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Everything can be smarter, so why not a bike?

Bikes are rapidly becoming electronic devices sensing the environment and adapting to your style of riding. Image credit: Live Valve

Bikes today are a long cry, in terms of technology and performance from the ones I used as a kid, sixty years ago (my grandfather had a little bike workshop so you can imagine I had access to the latest …).

In the past twenty years the materials used have become quite sophisticated, lighter and more resistant making it possible to go on “impossible” trails.

Now electronics and “intelligence” step in. SRAM just announced a wireless electronic transmission (not exactly cheap at 2,000$). Interesting the variety of technologies used (watch the clip) including the ones to save power. Of course, the smartphone is part of the system, being used for its customisation and operation (through a dedicated app – did you ever imagine that you would have needed a phone to ride a bike?). Actually, the smartphone is the “brain” of the system. The various components are using the intelligence embedded in apps in the smartphone, surely way cheaper than embedding a computer in each sub-systems and having them coordinate with one another. Much better to design your cub-system (product) as an open part to fit into a broader ecosystem!

The increased performances of sensors and their decreasing price are transforming the bike into a cluster of systems talking one to the other. Multi-axes accelerators can dampen the suspensions within 3 milliseconds well before the rider feels the change in the terrain (and their price went down for a 100$ each to 40c$).

Biking on a road open to other vehicles may be dangerous, so why not install some radars to take care of signalling approaching cars? And once you are there, why not installing some nice 8K camera to pick up the ride landscape?

As your bike gets smarter don’t forget to get smarter yourself with the increasing number of body monitoring devices you can apply on your body!

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.