Need directions? SmartHalo safely navigates urban cyclists

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The SmartHalo provides intuitive navigation directions right on the handlebars(Credit: SmartHalo)

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For the savvy cyclist, "smart bikes" tend to offer useful elements that enhance rides for fun, commuting, or sport. Unfortunately, not everyone can justify the steep costs involved, especially when there may be a perfectly good "normal" bicycle at home. Thankfully, upgrades exist to help turn standard bicycles into smart ones. One of the latest, the SmartHalo, provides smart and safe directions in what is described as a durable, minimalist design.

Smartphones are likely the device of choice when it comes to finding out how to get from point A to point B. Even if you're wearing a high-tech bicycle helmet, trying to use a smartphone while riding can be dangerous and/or inconvenient. Not everyone has the proper skills to safely steer while holding a mobile device with one hand, which also increases the risk of dropping it. Mounting smartphones to handlebars may be better, but direct sunlight can wash out screens, and street noise can shroud speakers.

SmartHalo uses an intuitive, LED-based navigation system that is reportedly bright enough to see during the day while keeping hands free for steering. The device is designed to mount securely to any bicycle, right in the center of the handlebars. Once paired with a smartphone set up with GPS directions, the SmartHalo uses its color-changing and blinking LEDs to guide riders to their destination – not unlike the Hammerhead.

A right turn would be indicated by a right-side semicircle that shifts to green, blinking at the last moment of approach. A slight-left turn uses a green quarter-circle at the top-left, and u-turns light up with a red semicircle on the bottom of the SmartHalo display.

In addition to showing simple, readable directions, the SmartHalo has other useful features. Internal sensors track cycling metrics such as time, distance, speed, elevation, and calories burned. Users can set fitness goals in the app and monitor the progress in real-time, right on the handlebars. Since it can be easy to miss a smartphone's ringing or vibrating while cycling, the SmartHalo notifies users of incoming calls with a blue LED in the center of its display.

Thanks to an accelerometer and ambient light sensor, the device is also smart enough to know when to operate, activating and deactivating itself, its headlight, or the alarm system appropriately.

Bicycles, their gadgets, and accessories are often targets for thieves. SmartHalo is designed to be durable with a tamper-proof screw, unlocking only with one's custom key fob. Users can feel a little more confident about leaving the SmartHalo attached and still seeing it there upon returning. It even stands up to weather, reportedly having been tested against rain, snow, and mud.

The SmartHalo team is currently raising funds on Kickstarter in order to bring the device from prototype to production. The campaign has raised 58 percent of its US$50,649 goal in one day, with another 29 days left to go. Backers can pledge $99 for a SmartHalo, saving $50 off the anticipated retail price. If the tooling, testing, production, and packaging go as planned, users can expect shipments of the SmartHalo to start sometime in May, 2016.

For an example of a similar system that was successfully funded on Kickstarter, check out the COBI.

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