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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Apple envisions brainy bicycles

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If you’re like me, you’re now imagining how cool it would be to have a personal Asimo to ride doubles with, or at the least, a scrolling, handlebar-mounted red light with the voice of William Daniels.

It doesn’t look like Apple’s ready to go that far yet, but on August 5th, Apple filed a patent for what is being called the first “smart bike”. The smart bike system seems to be the cycling version of Nike + iPod. Pretty much what anyone outside of the hype-0-sphere calls a “bike computer”. But we all know Apple won’t just put out some lame John Hodgman bike computer that only tells you how you’re going too fast or aren’t exercising enough. Think ‘Mac Bike Pro’.

The smart bike’s proposed toolbox would record a pretty robust amount of data: speed, cadence, calories burned, real-time route mapping, and more unconventional things like falls, impacts, and jump-height.

But what’s really going to give your bike some brains would be some of the ways Apple suggests to convey this information. Display options at the moment can be anything from the boring looking-at-your-iPhone-screen (much like a traditional bike computer) to more impressive ideas of video projectors, head-up displays, or HOLOGRAMS!

The patent also outlines proposed methods of sharing this information with other cyclists (ie, bragging about your high scores). As if having Terminator-vision wouldn’t be distracting enough, the communications tools would allow you to text, e-mail, voice chat, or even video conference. These tools seem to be geared towards those who ride in a group, but does add it can be used to communicate with “friends or family at home”. And while it doesn’t actually state anywhere if this aspect will function while you’re in motion, the language used to describe functionality for race/team contexts seems to imply that it will.

While the technological possibilities behind the smart bike are interesting, it seems like it could easily become very intrusive on a cyclist’s attention. With all the contention, finger-pointing, and polarized opinions in Toronto regarding cycling, I’m wary of anything that sounds like a crackberry for bikes. Though if someone comes out with an app that leaves a trail of solid blue light in my bike’s wake, I might change my mind.



  1. I am a huge fan of the iPhone and iPad so I am very interested to see what Apple will produce. Guess I will just have to wait and see….

  2. This is cool, thanks for posting it Mike. I’ll definitely create an auto-tweeting bike app in anticipation.. now all Toronto needs is free wifi open and available at every intersection to ‘curb’ our dependence on 3G!

  3. Yeah, cool. You will be able to tweeting, texting, facetiming, or tending your farm while you ride your bike. As if all those ipod that block your hearing are not enough, we will get this brainy bike that will grab your vision and most of your attention as well. Have a nice ride.

  4. K: that is pretty neat, but still not nearly as Tron-y as I’d like!