A bicycle wheel developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers features a hub packed with electronics that can perform multiple unique functions. The wheel is capable of storing energy every time the rider applies the brakes, and then channeling that power into extra speed or force. The device also employs a suite of sensors and a Bluetooth link to the user's iPhone so that it can monitor the bicycle's speed, direction, and mileage traveled while also reading pollution levels in the air and even the proximity of the rider's friends. The resulting information can benefit the rider — by providing feedback on fitness objectives, for instance — as well as the city by constructing a database of popular biking routes, air quality, or areas of traffic congestion.
The system generates an extra burst of power when the rider pedals fast, and the batteries are recharged when the rider pedals in reverse.
MIT research fellow Christine Outram says the two-way link to the rider's iPhone also can be used to control certain wheel functions and display information.
The research that developed the wheel was sponsored by Copenhagen, which plans to have some of the wheels used by city employees. "It's a city with 500,000 people and 600,000 bicycles," says MIT SENSEable City Laboratory's Assaf Biderman. "This device can change your experience of riding, and change your experience of the city." Information about the daily cyclist routes captured by the wheels could help city planners ascertain where more bike paths are needed, while sources of pollution might be traced with the help of fine-grained data obtained by the wheel's sensors.
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