Bicycle bell packs four-pronged smart punch into tiny package
Just because your old dog of a bike didn't roll out of the factory with baked-in smart features, it doesn't mean it can't be taught some new tricks. The Shoka Bell offers another way to make old clunkers a bit brighter, packing navigation, theft alerts, lighting and a bell into one compact, smartphone connected package.
Even though it's not much bigger than the average bell, Shoka manages to incorporate all of the most common handlebar attachments into its compact shell. This starts with eight forward facing LEDs packed into the body, all of which adjust to the ambient lighting situation.
On top of the forward-facing lights, a set of top-mounted LEDs can provide realtime navigation by pointing an arrow in the right direction. Once it's connected to the companion smartphone app, the unit will give route guidance, all the while doing its best to avoid dangerous intersections and steep hills. The app will also take local cycling paths into account when it's creating a route.
Even heavy duty locks can be cut by determined thieves, so more and more smart bike add-ons are incorporating an alarm. Shoka's system relies on a motion detector built into the handlebar clamp. Instead of forcing users to leave the valuable bell on the bars for anti-theft measures, users put the smart bell unit in their bag or back pocket. When the handlebar clamp detects movement, it will ring an alarm on the bell from up to 250 meters (820 ft) away.
Finally, there is a range of programmable bell tone. At maximum volume it's designed to be twice as loud as a regular bell, but Shoka says the volume adapts to its surroundings so users don't go around deafening innocent pedestrians.
On top of its built-in functionality, the bell's companion app lets users track their friends' favorite routes, as well as allowing them to see who is nearby. For fitness focused users, the system will track information about distance, time and CO2 savings, as well as geotagging where the bike is parked.
The 110 g (3.88 oz) bell is attached to a base clamp unit, and attaches magnetically. Battery life is pegged at 200 hours, and charging is handled by a MicroUSB plug. There's an accelerometer, light sensor and microphone built into the bell, so squeezing that much life out of the Li-PO battery is impressive – although using Bluetooth 4.1 LE helps.
Currently, the Shoka team is seeking funding on Kickstarter. The project has raised US$111,322 of its initial $75,000 goal with 24 days remaining, and deliveries are expected to begin in March 2017. Pledges start at $99, which gets backers a bell in a color of their choosing.