CES 2013: control your bike with a smartphone

Cambridge Consultants reveals prototype that uses a smartphone to change a bike's gears automatically

Nicole Kobie
8 Jan 2013

Cycling computers and apps are nothing new, but one firm has taken the idea further, creating a smart bike that automatically shifts gears for you.

Cambridge Consultants is taking advantage of electronic gear shifters, ditching the cable between the handlebars and the back wheel in favour of a low-energy version of Bluetooth, which sends the signal to a smartphone app.

Electronic gear shifters are found on high-end bikes - the demo bicycle is a model used in the Tour de France, a spokesman said. The shifters can be automated, and are paired with sensors that feed data to the app's algorithm. This allows the bike to intelligently change gears when going up a hill, or maintain a set cadence or speed for training purposes.

Cambridge Consulting smart bike

A smartphone can be mounted on the handlebars, but in the demo booth at CES 2013, Cambridge Consultants were using a tablet, allowing a spokesman to increase the challenge for the cyclist on the stationary bike.

Cambridge Consulting smart bike

The system was designed to aid coaching and collect data for competitive cyclists - similar technology was used by Olympic cyclists at the velodrome last summer, but this system requires only a smartphone, rather than a laptop with expensive software.

Cambridge Consultants said its smart bike can also help amateur cyclists avoid gear combinations that put too much pressure on the chain, and shift down gears when a user brakes too quickly. It can also be used to aid workouts, letting users "do the sort of thing you'd do in a gym on the open road," a spokesman said.

The sensors and Bluetooth components cost around $10 in parts, so adding the system to an expensive bike with electronic gear changing wouldn't push up the overall cost. Cambridge Consultants said this highlights the possibilities of using smartphone processing power at the heart of such systems, using sensors to bring the "internet of things" to life.

Cambridge doesn't sell directly to consumers, but said it was in talks with manufacturers to get the system on bikes soon.

High-tech tea

If cycling isn't your cup of tea, Cambridge Consultants have also automated a more relaxed pursuit: tea.

The idea follows on from automated capsule coffee machines, which use a pre-packaged capsule of grounds to make the perfect cup. While those systems do make tea, they run hot water over the capsule contents - which isn't ideal for brewing tea.

In order to let it steep, the Tê system puts the capsule of tea in a beaker of water, spinning it and running air bubbles through it. While the process is a bit more complicated than dunking a bag into a mug, the tea was certainly lovely.

As with the smart bike, Cambridge Consultants isn't taking the device commercial itself, but looking for partners to produce it.

Te Machine

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