We live in an era in which Information Communications Technology (ICT) and other state-of-the-art advances increasingly function to liberate human creativity, while transforming our cities, our societies and our values and our lives with unprecedented speed and energy.
The scope of these advances extends from the explosive progress forged in artificial intelligence, as well as the fusion of neuroscience and business, robotics and other emerging fields, to “innovations in manufacturing craftsmanship” on the strength of digital advances, the Internet of things (IoT) and other stunning evolutions.
Such progress demands that we pay keen attention to the “Seeds of Innovation,” which have been unleashed to move fluidly across national or cultural borders, while spanning all fields and technological domains to portray images of the rich promise of tomorrow just over the horizon.
Cities are organic spaces comprised of automobiles, buses, commuter trains, bicycles, pedestrians, buildings and numerous other elements. The issues faced by today’s cities, many of which stem from the combination and fusion of these different components, are certainly as complex as they are diverse. In plotting the path to a constructive future, we have little choice but to firmly cope with and resolve such pressing urban challenges.
The thinking here is simple: The dynamics of contemporary cities are not only engaged with large numbers of people, but also integrally linked to the natural environment. If innovation can be fomented in the urban realm, it should be possible to resolve the many challenges that we face – from the lifestyles of the residents to the impact on the environment.
At present, cities around the world are witnessing budding approaches to improve urban environments from a rich array of angles. It is our intention to profile such undertakings, which can also be viewed as the origins of innovation, in an attempt to shed some light on the directions in which cities need to move to arrive at brighter and more constructive futures.
As the first example of such efforts, we wish to zero in on the bicycle – an increasingly key means of transportation for urban dwellers.
In the cities of Europe, where bicycle use is quite prevalent among residents, a considerable number of sophisticated initiatives are being implemented to put bicycles to effective use. In addition to construction of “bicycle highways,” introduction of “bicycle sharing” schemes and other practical concepts, there are also projects afoot that utilize the latest technologies to enhance bicycle use.
Technology for the Shift to “Smart Bicycles”
In the Danish capital of Copenhagen, a project has been launched aimed at utilizing so-called “Copenhagen Wheel” wheel units to transform regular bicycles into more powerful electric-powered hybrid versions.
Mobilized in these wheel units is a technology akin to the “regeneration brake systems” adopted on hybrid cars, in which the energy generated when braking or riding downhill stored in a battery.
By accumulating electricity in this way, it becomes possible to tap into that energy when pedaling uphill or needing to travel faster when starting over level surfaces.
Bicycles and IoT, Gearing up to Open Sourcing
The Superpedestrian Company of Denmark developed the Copenhagen Wheel. When this unit is teamed up with a mobile application also perfected by Superpedestrian, information such as the degree to which cyclists have climbed hills, how many calories they have burned while riding and other so-called “fitness data” is recorded.
Bicycle riders are also known for communicating with one another. With Copenhagen Wheel, another special app is supplied to record and share cycling data.
Similarly gaining attention in recent years is the use of “smart lock” technology. With this advance, cyclists using Copenhagen Wheel can set the system to automatically lock when they move away from their bicycles, and then have it unlock as they return to the vicinity.
With the company having disclosed software development kits for the Copenhagen Wheel, potential developers will be able to harness their own creativity to perfect other applications geared to make the unit even user-friendlier. Clearly, the Copenhagen Wheel is set to continue its evolution following the initial market launch.
Finding Solutions to “Mobility” Dilemmas in Urban Environments
Mr. Assaf Biderman of Superpedestrian, the company behind the development of the Copenhagen Wheel, also serves as Deputy Director of the “SENSEable City Laboratory” at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States.
Assaf hit upon the idea for the Copenhagen Wheel during his work at the Laboratory to define new means of using technology to resolve key issues faced within urban environments. In more specific terms, he wants to bring this product to life and market as a means of defining solutions to problems related to urban “mobility.”
If progress can be made in rendering it easier to travel up slopes and make long-distance cycling a snap, it will become far easier to use bicycles to get around in cities than it is today. This will also lead to the easing of traffic congestion, commuter train confusion, automobile emissions and other serious issues faced by urban transportation. Even more important, increased bicycle riding will naturally support greater physical exercise and contribute to improved health for the cyclists themselves.
Also worthy of close attention is the fact that the data for various bicycle movements collected on the Copenhagen Wheel can be used to estimate optimum travel routes, monitor city traffic conditions and serve in other constructive capacities and applications. The information acquired from the analysis of such “big data” will prove valuable not only for bicycle users, but also for the local governments entrusted with the monumental task of managing cities.
With the focus on Europe, considerable reassessments of the presence and role of bicycles are being advanced as possible solutions for the overcrowding of cities. Among such concepts, the Copenhagen Wheel would appear to harbor impressive potential for helping change the faces of cities over the years to come.
ISSUED : 4 July 2015
TEXT BY Junya Mori (contributor)
PHOTOGRAPHS BY Superpedestrian Inc.