Apple looks to make bikes ‘Smart’

Posted by on August 5th, 2010 at 12:14 pm

“The patent also states that an iPhone or iPod could be used to automatically or in response to a user instruction, record video, audio, or take photographs reflecting the course…”

[H/T to @dontbecreepy on Twitter via 9 to 5 Mac]

The Patently Apple blog shared information today about a patent application from Apple that details development of a “Smart Bicycle System.” Here at BikePortland headquarters we recently received a GPS unit to try out from the folks at Strava, developers of an online tool that lets people share and compare their routes and times.

Graphic of Apple’s “Smart Bike System” from PatentlyApple.com.

With the ever-encroaching assault of mobile devices into our lives, I wonder just how smart our bikes will become. Automakers like Ford have responded to the popularity of smartphones and other devices by turning their cars into entertainment and information centers with enough high-tech gadgetry to rival a James Bond flick. Their heavily touted “Sync” technology is likely seen by Ford as not just another product attribute, but as a way to compete for the younger generation’s love affair with gadgets.

Are bikes far behind? Not if Apple has anything to say about it. Here’s more about their “Smart Bicycle System” as reported by Patently Apple.

“While the system is for individuals, it’s also designed to work with teams of cyclists so that they could communicate with each other on-the-fly about course difficulty or perceived problems. The Bicycle system monitors speed, distance, time, altitude, elevation, incline, decline, heart rate, power, derailleur setting, cadence, wind speed, path completed, expected future path, heart rate, power, and pace. The system could utilize various sensors built-into the iPhone in addition to working with sensors already built-into the bike itself.

… Apple’s patent is about using a new iPod or iPhone system primarily on a bike so that they could share information with other cyclists riding in a group. It could also provide feedback to cyclists regarding their performance or the performance of other cyclists with whom they are riding.”

The patent application is amazingly detailed. There’s even a mention of “a movable display or a projecting system for providing a display of content on a surface remote from the bike, such as a video projector, head-up display, or three-dimensional (e.g., holographic) display.” Holograms! Crazy. Read the whole thing over at Patently Apple.

All this sounds interesting, but I wonder if too much tech will diminish the simplicity and respite from technology that pedaling a bicycle provides. On the other hand, cool technology might make bikes seem more appealing to a certain demographic and if bicycling wants to compete with driving and other modes, that might be a good thing.

What do you think?

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SkidMarkDaniel (teknotus) JohnsonT-RoyOpus the PoetPaul Tay Recent comment authors
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Matthew
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Matthew

I sure as heck don’t need one, but it’s neat, and I agree that it might attract those of a certain demographic who aren’t so much into biking now.

Apple patents a lot of stuff that never sees the light of day, though, so I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Carlton Reid
Guest

It would be good to see Apple going back to its roots.

Before Apple Macintosh solidified, the Jobs/Woz project was codenamed ‘Bicycle’.

And you ever noticed how many bikes feature on new Mac screens on Apple.com demos?

john
Guest

hmmmm hipsters in groups sharing apple data.

Perry
Guest
Perry

You have to ride it with your pinkies out or it screws with the antenna reception.

shanana
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shanana

seems like it’s focused on bicycles as recreation/workouts. I’d like to see features that are more useful for bicycles as transportation….especially notifying the traffic light that I’m waiting at the stop line.

Nick V
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Nick V

“All this sounds interesting, but I wonder if too much tech will diminish the simplicity and respite from technology that pedaling a bicycle provides.”

You’re spot on here, Jonathan. I’m tired of all these hand-held gizmos that command everyone’s attention to the point of dangerous distraction.

If we want to share our routes and times, then we could – oh I don’t know – actually meet up and discuss them?

q'Tzal
Guest
q'Tzal

Radio has gone downhill since tubes gave way to transistors.

TV has gone downhill since writing gave way to ratins fixation.

Books have gone downhill since scribes gave way to the printing press.

Fret not: there will allways be snooty purists who decry the new ways and fad obsessed fan boys that sacrifice all their free income at the alter of new consumerism.
Try this: be an individual and don’t let some organization tell you what to be.

