Amsterdam is so bike-friendly that the city has more bicycles than people. And that leads to some classic #AmsterdamProblems: If you park your bike somewhere like a train station, there will be so many other bikes there that you may never find yours again.
Enter the Pingbell. It looks and works like a traditional bike bell, but it’s also wired with Bluetooth and connects to a mobile app. If you’re trying to find your bike, you can use the app to locate it on a map–and remotely ding the bell as an extra clue. It’s the bike equivalent of honking a car horn through a key fob in a crowded parking lot.
Designers from Amsterdam-based Frolic Studio wanted to design a solution for lost bikes because it was something they’d dealt with endlessly themselves.
“It’s a nightmare,” says Andrew Spitz, partner at Frolic. “Your bike is literally in a sea of rusty frames and rubber wheels. You start building techniques and hacks to efficiently scan through all the bikes to identify yours, but you’re always prepared to be hunting for some time. So you need to allow extra time buffer for your train or rendezvous.”
As they created the bell, the designers wanted it to ring naturally. “The real challenge was to be able to both ring the bell normally and also from a distance while keeping the nice loud and natural sound of the brass bell,” Spitz says. They rigged up a little motor that spins washers against the inside of the bell when it’s triggered by a button on the app.
Though it’s made for Amsterdam, it might also be useful elsewhere. “In more ‘normal’ cities, cycling commuters could benefit from parking their bike at a street corner without having to be overly conscious of where exactly they left it,” he says. “We’ve been surprised by people keen on Pingbell from cities that aren’t overruled by cyclists–like Paris, Saint Petersburg, Lagos, Vienna. The reality of Pingbell is that you probably only need it every now and then, but when you can’t pinpoint your bike’s location, then you’re happy to be able to look on the map or ping the bell from your phone.”
Pingbell is crowdfunding on Kickstarter.