Plenty of time and effort has been dedicated to reducing the number of car accidents caused by smartphones, but drivers aren't the only road users susceptible to distraction. To keep cyclists focused on the road, Dutch telecom company KPM has teamed up with the Dutch Traffic Safety Association to develop a smart bike lock that disables the rider's phone while on the move.
The Smart Bike Lock currently being put to the test in Holland is a direct response to research suggesting that 20 percent of all bicycle accidents involving children are caused by smartphone use. The research, conducted by Alpha.One, also said buzzing and vibrations caused by notifications make it harder for children to focus on traffic.
Rather than working with a regular key, the Smart Bike Lock connects to smartphones wirelessly via Bluetooth, and operates through an Android App. When it's locked, the app lets the phone operate as normal, but when the user unlocks their bike, the app sends a signal to the network and KPN will actively block calls and data until the bike is locked up again. The network will still allow outgoing calls to emergency services, through.
It's worth bearing in mind, this is a different type of lock to the ones popular in the US or Australia. Because bikes are the primary mode of transport for a huge number of people in European cities, they will often have a lock integrated into the rear forks. When it's closed, a bar slips between the spokes and stops the rear wheels turning. The lock doesn't detach, which means it must be unlocked for the bike to move.
In the case of the KPN Smart Lock, that makes it impossible to ride without first using the app to unlock the bike and, by extension, block calls.
Although it's a good idea, we can see a few potential problems. For one, no data means no navigation using Google or Apple Maps unless you save your maps beforehand. KPN also doesn't spell out what happens in the case of a flat phone battery, and there's no word on how the electric locking mechanism itself is powered. But the goal of getting kids off their phones and focused on the road is a good one, so it will be interesting to see how it performs in trials currently being conducted by KPN and the Dutch Road Safety Association.
If all goes well, the Smart Bike Lock will go on sale for €100 (about US$110) later this year, targeted primarily at parents looking to stop their children texting and riding.
In the meantime, you can see the lock below.