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This Smart Bike Light Sends An Emergency Text If You Crash–And Helps Cities Plan Better

Cyclists could become a network of sensors for road improvements.

If you’re sitting inside a coffee shop and a thief starts to fiddle with your bike on a rack outside, a new smart bike light will text you. If you’re riding down the road and a car hits you, the light will text a friend. And if you’re on a street with lots of potholes, the light can let the city know.

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Basically, the See.Sense Icon light can instantly turn any bicycle into a smart, fully connected ride.

It’s also designed to work much better as a light than the cheap blinkers most cyclists have now. Using a set of sensors, the rechargeable light can tell if a cyclist is approaching an intersection, riding in and out of traffic, or entering a tunnel, and shine brighter. It’s visible in daylight, which helps riders avoid crashes at dawn and dusk, some of the riskiest times to ride. And the wide angle of the light means it can be seen from the side, not just directly in front.

An earlier version of the light focused only on how a smart LED system could illuminate the road, says Irene McAleese, cofounder of See.Sense, a Northern Ireland-based startup. But she wanted to make better use of the data that the light can collect, and added Bluetooth connectivity.

It’s something that could be particularly useful for cities as they try to redesign roads to make cycling safer. “Cities have tried to use sensors to collect data, but there is a challenge of cost, deployment, and maintenance of the sensor networks,” says McAleese. The light–which gathers environmental data at a rate of 800 times a second–can send anonymous, cheap reports on how fast someone is riding, or the condition of the road. It can also report data that cities have never had access to before, like the locations of near-miss crashes.

“Our device creates a compelling reason for the cyclist to want to fit and maintain the sensor, because they get personal safety enhancement, plus features from the app such as theft and crash alerts,” she says. “Therefore, cyclists become the sensor network that cities need to collect data for their smart and future city’s needs.”

The sensors could even help trigger traffic lights to change as a cyclist rolls up to an intersection; the bike light can instantly send data to the traffic light, and cities could easily reprogram signals to give priority to cyclists. Street lights could also be automatically triggered as someone rides by.

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As the startup works with cities around the world, it can also keep improving the system and automatically send updates to the lights.

“We hope we can help to reignite a cycling revolution,” says McAleese. “Not only does Icon enhance the cycling experience by opening up a world of possibilities through a smartphone, it also has the potential to empower cyclists to influence cities to improve cycling infrastructure, roads, and our cities to benefit everyone.”

The Icon light is currently on Kickstarter.

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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