Boosted Electric Skateboards
Boosted, Inc. make the world's best electric skateboards. Their beautifully-designed and high-performing products are an innovative and intuitive solution for both recreation and commuting. Wireless connectivity is central to all Boosted board usage scenarios, so when the Boosted team wanted to push the envelope, they turned to Virscient for help.
The first-generation Boosted Board had been well-received by the market but Boosted wanted to do even better. Link latency was critical to rider experience, and it was important to have robust security and interferer tolerance. Boosted were also eager to enable additional features such as simultaneous connectivity between the skateboard, remote, smartphone app, and other smart devices.
"We are always pushing the envelope at Boosted, and outstanding wireless performance was a no-compromise requirement” said John Ulmen, co-founder and CTO of Boosted. "We chose Virscient to help us develop the next-gen system because of their deep experience with wireless technology, and ability to solve challenging connectivity problems."
Working closely together, Virscient and Boosted built a high-performing wireless platform that would ensure that Boosted products continue to set the standard for security, reliability, and usability. Virscient supported Boosted in all aspects of their connectivity journey from technology selection through transfer to mass production, and beyond.
Technology Selection and Implementation
In the Boosted application, wireless technology is used to exchange control, telemetry, and firmware update data between the skateboard, its hand-held remote control, and the rider's smart devices.
Security, latency, and reliability were the key design goals for the primary communications link between hand-held remote control and skateboard, where throttle data is sent with high frequency to the skateboard, and battery level and status information are returned for display on the remote control indicators. Bluetooth Low Energy was selected for the product due to its strengths in these areas, and its ability to enable interoperability with consumer smartphones.
Carefully considering the application-specific requirements around power management and antenna design/integration, Virscient provided Boosted with a hardware reference design and implementation guidance so that the Boosted team could easily integrate the connectivity subsystem into their skateboard and remote control PCBs.
Next, Virscient developed the connectivity subsystem embedded software within a flexible shared SDK, including pairing and protocol state machines, security facilities, over-the-air update mechanisms, and service/characteristic definitions. Finally, Virscient developed a build system to allow scripted and traceable compilation of firmware images as a part of the Boosted software release processes.
Validation and Optimisation
Virscient's experience in the validation and production test of wireless systems and products was a key benefit to Boosted throughout this project.
Communications latency and reliability (both generally, and in the presence of interferers) were important performance goals, so Virscient undertook a thorough programme of characterisation and optimisation using in-house automated test systems.
The skateboard and remote control were instrumented and deployed in an RF-controlled environment with digitally-variable attenuation to emulate range, and injection of RF waveforms to simulate potential link interferers. Steady-state and reconnect latency was monitored by the test system, with the results used to inform and target system optimisation efforts.
With this deep performance insight, Virscient tuned the Bluetooth Low Energy service/characteristic structures and link layer parameters to ensure robust and low-latency real-time control of the skateboard from its remote control. “The configuration of the wireless system was equally critical to radio selection,” Ulmen said. “Virscient’s deep knowledge and test-driven approach yielded incredible performance that we could hang our brand name on.”
Testing showed the new Boosted connectivity subsystem had considerably improved performance when benchmarked against other standard radio systems in the market. A 70% improvement in communications range was measured, along with more than 10 dB improvement in interferer tolerance, and an 80% reduction in reconnection latency.
Overall, the solution was also more flexible - enabling richer connectivity usage models and software upgrade paths, while maintaining a low BOM cost.
"Virscient exceeded all our expectations, provided excellent service, and helped us build an outstanding product”, said Ulmen. “I highly recommend this team and look forward to working with them in the future."