The connected bike: After Smart Home comes Smart Bike19. November 2021 Published by Jana Greyling
“Bicycle, bicycle, bicycle. I want to ride my bicycle, bicycle, bicycle. I want to ride my bicycle. I want to ride my bike…” Queen’s rendition of this song became a global hit back in 1978, when there were no e-bikes around, and at a time when the thought of needing a communication device to travel by bicycle would have been regarded as ludicrous. Nevertheless, just 33 years later, this is precisely the scenario that has come about: the smartphone and e-bike have entered into a close partnership. Although this interaction poses no major problem for the latest generation of smartphones, there are still a number of factors that need to be taken into account. This blog post tells you what you need to consider.
Statistically speaking, Germany is a nation of bike riders. Assuming all the existing bicycles in Germany have different owners, 95 percent of the population possess such a vehicle. This calculation is based on data published by the German Bicycle Industry Association (ZVI), according to which the country’s total number of bicycles rose to 79.1 million in 2020. Figures announced by the German Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) tell us this total includes around 7.1 million e-bikes, being used to travel over hill and dale and across all types of terrain. Numbering some 5.9 million at the start of 2020, Destatis says the e-bike figure rose by 20 percent over the course of that year.
“Fully connected – that’s the digital bike of the future. The e-bike of the future will be fully connected and able to communicate with navigation systems, smartphones, fitness trackers and customer services. Industry insiders provide a glimpse into the cycling world of tomorrow”. This was the introduction to an article on Ispo.com. In this scenario, smartphones could become riders’ command centers for controlling their e-bikes and sharing their experiences with friends at the same time. Digitalization has finally reached the biking sector. We are already familiar with smart home and smart care, now smart (e-)bikes are arriving on the scene. “These will be intelligent systems that supply users with relevant data in real time. This will not be restricted to cadence, heart rate, speed and wear-and-tear sensor status, smart (e-)bikes could also include features like precise tracking, navigation, automatic distress call, lighting and anti-theft protection.”
The Smart Bike
In 2014, at the Milan Design Week, Samsung made history by presenting a concept bike with the auspicious name of Smart Bike. What made this bike so special was that it was fitted with a Galaxy smartphone, four lasers to generate a virtual bike lane, and a camera for use as a rear-view mirror. It was designed by the word-famous Italian frame builder Giovanni Pelizzoli and his student Alice Biotti, in collaboration with the Samsung Maestros Academy. As well as having a battery fitted into its frame, the Samsung Smart Bike was also equipped with WiFi, Bluetooth and a small Arduino module. All this was supplemented by four laser projectors and a digital camera, filming the area behind the bike and streaming it in real-time to the Samsung smartphone that was attached to the handlebar using a magnetic fixture. As well as acting as a rear-view mirror, the smartphone also served to control other functions including lighting and activation of laser-generated lane markings. These markings took the form of bright beams of light projected to the right and left of the bike, clearly indicating its path to other road users. Although this concept bike never made it into series production, it hinted at the type of tasks a smartphone would be able to perform when used as a control center. Thanks to today’s sophisticated apps, the smartphone has now turned the e-bike into the smart bike, offering services and functions that were still almost science fiction in 2014. Nowadays, the e-bike apps on smartphones are able to display the remaining battery range, health data, individual journey or training routes and even calorie use.
“It’s intelligent and learns from the individual riding behavior of its users. It ages extremely slowly, undergoing an ongoing renewal process thanks to its ability to receive over-the-air updates and upgrades.” Three years later, this was how the Swiss pedelec manufacturer Stromer described the digital bike for the Eurobike trade fair. Among the other features listed as belonging to a digital bike were integrated anti-theft protection, an app-based tracking function and connections to social networks.
Digital services make the difference
For a number of manufacturers addressing new digital business models in the field of urban mobility, the e-bike has taken on a central role. Porsche Digital, for example, a subsidiary of the German automobile manufacturer, has developed an “innovative, sporty e-bike” called the Cyklær. To build this luxury e-bike, Porsche has teamed up with bicycle manufacturer Storck and component manufacturers Greyp and Fazua. Cyklær has been chosen as the new joint brand name for the product. Here as well, the smartphone plays a crucial role in the overall concept. A range of digital services can be used via the user’s own smartphone and the Cyklær app. The smartphone serves as the display unit – the bike itself merely has an array of LEDS that indicate the charge status of the battery. The Cyklær needs the smartphone to show its full potential. It provides a rear camera function, for example, that enables cyclists to access a “digital rear-view mirror”, hence increasing their safety on the road. In addition, features such as navigation, video recording and location services are also available. The smartphone mount on the handlebar also functions as an inductive Qi standard charging pad. One small flaw is that the Cyklær app is currently only available for iOS.
