Engineering Spotlight: Superpedestrian
Founded in 2012, Superpedestrian is transforming urban mobility.
The company's Copenhagen Wheel turns your bicycle into a smart electric hybrid, quickly and easily. The company recently announced that it completed a $16.5 million Series B1 round of financing which brings Superpedestrian's total investment to nearly $44 million.
The Superpedestrian Engineering Team works to propel the latest hardware engineering and software innovations for consumers to have the best experience possible.
We caught up with Goss Nuzzo-Jones, Principal Software Engineer at Superpedestrian, to learn more about the team culture, the technologies they use every day, and more.
Quick Hit Details
- Year Founded: 2012
- Number of employees: 50
- Number of engineers: 20
- Industry: Transportation/Mobility
Can you share a summary on what Superpedestrian does?
Superpedestrian makes the Copenhagen Wheel, which turns your bike into an electric bike. We also make embedded systems and software that make e-bikes more fun to ride, as well as easier to maintain and deploy.
Superpedestrian’s specialty is in developing human-enhancing technologies. Can you share some of the ideals behind the company’s purpose driven mission?
The company was spun out the MIT Senseable City Lab. The research completed there was to understand how people move around cities led directly to the Copenhagen Wheel, our first product. We’re trying to make it easier to move around cities as they continue to grow, in ways that are sustainable, convenient, and often fun.
The technology behind the products at Superpedestrian, like the Copenhagen Wheel, is very complex. Can you elaborate on some of the details, in terms of what goes into these products from both software and hardware engineering?
The Copenhagen Wheel and surrounding software are a complex ecosystem, but with the goal to make something that is still as simple as riding a bike.
The hardware inside the wheel is a sophisticated combination of precision sensors, control systems, firmware, battery and motor. All these work together with the purpose of reacting to human pedaling so quickly that the addition of motor power makes the rider feel as if they are stronger, not like they’re being pushed. From there we track sensor and biometric data at a high rate and communicate it over Bluetooth Low Energy to our smartphone apps, where we automatically track GPS traces combined with biometric data for the user.
The combination of firmware and apps summarize the sensor data being collected into diagnostic data about the wheel’s performance and environment, which we can use to diagnose problems in the field, improve performance in future firmware, or iterate on the hardware itself. Our backend systems allow us to introspect those diagnostics from a support or research perspective.
As a follow up to the question above, what are some of the specific technologies that the engineering team gets to work with and at what scale?
Our firmware team is primarily developed in C, working with lots of specific sensor technologies, and communicating to the outside world primarily over Bluetooth Low Energy. Our smartphone apps are a complex mix of Bluetooth connectivity, location capture, authentication and background operation. On the backend, our primary API development is in Python. We host in AWS, and employ Docker, Elastic Beanstalk, Lambda, and Redshift. We work with a variety of different backend stores, including PostgreSQL, Elasticsearch, and others.
Does your engineering team have a chance to work on projects outside of their day-to-day responsibilities? For example - skunk work projects, open source projects?
We have occasional hackathons, which allow for some fun projects. Some example projects include playing music with the motor of the Copenhagen Wheel, as well as using historical sensor data to determine if the rear tire was low on air. We have open sourced a few projects in the past as well, and contributed back to others.
What is the culture like at Superpedestrian for the engineering team?
With a wide array of disciplines and experiences on the broader engineering team, the common thread is often excitement about the products we’re working on. The culture is fun and curious, with different teams sharing their interesting work either over the lunch table or our regular all-hands meeting.
What can a potential employee expect during the interview process?
This varies a lot by engineering discipline. On the software engineering side, onsite interviews start with a round of technical interviews with the people you’d work most closely with. This technical interview process is designed to allow candidates to shine demonstrating how their skills could be relevant to what we do. Depending on the candidate, we sometimes ask for a short at-home exercise to be completed. The process wraps up with interviews with our product, design, and subset of our executive teams.
Are you involved in any local tech organizations or Meetups?
Superpedestrian has recently been to Drinks on Tap as well as a local recording of the Software Engineering Daily podcast.
Rapid Fire Q&A - How does each question best describe the engineering team at Superpedestrian?
Most popular office snack?
Always changing, but jelly beans have been popular recently
Star Wars or Star Trek?
Tesla or Chevy Volt?
Cars aren’t the future. :)
iPhone or Android?
iPhone, the bluetooth stack is way more stable
Coffee - hot or iced?
Favorite employee perk?
Getting your own Copenhagen Wheel. That and we have a bike shop.
What TV show describes the engineering team’s culture?
NBA on TNT
What music is playing in your office?
Whatever is in your headphones.
View from your office?
Cleanest desk / Messiest desk?