Hart
Guest

Projecting films from a bike!

matt picio
Guest

My Garmin GPS does most of that and suits me just fine. Nick V (#6) has got it right – too many gizmos, too much distraction. My GPS is set to show the map, mileage, and speed (and sometimes elevation), and generally I don’t even look at it. Mostly what it’s good for is afterwards, when I can download the GPS track and find out what my route was (since it rarely matches the PLANNED route), total mileage, and a few other interesting numbers like time spent moving.

And that’s just because I want to know these things. Most people don’t need any info – they just want to ride their bike. Will this bring more people into cycling? Probably not. Many of those who get something like this will be the type that always has to have the latest gizmo. They’ll ride for a bit, get tired of it, and move on to the next new thing. And frankly, the set that will get this, continue riding, and ride with that iPhone/Pad/Pod pumping music into their ears is not the type I want to have to share the road with – I appreciate riders who remain aware of their surroundings.

(that said, I recognize there are some instances where earphones are not so big a deal, like the shoulder of Hwy 6 on the way to the coast)

Pete
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Pete

Garmin was way ahead of Apple when they bought ANT several years ago. Even smarter was the strategy of an open protocol (an approach Google took with Android). The cost of embedded electronics and sensors has come way down, so the ANT+Sport protocol lets companies like Metrigear, Quarq, etc build innovative sensor units in their garages, and we the consumer benefit. I have several patent ideas on sensor integration that ANT+Sport enables that I don’t have time to explore; frankly, I don’t see anything terribly innovative here, it’s just a protocol bus (like my friend built on his sailboat 15 years ago).

Granted I have a personal bias against Apple (though many good friends there), and part of it is because the prevalence of the iPhone is responsible for more close calls in the past few years than in previous decades of riding. The last thing we need is net-connected distracted riders: “Hey cool, I’m tweeting from the middle of the Hawthorne Br…” 😉

The innovative problem I’d love to see solved (patent spoiler) is a unified and integrated power bus for metrics, lighting, and electronic shifters. As wireless charging comes online you could charge a single battery built into, say, your downtube by locking your bike to a solar-powered staple rack charging station, for instance.

kitten
Guest
kitten

i hope this is a joke

Dr. Something
Guest

Sounds really distracting to me.

Thomas A. Fine
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Thomas A. Fine

Sounds like stuff that was “invented” on the bikecurrent mailing list years ago:

http://lists.topica.com/lists/bikecurrent/read/message.html?mid=805654047&sort=d&start=6350

In the ensuing discussion, BAN or bike area networks were discussed. And I’ve seen BANs discussed elsewhere too (possibly independent, or possibly based on that discussion).

So how do I contact the lawyers so they can buy me out 😉

tom

Don
Guest
Don

The irony of Nick V posting a comment on the Internet while being indignant about electronic communication replacing real social contact.

I’m not a fan of the couple of comments that try to blame electronics rather than the user. Guns don’t kill people, guys.

Bob_M
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Bob_M

Apple is doing quite well catering to those gear snobs who must have the latest gadget. Many bicyclists are themselves gear snobs so Apple may consider them “low hanging fruit”. Apple may not appreciate how the attraction to cycling may not cross over to gadgets.
Bikes are simple and gadgets are complex. Bikes can be maintained and fixed while gadgets are disposable. Good cyclists pay attention to riding and gadgets distract from riding. A gadget laden bike is more desirable to thieves.
I hope Apple as a company thrives, but I don’t see this item as their next big thing.

Daniel
Guest

….but can it let a hipster know how many quarts of pbr he/she consumed up on alberta?

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Hey There is an app for that!

Alan
Guest
Alan

There’s a braze-on for that.

Jack
Guest
Jack

I know a lot of people that weren’t really into biking, heard about folding bikes (kind of gadgety), got a folding bike, and now are into biking.

I’m all for it techie bikes save for any sort of eloborate display that will take your eyes off the road.

Pete
Guest
Pete

Don (#14): Guns enable people to kill. Point taken though.

david....no! the other one
Guest
david....no! the other one

There’s an app for that! Just what we need Holographic phone calls on a bike, NOT!. Im sure there already is some meter that tell you all of the “necessary” info already, and it doesn’t cost 700 dollars, or a three year contract.

resopmok
Guest
resopmok

Waiting for the first story of someone running into a parked car, off the road or into some other danger because they were fiddling with their iBike instead of paying attention to the road. Then there can be the comment wars which will follow as such: “Were they wearing a helmet?” “Ban on street parking” and “I hope they die next time.”

