It was the smartest of wheels, it was also the smartest of wheels. There's a revolution brewing in the world of two-wheel transport and first couple of volleys have just been fired. The smart wheel, as envisioned by FlyKly and Superpedestrian, appears to have come of age.

Superpedestrian smart wheelWe 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!


Show full PR text
Superpedestrian Emerges from Stealth with $2.1 Million in Funding from Spark Capital

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.


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 15 Comments
      Anderlan
      • 1 Year Ago
      I don't want to have to pay for the GPS and cell radio (and subsidize their data service) with the probable gigantic price of this thing. Could probably buy a full e-bike instead.
        Joeviocoe
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Anderlan
        Those features are probably the least of the cost. GPRS is not expensive to implement. It doesn't take a whole lot of data... more like a beacon of very short data burst. The hardware is also ridiculously cheap nowadays too.
      offib
      • 1 Year Ago
      $300,000 and they'll make a 20" version. I don't see how that makes a "200,000 difference. Anyway, this kinda erks me. I'm not fond how turning my bike into a "fixie" or fixed geared bike. My Dahon Vitesse has a fairly limited range in gears, it's already a struggle on hills, and the highest gear doesn't allow me to go any faster on nice straights. I dunno, it seems like a sacrifice for those like me who are rubbish at tinkering, such as removing the whole derailer, switches and getting the right chain. Hence the bike in the video unlikely to be a fixie bike. This does have some practical aspect, but it's really for show as it's somewhat a permanent accessory, a Hipster's toy. I do prefer the Rubbee we've seen earlier for being attach and detachable, but that's more expensive.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 1 Year Ago
        @offib
        There are plenty of complete 20" hubmotor kits out there that would fit your bike. No need to remove your derailleur for any of those. Just replace your rear wheel with the hub motor wheel, and keep your derailleur as-is ( may require a slight re-alignment in the cable adjustment, but you would need to do that with any other new wheel anyway. ) 20" hub motors are my favorite as they have the most torque. I used a very large one on a 26" bike ( with a 24" front wheel ) when i built my race bike that would do 30mph continuous up pike's peak. I pumped 8,000W peaks into it and it didn't complain; but i would have to lean my 250lb body over the handlebars to prevent being flipped over backwards, lol... Friction drive works great if you only ride on clean roads - no dirt, no water, no asphalt chunks, no dust, no droppings from plants..
      Rotation
      • 1 Year Ago
      Is this where we're headed? Now even non-motorized transport has to be motorized?
        paulwesterberg
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Rotation
        Yeah, bicycling on a flat or moderate hilly area is not very difficult, but the modern American lifestyle has made people soft and lazy. Their video shows a guy "struggling" up a bridge incline, but the only reason he has to stand to pedal is because he has a hipster fixie. Any decent multi-gear bike rider wouldn't have any problems.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Rotation
        Maybe we shouldn't motorize it and continue to rely on cars.. ..yeah, screw that middle ground solution, eh?
      Doug
      • 1 Year Ago
      No helmet! =P
      xxricefarmerxx
      • 1 Year Ago
      great! and it doesn't cost thousands like those other kick start scams
      mawhalen53
      • 1 Year Ago
      Very cool to see this project finally coming to fruition. I worked alongside these guys in the Media Lab as an undergrad and wondered what had become of it.
      paulwesterberg
      • 1 Year Ago
      As an avid cyclist I think that this could be a great for allowing more people to use a bicycle for commuting and neighborhood errands without feeling like the effort involved is overwhelming. I like the bike locking and tracking, but I would never trust that to keep the bike safe. Their dynamo light looks like crap though.
        Thereminator
        • 1 Year Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        Agreed...now all we need are bike lanes.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 1 Year Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        I've ridden an ebike for 3 years; it never gets locked up outside. People need to stop doing that. All businesses i frequent are used to me parking the bike inside at this point.
          Joeviocoe
          • 1 Year Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          Ah.. and that is why they call you, "2 Wheel Menace"... because you are always tracking mud into nice restaurants.... such a Menace ;)
      mikeybyte1
      • 1 Year Ago
      This is a smart idea, especially for those that might have physical issues such as arthritis in their knees. It allows for less pressure while still being green and mobile.
    • Load More Comments