The new e-bike generation is on the way: networked and digital
Claus Fleischer, CEO of Bosch eBike Systems, believes that the e-bikes of the future will automatically adapt to their user’s needs. “It will adapt to our riding style, suggest routes we might enjoy and guide us safely from A to B”. With this in mind, Bosch launched a new generation of its smart e-bike system at the recent Eurobike trade fair.
The central innovation is that an app can turn the bike into a networked smart object, capable, among other things of adapting the route to the rider.
The new digital features are controlled via a newly developed “eBike Flow app” on the user’s smartphone that communicates with the bike itself using Bluetooth. The app is also used to download over-the-air software updates to the bike. It displays information on how far the bike has traveled in total, and can also record rides. Riders don’t even have to take their smartphones out of their pockets to start the recording – the app automatically detects when the ride starts. Being able to customize the e-bike’s riding modes and support levels is a further exciting feature of the new eBike Flow app. This means that available riding modes such as Eco, Tour or Turbo can be flexibly adjusted to personal needs and requirements in terms of level of support, dynamics, speed or torque.
Thanks to the smartphone and COBI.Bike app, Bosch’s SmartphoneHub offers e-bikers a wide range of useful functions – from navigation, music control, fitness tracking and making calls to the connection to other services and apps, such as Strava or komoot. An integrated display that supplies the most important riding data, even without the smartphone, ensures complete flexibility.
Every Cowboy needs a smartphone
“Along the noble road to a conscious mind, a vision for how you move is on the scene. Meet the Cowboy 4 as it takes the connected electric bike to new heights. Mount up, ride on.” This is how the Belgian e-bike manufacturer Cowboy presents the new Cowboy 4 on its website. “With your phone docked in sight, your bike becomes an all-knowing companion. Connected to your every move and on the lookout for what’s ahead, now’s your chance to wander and wonder. Your next ride is no longer a question of if or when. Rather, where to?” All you need for the Cowboy is your own smartphone, the Cowboy app for Android, and a suitable bike mount for smartphone plus case, such as the Quad Lock, also offered by Cowboy.
New e-bike – new smartphone? Why not? Judging by the prices demanded for some e-bikes, one might think that it already comes with a smartphone included. That’s not yet the case, but the idea might certainly have some appeal as a future business model. Deutsche Telekom, for example, might decide to offer a sustainable Smart City Call & Ride e-bike package, including a MagentaMobil L tariff plus a premium smartphone and smart e-bike, coming with a full range of service such as anti-theft protection and maintenance. With a contract period of three years and appropriate monthly rates/one-off payments. But leaving such possible scenarios to one side, although all e-bike manufacturers have their own apps to go with their e-bikes, they all commit to providing one and the same thing – guiding bike and rider safely through everyday road situations. And there’s practically nothing the new generation of e-bike apps is not capable of doing in combination with the latest smart e-bikes: navigation, tracking and anti-theft protection must now be seen as the basics, providing personal health data and personalized rides are desirable extras.
Made in Germany
Where so many digital services are involved, a smartphone needs to have three things: adequate battery power, a brilliant display and the highest security standards. The Gigaset GS4 has all of these. The Gigaset GS4 fulfills all three requirements at a fair price, and combines the accustomed Gigaset quality with Gigaset’s service promise.
For e-bikers, a smartphone that constantly needs to be charged is no fun at all and complicates everyday life immensely. There’s no danger of that with the Gigaset GS4. The resilient 4300 mAh lithium polymer battery offers a talk time of up to 25 hours in the 3G/4G network and a standby time of 350 hours when used with a single SIM card. And even when all this battery power is exhausted, it takes a mere two hours or so to charge it again, with many e-bikes already supporting smartphone charging while cycling.
As a GS4 user, you don’t need to deal with long codes or complicated unlocking mechanisms – the facial recognition feature allows you unlock your smartphone in a convenient, fast and secure way. This saves time, adds a greater level of comfort to everyday life, and reliably protects your personal data against misuse. Over and above this, the GS4 also boasts a multifunctional finger print sensor. With a single touch of the finger, you can rapidly unlock the smartphone, answer calls via headset, access the camera and a great deal more.
