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The smart bicycle light meets the smart city

Jeremy Green | July 8, 2016
See.Sense's real innovation is that it includes the contextual awareness of smartphones, making it a connected bike light that can be bright where and when it needs to be, and save its battery when it doesn't.

This means it is less likely to miss the vibration patterns associated with a pothole or a patch of icy road. Other sensors - such as air pollution - could be added if there was a business case.

The company is now exploring how it could work with city administrations, and considering various options as to how the model would work. This could evolve into a data sale relationship, or the city might choose to subsidise the bike lights themselves. As part of the BT and Cabinet Office prize, See.Sense has the opportunity to work with the city of Milton Keynes to turn its ideas into reality and demonstrate a positive impact on the people who live there. 

Irene McAleese, cofounder of See.Sense, said that the trial with Milton Keynes is due to begin this month, following a series of closed beta trials in Northern Ireland. The data will be shared with the MK Data Hub, allowing the discovery of the data alongside a range of other data providers. 

It seems to us that there is also a potential synergy with the OneTransport platform, which aims to provide a shared architecture and a commercial model for transport-related data and analytics.  Conversations are ongoing with transport planners in India, as well as other UK cities.

Data streams could include road quality data and safety information, because the accelerometers are able to determine near misses it's possible to map areas where it's dangerous for cyclists.

It would also be possible to monitor the effectiveness of cycling promotion initiatives. At the moment cities use connected in-path cycle counter sensors (like this one), which are expensive to install and are sometimes vandalised. Using the connected light would allow cities to not only monitor cycling activity but also to reward individuals.

The company is privately owned, managed by a husband and wife team, and employs six people in Northern Ireland. Manufacturing is contracted out to Nitronica, a County Down company based in a former Plessey factory. The relatively small volumes involved means that there is more value in maintaining high quality and low returns than in lower cost manufacturing in China, and the 'Made in the UK' label has turned out to be an unexpected marketing asset.

Of course See.Sense is not the only player in the emerging 'internet of bicycles' space. The company is aware of Strava, an app-based social network aimed at allowing users to compare their performance, which has made some effort to sell its somewhat skewed users' data to cities; and Bike Citizens, which emphasizes navigation and route-finding rather than performance.

We've written about AirPublic, which aims to put sensors on shared bikes to create a pollution monitoring network. Others have plans for connected bike pedalsIoT-enabled high-spec bikes, and an EEG-enabled stress-monitoring connected bicycle helmet. Unlike all of these, though, See.Sense seems to have a much stronger focus on the smart cities ecosystem rather than just concentrating on riders, which makes it all the more interesting for us.

Source: Techworld


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