Matt Porter - The Gadget Man



In 2017, avid digital enthusiast and respected reviewer of all things techie, Matt Porter – aka The Gadget Man – set himself a goal: to prove that electric cars are a viable alternative to their fossil fuelled counterparts. Armed with a Tesla Model S, Matt and best friend Paul set about planning an epic 1257 mile journey from the UK’s most easterly point, Ness Point, to Ardnamurchan, Scotland, and back, in just four days.

The challenge

Car booked, one challenge loomed large - how to document the journey. Matt had picked up lots of support in the build-up to his journey and he wanted to keep his sponsors, friends and family updated of his progress. Not only that, he’d need indisputable proof that he’d pulled it off. And that’s where the Coderus team came in.

“The team at Coderus were amazing and saved my bacon when I needed a live tracker app built so quickly. Thank you for all your hard work making the app work so perfectly and for giving family and friends comfort that we were safe on the trip." Matt Porter, The Gadget Man

The brief

Matt’s initial plan was to live stream his journey via Facebook and YouTube, but this proved impractical. A coder himself, Matt had the idea of an app and thought he’d write something himself. By chance, he bumped into Coderus CEO Mark Thomas, who, inspired by his story, agreed that his team would put an app together. So, over that weekend, Coderus, based at leading high-tech cluster, Innovation Martlesham, Adastral Park, set to work.

The methodology

Matt’s brief was to deliver a simple Android app that would relay GPS information from the phone to the electric car challenge website, hosted by Matt himself. Adhering to agile principles, a working prototype of the Coderus mobile app was created over two days with a single iteration before it was passed to Matt and Mark for stakeholder approval. Thanks to the speed of this initial development, there was time for a further iteration, adding some refinements to the error handling and UI polish. To provide Matt with flexibility, Coderus ensured that the UI worked beautifully across a wide range of Android devices. Issue tracking was handled by the bitbucket toolset and version control using Git. This all ensured that changes were effectively peer reviewed and handled prior to release.

The app was ready five days prior to the event, giving Matt a chance to perform testing before the start of the trip.

The technology

Our developers targeted the latest version of Android to make use of the latest platform features, with the native app written in java supporting Android Lollipop 5.0 and up. Location data was provided by the android Framework, making use of high accuracy mode.

For the UI – Matt had a basic idea of what he wanted but was happy to hand over the design to the Coderus team, which allowed us to make use of some Android design elements we felt would create a great visual experience like a collapsing toolbar layout. Naturally the UI followed material design guidelines to ensure the app was both visually appealing and functional. The application was written using the MVVM architecture, ensuring clear separation of concerns and producing testable and clean code. Learn more about the Coderus approach to mobile development.

To minimise errors, Coderus used a variety of modern libraries such as Retrofit, which reduced the complexity of making HTTP requests on the platform and Butter knife, for tidier and more optimised code.

The results

The app ran in the background on Matt’s mobile phone, with a persistent notification every five minutes when geographical updates were sent to his server for processing and subsequent posting to Matt's East West road trip website. The notification ensured we were compliant with Android system requirements. Those system requirements are designed to ensure apps don't drain battery life - the persistent notification is how the app indicates that it is important to the user even if they don't have the app open and are not directly interacting with it.

In the event that Matt experienced any issues (he didn’t), then application logs were output to text files that could be easily emailed to Coderus and any necessary fixes deployed via the play store.

Complemented by aerial shots from a portable image-stabilised 4k drone, the entire journey was documented exactly how Matt wanted it. Another happy customer for Coderus. 

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