Meet the Lightship RV app: A connected experience to help you disconnect

While electric power is the foundation for Lightship’s RV, the Lightship app, built by ArcTouch, helps define the EV’s user experience.

5 min. read - November 30, 2023

By Pedro van Rooij Costa

By Pedro van Rooij Costa

A family exits a modern Lightship RV parked in a wooded area.
A family exits a modern Lightship RV parked in a wooded area.
A family exits a modern Lightship RV parked in a wooded area.

When it comes to product design and development for the Internet of Things (IoT), digital builders like us are often fixated on creating “sticky” experiences. Meaning, that we want to create such lovable connected experiences that people use our apps for longer periods of time, and more often.

But the goal of our work with Lightship for their industry-first all-electric RV — unveiled at this year’s SXSW conference — was exactly the opposite. We want people to spend less time with the app. Because when people are enjoying the outdoors, we want to give them the exact controls and information they need quickly and easily — and then get out of the way so they can properly disconnect. Put another way, we don’t want road trippers staring at a screen any more than a tent manufacturer would want campers spending hours setting up a tent.

Revolutionizing the road trip

There’s so much innovation built into Lightship’s L1 that it’s hard to summarize — from its aerodynamic design to its solar charging system to the cabin’s many modern conveniences. At the company’s SXSW launch event, one video journalist shared this hour-long video demo that covers many highlights (Warning: this video may make you want to buy one!). And in this segment, Lightship co-founder Ben Parker showcases the app we built for the event:

One reason why Lightship is such an exciting project for our IoT app development team is that the L1 is designed to reduce the environmental footprint of the traditional RV. It does so by including technology as a foundation for efficiency. While solar energy and electric power are the center of the L1’s systems, the Lightship app helps complete the whole product user experience.

Purpose-built for total cabin control

One of the most unique aspects of the app is that it’s purpose-built for a dedicated Android tablet that will serve as the primary control system for all of the cabin features. Those controls include:

  • Lights: Dimming and color adjustments for interior and exterior lights.

  • Climate: Heating and air conditioning control.

  • Awnings: Retract or extend sun shades and awnings.

  • Canopy: Raise or lower the canopy for more aerodynamic transport.

  • Leveling: Adjust the RV feet to offset for sloping terrain.

  • Windows: Adjust tinting on windows from clear to opaque for privacy.

  • Doors: Lock and unlock the doors.

The app also helps you to monitor:

  • Power: Solar panel status and electric drive power levels.

  • Tanks: Grey and black waste and water levels.

  • Rear camera: See what’s happening on the ground outside.

As Ben mentions in the video above, these controls are just the start. We expect to add and refine features as Lightship’s electric RVs evolve.

“ArcTouch helped us deliver an app that looks and works beautifully — whether you’re raising the canopy, adjusting the lights, or checking power levels,” said Toby Kraus, Lightship’s co-founder and CEO. “The app efficiently brings all the key info to your fingertips — so you can easily control your Lightship and enjoy your outdoor adventure.”

Modular tech that can evolve with the startup

Our initial release of this app was for the Lightship team to show during their launch event at SXSW in March. Lightship earned a finalist award for the SXSW Innovation Awards design category!

Now, we’re onto the next development phase: evolving the application as Lightship moves to the production release of the L1, due in 2024.

Because an app is the digital control center for many of the L1 features, the company gains agility in the production process. Lightship won’t need to design and build traditional physical controls for many of the cabin features. It can avoid costly and time-consuming manufacturing of many physical dials and panels. As EV leaders like Tesla have proven, changes made in software can be rolled out almost instantly to improve the experience of using the vehicle.

Knowing modularity was important, our team also built the app in a way that would allow it to scale easily and evolve with the company.

For example, one of the technological challenges we faced was in creating a connected product that could operate when disconnected from public networks that’s flexible enough to be future-proof and fast enough to feel like tapping a screen is as responsive as flipping a light switch. Working closely with Lightship’s firmware team, we specifically chose the MQTT protocol because of its responsiveness, scalability, and versatility. Known for its performance in mixed IoT environments, MQTT gave our team the ability to control a combination of devices for the L1 and future Lightship models.

EV + nature = winning

We love this project for many reasons. But Lightship’s vision — to encourage people to explore the natural world while reducing our environmental footprint — really resonates with our team. The global travel and tourism industry is responsible for about 4.5 billion tons of equivalent carbon dioxide emissions a year. As it says on its company website, Lightship is building the “L1 to enable zero-emission road trips so that you can explore nature while preserving it for generations to come.”

We are proud of our work so far and are excited about working with Lightship leading up to the release of the production L1 vehicles.

Our mission is to support Lightship’s zero-emission vision. And to give people a lovable connected app they can spend as little time as possible using. So they can actually disconnect, and spend more time exploring our beautiful world.

About ArcTouch

ArcTouch IoT developers create lovable apps for connected products for companies of all sizes, including Lightship, 3M, and HP. Let’s build something awesome together! Contact us to get started.

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