic to the bicycle, notably the fear of theft, which represents the second biggest obstacle to the purchase of an electric bike after price. This apprehension persists even among convinced cyclists, for whom the question of safety remains paramount. They are looking for solutions to keep an eye on their bikes during their daily commute.

With prices averaging between 10 and 170 euros for premium models, trackers are among the most widespread solutions. Placed more or less discreetly on the bike, they enable the cyclist to geolocate it in real time. So, in the event of theft, you can track your bike’s movements.

As a curative measure implemented at the cyclist’s initiative, the tracker contrasts with the connected IoT (Internet of Things) module, which offers a different approach. The result of a genuine strategy on the part of the electric bike brand, the connected IoT is installed at the bike manufacturing stage, fully integrated into the bike’s design, and offers more reliable and far more advanced services than simple geolocation.

Although both technologies include real-time geolocation among their functionalities, they differ in terms of efficiency and user experience.

Tracker vs. integrated IoT product: what are the differences?

Tracker vs IoT: which strategy to opt for in the fight against bike theft?

In response to cyclists’ concerns, trackers and IoT products offer protection against bike theft thanks to a variety of features. However, their use stems from quite distinct strategies.

The tracker: a curative solution

Generally in the form of a box installed by the cyclist himself or by a professional once the bike has been purchased, the tracker is a curative solution. Its main function is to geolocate the electric bike in real time. The tracker’s most useful function is to locate the electric bike in real time. To recover it, he can then share his location with the police.

The tracker’s sole mission is to indicate the bike’s position. Often placed by the cyclist, the tracker can easily be removed from the bike (unhooked or destroyed), preventing it from functioning properly. Inexpensive trackers also have shortcomings in terms of reliability of position (sometimes far from reality) and of the signal received and sent (risk of non-capture of position). What’s more, they may not be sufficiently waterproof or lack the battery capacity to meet geolocation needs when they arise.

The IoT module or product, an upstream strategy for the electric bicycle brand

Installed at the initiative of electric bike brands during assembly, the IoT product demonstrates their desire to support cyclists in the day-to-day protection of their bikes, and to offer other services designed to enhance the cycling experience. By choosing a reliable integrated solution, the brand enables cyclists to have a safer, serene, simple, comfortable, and sometimes even fun experience. Via a mobile application that transforms bike data into services for the cyclist, the functionalities are numerous:

  • Anti-theft: real-time notification of suspicious movement, triggering of an alarm, motor lock, precise real-time geolocation via cellular communication, with optimum position accuracy and position feedback frequency.
  • For bike maintenance: information on bike health in real time, advice, alerts, reminders.
  • For fun: trip statistics, history, records…

Far beyond geolocation alone, the IoT module integrated on an electric bike transforms it into a smartbike, opening up a range of services that will profoundly transform the experience of cyclists.

The IoT module integrated into bicycles, an asset in theft prevention & deterrence

Thanks to connectivity, the brand supports cyclists in protecting their bikes, whether through functionalities or daily advice.

  • Advice: thanks to direct access to the cyclist via its mobile application, the brand is able to offer advice. These recommendations can cover the best places to park your bike, or the precautions to take when choosing an anti-theft device. This advice is particularly important for novice cyclists who are unfamiliar with the reflexes to adopt.
  • Features to prevent theft: By connecting his phone to the bike, the cyclist authenticates himself as the owner. Only he or she can lock or unlock the bike for use. If the rider forgets his or her bike when away, the mobile application will notify him or her. This is an opportunity for cyclists to remember to protect their bikes. In lock mode, the bike is on alert. In the event of suspicious movement, the cyclist is notified directly on his or her smartphone. This enables them to monitor the condition of their bike and see if it is moving.

If the bike is still the object of covetousness, the connected IoT also includes functions to deter the thief from continuing his crime.

  • The Alarm: After an initial notification of suspicious movements has been sent to the cyclist, if these continue, the buzzer-equipped IoT will sound. This surprising feature can have the effect of destabilizing the thief, who, frightened, will give up.
  • Remote power cut-off: using the mobile app, the cyclist can remotely cut off the power to his or her bike by observing that it is moving. As the bike becomes heavier, it becomes difficult and painful to move.

Tracker vs IoT, what support is needed in the case of theft?

As there is no such thing as zero risk, we also need to be prepared for the possibility of theft. Whereas with the tracker, the cyclist isolated from the brand has to deal with this situation alone, the connectivity made possible by the connected module changes the game. The brand can accompany the cyclist through this ordeal, adding real value to his or her experience.

To this end, the mobile application gives cyclists access to features such as :

  • A bike identity card containing key information such as the bike’s bicycode and physical description, which can be quickly passed on to the police.
  • A theft declaration button, to alert the brand so that it can provide assistance, but also to activate the necessary insurance.

Tracker vs. connected IoT, major technical disparities

Alimentation, a key feature in the user experience

The tracker, an external power supply with its limits

Installed away from the bicycle system, trackers are equipped with self-contained batteries whose autonomy varies from model to model, ranging from 3 to 6 months for the most efficient models. Once the tracker battery is exhausted, the cyclist must have the reflex to recharge it. As a result, until the battery is recharged, the tracker is out of service and cannot perform its function of protecting the bike.

By being directly connected to the bike’s battery, the connected IoT offers another approach.

Connected IoT, a continuous power supply thanks to battery technology

Unlike the tracker, the IoT product is directly connected to the bike’s battery, from which it draws its energy. Powerful but low-consumption, it recharges when the bike is used. This is known as “biberonnage”. This represents a key element in the cyclist’s experience, giving him or her peace of mind with a robust product that will accompany him or her throughout the life of the bike.

In-channel communication, an asset for IoT products in the user experience

In terms of the experience offered to the brand and the cyclist, the connected IoT is differentiated by the volume of data that can be captured. Whereas tracker functionalities are generally limited to geolocation, those made possible by the IoT are more extensive. Directly connected to the bike via CAN protocol, the IoT product can collect and process a wide range of information directly from the battery and its components.

Equipped with this technology, Velco IoT products are able to collect a wide range of data in real time, such as the bike’s real-time speed, the percentage and autonomy of the battery, the route taken, the number of kilometers traveled, and so on. This data is then processed in the Velco Suite software designed for cyclists and e-bike brands, making it even more valuable.

For cyclists, access to their data represents an added value to their experience. In addition to real-time geolocation and theft-related functionalities, they benefit from a new, fun experience through Velco Rider, the white-label mobile application for the Velco suite, and its connected services: maintenance assistance, maintenance tips, reminders, trip history, bike statistics, etc.

From the brand’s point of view, this data is equally important. Real marketing levers and important decision-making assets, this data enables the brand to get in touch with its cyclists in order to understand how they use its products. By analyzing the data collected on user profiles and usage patterns, the brand can adjust its strategic orientations and improve its R&D focus. At Velco, this data is made available in Velco Business Insight, its CRM for electric bicycle brands.

Velco solutions: tracker or connected IoT?

Ultimately, with its digital solutions for the entire e-bike industry, Velco offers premium connected products. Nuotrax & Mobitrax, our IoT products linked to our software suite, enable the electric bike brand to offer a whole new experience for cyclists. This is illustrated first and foremost in terms of theft prevention and cyclist support, with functionalities such as geolocation, alarms, advice and remote actions. But also in terms of the day-to-day experience of cycling, thanks to fun, connected services.