London-based bike manufacturer, Brompton, is demonstrating the real value of the Internet of Things (IoT) with an internet-connected prototype of its iconic folding bike.
Brompton set out to make a smarter, safer, and more accessible folding bike while giving its users a better riding experience. Anyone who has ever driven in London, or attempted to ride any kind of bike through that traffic, will appreciate the challenge that Brompton took on with this folding bike project.
Folding bikes have become more popular in recent years because of their portability. Riders can fold the bikes and take them inside, making them less likely to get stolen.
These bikes are very easy to fold and unfold quickly. Some bikes take even less than eight seconds to disassemble. They also ensure minimum storing space as it they are simple and easy to stow away anywhere — like the back seat of a car, in a closet, or even under a bed. Most of them have the added advantage of unrestricted carriage and sometimes even a free ride on public transport system as they do not occupy much space. Transportation is quick and easy because of the portability and durability.
The IoT connection allows the folding bike's rider to react and respond to real-time traffic and weather reports. Each connected folding bike will have a unique identity that grows and responds to the rider's abilities and preferences. That connection can also allow an interface into other internet-based systems or apps to make products and services available to the rider.
As IoT interfaces are incorporated into other vehicles, the interface on Brompton's folding bike will be able to monitor traffic and alert the rider if another vehicle is getting dangerously close. The IoT connection can also signal emergency responders for assistance if the rider has a mishap.
Data generated by these IoT folding bikes can also benefit the public interest. The folding bikes can include sensors to monitor air quality and pollution levels. Modern LED street lighting can be configured to shed more light when the folding bike's sensors signal their presence to a city lighting grid network, allowing municipalities to consume electrical power only when there is a need for lighting. Other sensors can send signals to offices or residences that a rider is about to arrive.
An ideal IoT network will ultimately evolve to respond to changing stimuli as it recognizes patterns and demands. Nicole Kobie, a contributor at the Guardian, suggests as more riders with IoT folding bikes use certain streets or pathways, a smart IoT network can change traffic lights and other traffic control systems to help clear traffic jams. This type of real-time monitoring and reacting to events as they happen is a Holy Grail of IoT theory.
As enticing as these options might be, as with all IoT applications, they do raise security and privacy concerns. A folding bike or any other mobile device that tracks and stores its user's patterns and locations, as well as purchases and preferences, is an enticing target for hackers.
Some naysayers have also argued that these devices provide a portal into a user's entire data network, which raises further privacy and security concerns. On a practical level, companies will need to upgrade data infrastructure to handle and analyze the massive influx of data that IoT devices will generate.
Brompton's entry into the IoT market with its new internet-connected folding bike shows real possibilities for incorporating new technology into existing products. The company has been manufacturing its folding bikes for more than forty years.
Brompton's addition of IoT sensors and technology into a folding bike that has seen few changes over the course of many years is an inspiration for other companies to consider how the Internet of Things can add value to their current product lines and an increasingly connected world.