I still prefer snob’s cycling computer which simply reads: “You Suck.”

Todd Edelman
Guest

The best thing Apple could do for cyclists would be to support a mandatory system which prevents all communication devices from being used by their owners/account holders in moving car they are driving (with the exception of emergency numbers, of course).

Nick V
Guest
Nick V

Don #14,

I’m not trying to post here and ride my bike at the same time if you know what I mean and I think you do. I’m trying to post here and, um, ahem, work at the same time if you know what I mean and I think you do.

I would think that a cyclist with one of these systems would be just as dangerous, to themselves anyway, as a car driver on a cell phone.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

The part I find disappointing, “authorized” device. Because you can bet only proprietary devices will be authorized instead of using some standards based interface, I hope this fails hard.

@matt pico: Get yourself a SD card that fits your Garmin and load up OpenStreetMap on it. OSM data tends to have better bicycle navigation data than the default NAVTEQ data, and is free, resulting in much improved bicycle routing on your Garmin at infinitely less expense than buying a NAVTEQ update. http://daveh.dev.openstreetmap.org/garmin/Lambertus/?C=M;O=A

Residentevil
Guest
Residentevil

Last weekend I had to yell at a guy texting and cycling, because he did not get out of the way. Cycling is a full time job. We’ll see how much rider distraction a device like that will cause.

Red Five
Guest
Red Five

Actually, I heard these devices will come with “Douche-o-meters” alerting you to any hipsters within 100 yards. Fear skinny jeans, pork pie hats, and PBR no more!

keep portland weird
Guest
keep portland weird

I hate Apple, such a crappy business model

Kt
Guest
Kt

Todd @23 says:

“The best thing Apple could do for cyclists would be to support a mandatory system which prevents all communication devices from being used by their owners/account holders in moving car they are driving (with the exception of emergency numbers, of course)”

I would take out the word “CAR” and insert “vehicle”, meaning car, bike, truck, etc.

It’s not like cell phone use and distracted transportation is exclusive to cars and other motorized vehicles.

Bob_M
Guest
Bob_M

Red Five #27
The Douche-O-Meter would have to be calibrated with digital accuracy to alert the tech savy user to “Freds”, “Lances”, “Clydesdales” and the increasingly rare “Mary Poppins”, as well as hipsters. The delux model, (only $200 more) would be able to identify intermixed hybrids of these douche types. Caution, the Clydsdale/Marry Poppins hybrid angers quickly

Kevin Raffay
Guest

My Garmin was great, but only lasted a few hours. For long rides, I would have my phone, my iPod, and my Garmin.

If Apple could combine its features with the iPhone, it would be a hit.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

@KT 29: Never mind that amatuer radio operators and the transportation industry have been responsibly using two-way radios behind the wheel for decades. The transportation industry pretty much relies on them, as the road information from other drivers is often more up to date, precise and more useful than would otherwise be obtainable while driving, saving commercial drivers time, money and improving safety.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

@Kevin 31: Take a look at the Garmin Oregon. It has bike mounts.

Paul Tay
Guest
Paul Tay

Will bicycles ever be smarter than blonde 5th graders? As bikes get smarter, will riders become dumb and dumber? Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. Not a chance.

Opus the Poet
Guest

I read the full patent application, and the main thing this does is integrate all the data into a single unit, Shamano and Campagnolo both had computers that would tell the user what gear he was using (including how far he was moving forward for each crank revolution) and GPS tells you where you are and are going. Think of this as a Flight Deck on steroids or “smart-oids” with a GPS.

T-Roy
Guest
T-Roy

Curious how this will compete with iBike Sports “IBike Dash” which makes use of the Ipod/IPhone. Looks like its doing almost the same thing minus IBike Sports use of the ANT+ protocol. http://www.ibikesports.com/ibikedash/index.html

Daniel (teknotus) Johnson
Guest
Daniel (teknotus) Johnson

How is this patentable? Bike computers have existed for many years. Cell phones with sensors have existed for many years. Telemetry has existed for many years. This is only a set of features that distinguishes it from other products. I’ve been wanting to make something like this for years, but have only recently had anywhere near the skills to start working on it, and now I have to fear the patent trolls of one of the largest companies in the world if I create something obvious? WTF?

SkidMark
Guest
SkidMark

Isn’t every team that raced in the TdF using a system like that already?