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How a new device could make your bike smarter

Backed by a Kickstarter campaign, SmartHalo pairs a device and a smartphone app to allow bikers hands-free navigation and notification alerts. 

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    Barbara Bitondo leaves her home on her bike as she commutes most mornings to her job at the World Bank in Washington DC in 2013. Bikers can now benefit from the SmartHalo device.
    Michael Bonfigli/Christian Science Monitor/File
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The phrase ‘smart vehicle’ usually refers to cars, but SmartHalo’s new device gives ordinary bikes a chance to stay up to date.

Though other companies claim forays into intelligent bikes, such as Ford’s "Mode:Me" and "Mode:Pro" electric bikes, SmartHalo creator CycleLabs has developed a single device, attachable to any bike model (even that one you bought your kid at Walmart).

Biking has increased over 60 percent in the United States over the last two decades, particularly in big cities where heavily congested roads have pushed more commuters to pedal to work, according to multiple studies compiled by PeopleForBikes. This shift inspired the SmartHalo creators, who consider themselves “urban cyclists," to “deal with the main problems of biking in cities: navigation and security,” as stated in the introduction to their Kickstarter campaign, live for 28 more days.

Recommended: Five bicycle tips for a better ride

SmartHalo’s device and associated app is a fitness-tracker, GPS, and notification system all in one. The circular device, attached to a bike’s handlebars, connects via Bluetooth to the biker’s smartphone. While other apps for bike navigation require the rider to interact with their phone while riding, SmartHalo alerts the biker of navigation cues via a lighting system, making navigating safer and easier. Turns are signaled by a white light that gradually becomes green as the biker nears the turn. Bikers know they took a wrong turn if they see illuminated red lights.  

Since SmartHalo can be paired with Android or iPhone devices, the cyclist can also receive call and text notifications as well as weather updates, all without having to look at his or her phone. The device is motion-activated, tracking cycling metrics including time, distance, and average speed as soon as the biker starts pedaling, and shutting down when inactive. The SmartHalo also detects nighttime, automatically illuminating a light to signal the riders presence to oncoming vehicles.

Additionally, SmartHalo offers security features to ensure no one but the owner uses the device. And just in case you forgot where you parked, SmartHalo’s app can track and lead you to your bike.

With minimalist design, SmartHalo is built for the avid biker and tested to withstand harsh weather conditions. As their website suggests, “Go ahead, throw rain, snow, mud or whatever at it. Bring it.” Just be careful when biking in tornadoes, as the site warns SmartHalo has not yet been tested under that condition.

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