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Connected Bikes Are the Future

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

The Internet of Things (IoT) is exactly what its name states it is – a network that connects devices, objects, machines, conveyances, household appliances, and other things we own or use. IoT then collects and analyses data that makes us smarter about using all of the above. For example, not too far in the future, you will be able to turn on your dishwasher or coffeemaker from your car the way you call a taxi from your phone.

One of the things that is being increasingly equipped to be part of the IoT is the bicycle. More and more bicycle manufacturers – many of them startups – are now furnishing their bikes with electronics, software, sensors, and connectivity and this development is gradually bringing our favorite two-wheeled conveyance into the future. It is also making the bicycle better. A connected bike, and the data it can provide, will help cyclists perform better, increase safety, avoid injuries, and make it more fun to ride.

Garmin Edge 1000

One connectivity-based function that is already in use is data-based training. The Garmin Edge 1000 cycling computer integrates a bicycle equipped with sensors, a Vector pedal-based power meter, the Shimano Di2 electronic shifting system, and the VIRB action camera with a Bluetooth-equipped smartphone to provide real-time data and analysis, enabling the user to analyze his or her performance, develop training regimes, and track and analyze rides.

It’s not much of a stretch to imagine that, eventually, every cyclist participating in a road race – especially a Grand Tour like the Vuelta – will be connected to a computer that collects performance data and analyzes each rider’s performance. This will allow team managers to take more informed decisions regarding who will perform what role, especially on the mountain stages, or who is better suited to take part in a sprint.

Connectivity will also improve the way we use a bike just to get around. For example, smrtGRiPS, the world’s first connected handlebar grips, enable the rider to navigate through the city, locate the bicycle and provide access to such vital information as the location of bike lanes and popular and/or safe routes. The rider simply types in the destination on their Smartphone app and the handlebars will buzz their right or left hand, using haptic technology, indicating the proper turn.

The VanHawks Valour Bike is equipped with a gyroscope and magnometer to detect and analyze the surrounding environment, picking up the location of potholes, for example, or register the gradient of a rise or descent. Its handlebars will buzz if a vehicle appears in the rider’s blind spot, LED lights will signal the turns to make in a route planned in the smartphone app and the bike will “suggest” new routes based on which roads are easier and safer.

VanHawks Valour Bike

In addition, the Connected Cycle Smart Pedal leverages GPS to prevent the bicycle being stolen by enabling the user or owner to track the bike’s movements. If your bicycle has been stolen, it will send you a text via the app to let you know that it is on the move. It then allows you to track the stolen bike in real time via the app. As a side benefit, it records the speed, route, steepness of climbs and descents, and the calories the rider has burned on each trip, and stores the data, enabling the user to chart his progress over time.

The Bulls Connected Bike, which is equipped with a large number of sensors, can detect if you’ve had an accident and, if necessary, send an emergency call. The sensors interpret the cycling situation, and if the speed drops suddenly to zero and the bicycle is resting on its side, the system notifies the rider than an emergency call is imminent. If the rider does not react to the message, the emergency call – which includes the bike’s location – is sent immediately to a contact pre-specified in the app.

But this is merely the beginning of the development of the connected bike. As the technology improves, new functions will be added including, for example, social media interaction, bike-sharing solutions so you can order, locate, and access a shared bicycle via an app and even crowd-sourced weather and road surface data. Who knows, one day you may even be able to use your connected bike to run a hot bath in your home as you are coming from a strenuous and rainy cross-country adventure.