There are already non-electric bicycles and motor-assisted e-bikes, although lately we've also been seeing the emergence of a third category – "smart bikes." These are (usually) human-powered bikes with built-in electronic systems that perform functions such as navigation, theft deterrence and directional lighting. While there are purpose-built models such as the Valour and Rogue C6, German start-up iCradle is taking another approach. Its COBI system is designed to convert a traditional bike into a smart bike.
At the heart of COBI is the user's iOS or Android smartphone, running a dedicated app. That phone goes into an IPX6-rated water-resistant dock known as the hub, which is mounted on the handlebars. Also integrated into the hub is an LED headlight (with a maximum output of 25 lux at 10 m/33 ft), an electronic horn, and sensors including an accelerometer, barometer, altimeter and ambient light sensor.
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All of that is powered by a removable 6,000-mAh 3.6-volt lithium-ion battery, that can be charged either externally or in place (if the bike is equipped with a hub dynamo, in the case of the latter). Peripheral devices include a bar-mounted thumb controller and a tail light, which are wirelessly linked to the hub using either Bluetooth or ANT+.
So, what can COBI actually do?
Well, its designers claim that it adds "over 100 intelligent features to any bike." For starters, the bike's lights automatically come on when it starts getting dark outside, and the tail light doubles as both a brake light and a turn indicator. The hub also charges the phone's battery.
When the bike is parked and the phone removed, the hub's accelerometer will still detect sudden movements, responding with a light and sound alarm. That alarm function is automatically disabled once the phone (and thus user) returns to a close proximity.
For its part, the app provides real-time weather updates; allows users to navigate; lets them listen to music via services such as Spotify; plus it displays speed, distance traveled, and calories burned. Oh yeah, and it also lets them make phone calls.
All of the functions are accessed using the thumb controller, although the hub's screen cover retains the phone's touchscreen functionality.
The team at iCradle have turned to Kickstarter to finance production of COBI, and have surpassed the funding goal. A pledge of US$159 will get you a system, when and if they're ready to go.
More information is available in the pitch video below.