Bikers wishing to check the remaining battery range or consult the route description during their journey – and want everything to be clearly legible even in rainy or poorly-lit conditions – need a brilliant display. The GS4’s display is ideal in this regard: more than twice as long as it is wide, crisp, bright and extending almost to the edge of the phone, the 6.3″ Full HD+ display of the GS4 creates an almost limitless visual experience on a screen diagonal of 16 cm.
The GS4’s key features at a glance:
- Elegant design with tempered glass back and frameless cameras
- Fast charging and long-lasting 4300 mAh battery (exchangeable)
- Support for wireless charging up to 15W* (compliant with Qi standard)
- Large 6.3″ Full HD+ V-Notch display
- Fast 2.1 GHz Octa-Core processor
- Android™ 10 operating system
- Triple camera system (16 MP main camera + 5 MP wide angle + 2 MP macro)
- 13 MP front camera for high-resolution selfies
- Contactless data transfer by NFC + Bluetooth 5.0
- Face recognition and multifunctional fingerprint scanner
- Triple slots: dual SIMs + memory extension
E-bikes are greatly in demand
Demand for some models is so great that buyers have to wait several months before delivery. During the pandemic, the rise in demand for e-bikes (as an alternative to buses and trains) was a global phenomenon. As reported by the German business newspaper Handelsblatt: “In Germany alone, 1.95 million electric bikes were sold in 2020, a huge 43 percent rise over the previous year. In comparison, 3.5 million new cars were registered in 2020. Owing to this huge surge, many component manufacturers are reporting long delivery times for key components such as brakes and gears.” At the same time, the boom in new supermarket apps such as Gorillas and Flink is attracting more and more providers to the e-bike-based delivery business. This is leading to even greater demand, and further extending waiting times for private e-bike customers.
There are currently around 4,000 bike apps helping to guide riders safely and conveniently to their destinations. The ISPO.com website tells you which apps can be recommended and which not. The editorial staff have compiled lists of the most helpful biking apps for a wide range of functions – from navigation and training planning through to finding the ideal saddle position (using Saddle Adjust). A poorly adjusted saddle can take a lot of the enjoyment out of cycling. Using Saddle Adjust and a smartphone with a spirit level function, you can at least avoid making any major errors. All you need to do is place the smartphone on the saddle and answer a few brief questions. The app will then guide you through the steps you need to take to configure your ideal personal saddle position.
Apps can make biking, easier, safer, more pleasant, more comfortable –or simply more fun. That’s why we have compiled a selection of useful apps and tools for e-bikers.
Useful aids for e-bikes
Are there enough charging stations on the route from Munich to Lake Garda in Italy? Or would it be wiser to take a second battery with me on the journey? In a situation like this, a good travel charger for e-bike batteries needs to be compact, fast and reliable. When you’re underway with only a rucksack and panniers, every extra millimeter of space counts. And your tools, provisions and change of clothes are just as important for an enjoyable holiday as a fully charged battery. The LiON Smart Charger makes such planning easy, as ebike-news writes.
Those who prefer not to take a second battery on their journey should download the “E-Bike Ladestationen finden” app to locate e-bike charging stations. The “E-Bike Ladestation finden” app (from fahrrad.de) enables you to view the currently known network of charging stations and locate the one nearest to your present position. This app is available for both Android and Apple devices, and free of charge, but it doesn’t actually show you the route to the nearest charging station.
Anyone e-bike user wishing to navigate using a smartphone app, really needs a handlebar or frame mount. Like car drivers, bikers should keep their hands away from the smartphone while on the road. Bikers caught with a phone in their hands while cycling face a fine of 55 euros – and good mounts are available for considerably less than this. So, if you don’t have a mount, get off the bike and memorize the route. Naturally enough, the same rules apply to making calls.
“In a world where certain cars, electronic systems and even some refrigerators can be updated wirelessly, it’s only logical to do the same for e-bikes. Teaming up with Eurobike and the IAA Mobility trade fairs, Bosch has recently released a handful of updates that combine to create their “Smart System,” writes the Swiss Cycles website. What makes smart e-bikes so interesting are features like crash detection sensors and remote diagnosis that ensure no rider is stranded alone in a remote area, or functions that help avoid accidents by detecting that the bike’s brake pads are badly worn. Integrated alarm systems and tracking capabilities that can locate stolen e-bikes are definitely also extremely appealing features.