On The Road To Smart Cities
The reality of the Smart, Connected, Intelligent world is that a killer product application starts with a great product.
Fifteen years ago I remember two applications in the world of Connectivity that were talked about as “killer” by silicon vendors, Smart Meters and the Connected Fridge. Last week my utility supplier provided me with Smart Meters free of charge and I now know that when my children leave all of the lights on it costs me more money than when the lights are all switched off. That sort of granular information is not exactly revolutionary when renegotiating pocket money or chocolate allowance with children. As for connected Fridges I look forward to the homogenised future this promises it will bring to my chaotic, family life.
A bike light that keeps me and my bike safe that can also provide data to local authorities on road conditions?
Now that is somerthing that I can get behind.
See.Sense is an award-winning cycling technology and data company that breaks new boundaries in innovation. The Northern Ireland firm developed the world’s first intelligent and connected bike light - the ICON - which keeps cyclists safer on the road while also collecting crowd-sourced data to help shape smart cities of the future.
The concept behind See.Sense was a spark of inspiration for co-founder and CEO Philip McAleese when he was living and working in Singapore. It was during his daily cycle commute that Philip realised he needed to improve his visibility on the road, even during the hours of daylight, since that is when 80% of accidents occur. Philip’s bright idea was to use sensor technology normally found in smartphones, and integrate this into a bike light. As Philip explains, “I wanted to create a light that was really attention-grabbing, even in daylight. Light performance is usually a trade-off between high brightness, long runtime and compactness. See.Sense uses power intelligently, enabling it to be bright when you need it and still have a long runtime in a small package”.
Prior to working banking, Philip had graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering (Electronic and Software Engineering), so decided that if he wanted to tackle this problem, it was time to dust off his knowledge and to set to work to design the circuit board and PCB. Philip found that since his degree, technology had become a lot more accessible, as manufacturers encourage people to try ideas and concepts.
He started by using development kits from RS, enabling him to quickly evaluate sensors and microcontrollers, building out the design. After building a prototype, his fellow cyclist colleagues were impressed. When the 100th person said, “If you could make me one, I would buy it”, Philip and his wife Irene decided it was time to leave their successful corporate careers to bring the product to life.
Philip and Irene relocated from Singapore to Philip’s home in Northern Ireland to set up See.Sense. They began working on their own PCB design and again RS provided a wide range of components, with short lead times and very often next day delivery. Being able to order something that Philip had been working on at the weekend and have it arrive so quickly, was a great help.
The first version of the light was a patent-pending intelligent bicycle light, able to reacts to its environment, making cyclists extra visible when it matters most. Accelerometers and sensors inside the light monitor a range of different variables including road surface, orientation and behaviour of cyclist, temperature and light levels to determine when to flash brighter and faster, and when to save power. See.Sense’s latest product, ICON builds on this technology and adds connectivity to a smartphone via low energy bluetooth. This unlocks a range of innovative features for the cyclist including crash detection alerts to their nominated contact, theft detection alerts, low battery alerts and the ability to control the light through the app.
After two successful kickstarter campaigns, See.Sense has gone on to receive rave reviews from both customers and the media, recently winning the Consumer Product Innovation Award at the European Electronics Industry Awards ‘The Elektas’ as well as recognition from the cyling community such as the Road.cc People’s Choice Award for Best Rear Light. It is now stocked with leading retailers and shipped to over 50 countries around the world, and the company has a distribution deal with Raleigh in the UK and Ireland.
In the New Year we'll be looking at the Crowd Sourced Data opportunity that Icon can bring.