Bicycle “operating system” gears up for 2017 release


The more that technology advances, the greater the variety of electronic gadgets that can be installed on our bikes. Lights are an obvious example, but there are also electronic shifting and suspension systems, along with things like actioncams, phone chargers, and cycling computers. As it stands right now, they’re almost all stand-alone items, receiving power independently and sometimes working to cross purposes. Randall Jacobs and Kyle Manna hope to change that, with their OpenBike “connected bicycle ecosystem.”

The idea behind OpenBike is that bicycle manufacturers will build the basic network into their bikes, while electronic component manufacturers will likewise make products that are compatible with the system.

Hardware-wise, it features one central battery that powers all of a bike’s electronic devices, along with internally-routed electrical wiring running from that battery to key locations, such as the handlebars. This means that when companies are designing OpenBike-compatible components, they won’t need to include their own batteries. Likewise, consumers will only have one battery they need to check. That battery can be removed for recharging, although it can also be charged via a dynamo while pedalling.

Additionally, OpenBike will incorporate its own open communications protocol, allowing gadgets from different manufacturers to “talk” to one another. As just one example of how that could work, data such as speed and GPS coordinates could be relayed from a cycling computer to an actioncam, where it would be stamped on the video.

OpenBike will also be able to access its own cloud-based server, providing internet connectivity for all the gadgets that need it. This could greatly facilitate services such as rental bike fleet management, and bike-sharing cooperatives.

Working with Marin Bikes, Jacobs and Manna have already created a prototype bike that demonstrates some of the features that could be accommodated. It includes a headlight, tail lights, turn indicators, a brake light, a phone mount with USB charging, and ambient light sensors that cause the lights to automatically come on as the sun goes down.

A production version of that bike should be available from Marin next year. In the meantime, Randall and Kyle are looking to develop partnerships with other bike makers and electronics manufacturers.

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