We’ve been hearing about the Internet of Things (IoT) for a while now, but have you experienced a full IoT immersion? Sure, our cars, homes, and appliances are now on the grid, but it seems that most of the IoT advances have been somewhat piecemeal. We see signs of IoT, but can’t really point to a complete experience that demonstrates the potential. One recreational area where IoT is readily apparent and thriving is in the world of bicycles and cycling.
If you’ve shopped for a bicycle recently, the platform has evolved over the years since your basic ten-speed, as well as the price of admission. Entry-level bikes now approach $1000, and high-end bicycles can have price tags that soar over $10,000. Features include carbon fiber frames, electronic shifting, wind-tunnel tested designs, on board computers, sensors, etc. Within the microcosm of cycling, the world of IoT has greatly enriched the user experience. Cycling today includes gamification, quantification, social networking, crowdsourcing, and complete multichannel digital integration.
Let’s take a virtual ride on a state-of-the-art IoT bicycle. Before we throw a leg over, note that there are some interesting accessories attached discreetly to the bike. On the handlebar, there’s an on-board computer with GPS satellite navigation the size of half an iPhone. There are sensors built into the pedals, the frame, and the drivetrain of the bicycle, all connected via Bluetooth to your phone. For safety, you have a headlight and a rear taillight. Being IoT empowered, the headlight adjusts its angle and brightness to account for your speed and time of day, and the taillight has built-in rear view radar that detects approaching vehicles and alerts the rider via the computer on the handlebar!
That onboard computer tracks location, speed, temperature, altitude, cadence (RPM), heart rate, elapsed time, the locations of your friends…and more! The device integrates with an online cycling community, Strava, where you can track your progress against friends, strangers, and professionals. You can download courses and segments crowdsourced by other riders and chart your progress on the leaderboards. When you begin a ride, the computer automatically sends a text message with a tracking beacon to pre-designated safety contacts so that they can monitor your ride. Since the computer knows your biostatistics, it monitors your workout intensity and will let you know immediately post-ride how many hours of recovery you will need before your next workout.
Hop on and start peddling. The onboard computer senses motion and prompts you to start recording your ride. All the live data is fed into your dashboard, along with personal performance data. The IoT sensors in the bicycle pedals measure the power you are putting into the pedals, measured in watts. After about a 5-10 minute warm up, the system assesses your performance data, and will let you know if you have allowed enough time for proper recovery from your last workout.
No longer is the drivetrain operated by those old school cables. New electronic shifting drivetrains make cable adjustments and missed shifts a thing of the past. Bluetooth sensors capture the signal from the handlebar shifter, change gears, and trim derailleurs to ensure everything is well-aligned. Your gear selection is, of course, displayed on your handlebar computer…no guessing required.
As you ride along, segments of the ride designated by you or others occasionally pop up on the computer. If someone you follow within the Strava community has a better time for that segment, you are challenged to race against your virtual friend. Complete strangers vie for King of the Mountain (KoM) and stage badges, and a former professional rider once went on a Strava conquest of all the KoM stages in California for a social media stunt. If you get tired of looking down at that handlebar computer, you can purchase a Heads-Up display that attaches to your sunglasses a la Google Glass!
So the next time someone says, “It’s like riding a bike,” think twice as while you still throw a leg over as usual, the riding experience may have been digitally transformed. You’ll have more information and control at your fingertips than you’ll probably need…unless your batteries #Fail!
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