We first heard about the smart wheel concept in early 2009. Originally called the GreenWheel, it emanated from MIT's SENSEable City Lab and eventually morphed into the Copenhagen wheel. A simple, low cost way to turn a bicycle into a smart device that helps you pedal with a lot less effort than a regular bike. It involves no wires, no throttle, no bulky battery pack, no sweat. After years of silence, we thought it had been lost to the sands of time.
Then, a couple weeks back, an outfit called FlyKly appeared on Kickstarter looking to raise an ambitious $100,000 for its own smart wheel project. Despite the awkward way its name trips off the tongue, it's racked up more than double its original goal and has taken orders for hundreds of its hoops. Starting at $550, it activates by sensing chain movement, then helps you pedal up to an app-preset speed. It tops out at 20 miles per hour and is said to be good for 30 miles at a go, while weighing a svelte nine pounds. It plugs into a regular wall socket, charges back up in two-to-three hours and comes in a variety of colors.
Being "smart", it offers a number of handy features. You can actually lock the magnets inside so it becomes unridable and, if it starts moving without being unlocked, it lets you know and allows you to track its location. This functionality comes courtesy of a GSM chip in its GPS module, a year subscription for which is included in the price. It also comes in handy for some of the routing magic included in the app. First deliveries for the FlyKly Smart Wheel are scheduled to begin around April 2014.
Whether roused by the ruckus made by its rival or mere coincidence, the Copenhagen Wheel burst back into view five days after the beginning of its competitor's Kickstarter campaign with a press release trumpeting a "$2.1 million Series A round of funding from Spark Capital." Superpedestrian, who picked up the license for the Copenhagen Wheel's patents in December of 2012, says it will formally introduce its product in late November, when we can also expect tech specs and video. It also plans deliveries for early next, though no price has yet been mentioned.
This wheel works a little differently. Through sensors in the pedals, it measures the effort of the human input and offers up energy to ease the work and smooth out hills. It doesn't need to be plugged in, recouping power from braking and downhill bits, though, a recent article in The New York Times claims, "the wheel will last for 15 miles in each direction," It strikes us as odd that something that doesn't plug in has a range figure.
Scroll down to watch the promotional video from FlyKly accompanied by the press release from Superpedestrian. It should be very interesting to see how all this plays out, but we think there is a huge potential market for this technology and are happy to see it finally get rolling. Vive la révolution!
Founding team from MIT SENSEable City Lab aims to reinvent urban mobility with first-ever commercialization of the "The Copenhagen Wheel"
BOSTON, Oct. 21, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Superpedestrian emerged from stealth mode today to announce a $2.1 million Series A round of funding from Spark Capital with participation from Tumblr Founder and CEO David Karp. Superpedestrian was founded by MIT SENSEable City Laboratory Associate Director Assaf Biderman who helped conceive and develop the acclaimed Copenhagen Wheel together with Carlo Ratti, the Lab's director. Superpedestrian set out to commercialize the patented wheel technology, which transforms standard bicycles into hybrid e-bikes with integrated online platforms, finding new ways to connect people with their environment.
"With the backing of Spark and David, and a founding team comprised of creative people in the areas of networked computing, electro-mechanics, city planning and design, we're now less than 60 days away from introducing the first-ever commercial model of the Copenhagen Wheel," said Biderman. "It is estimated that two to four billion people worldwide are cyclists, yet most urban areas have grown too large to cycle through. By throwing a Copenhagen Wheel on your bike, you can ride almost anywhere – hills feel flattened, distances shrunk, and it's connected through a range of apps that let you control and personalize your bike."
Superpedestrian's breakthrough in personal mobility is being developed by a founding team comprised of world-recognized engineers, architects and academics, who formerly were team members at companies such as Segway, TeleAtlas, Nokia and MillenWorks, a subsidiary of Textron.
"The Superpedestrian team has come up with one of the most innovative means of urban travel to be introduced in recent decades," said Spark Capital Co-Founder and General Partner Santo Politi. "Assaf and his team have taken the world's most common mode of transport – the bicycle – and completely transformed it. The Copenhagen Wheel promises to not only change the way we're able to move around in urban areas, but provides a new connecting network between cyclists, their bikes, and the city through personalized apps and real time connectivity."
"The Copenhagen Wheel is an embodiment of a more general trend of inserting intelligence into our everyday objects to create a smart, supporting infrastructure around ourselves," said Ratti.
Superpedestrian will introduce the product – including technical details and video demonstrations – in late November. More information can be found at www.superpedestrian.com.
About Spark Capital
Spark Capital is a venture capital firm that partners with exceptional entrepreneurs seeking to build disruptive, world-changing companies. Founded in 2005, the firm manages approximately $1.5 billion across four funds. Headquartered in Boston, Spark maintains an office in New York and invests across the globe. The firm focuses on the following key categories: advertising & monetization, commerce & services, content & media, hardware & infrastructure, mobile and social. Spark Capital has backed notable companies including Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare, AdMeld, Adapt.tv, OMGPOP, Warby Parker and Wayfair. For more information, visit www.sparkcapital.com.