MIT Developing “Smart Bikes” and a Facebook App For Bikers

In preparation for the 2009 U.N. Climate Change Conference next month, MIT is rolling out a pilot program in Copenhagen that will allow the city’s biking residents to exchange social information and share their relative positioning with each other via the internet using GPS, cell phones, smart tags and a self-organizing system.

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The program, called “SmartBiking,” encourages bikers to interact in novel ways including through a Facebook app called “I crossed your path.”

According to Christine Outram, the principal research assistant on the project, the Facebook app creates a “social network for cyclists, allowing them to link up with people they may have ridden past during the day and potentially establish new connections.”

The smart tags will also allow bikers to take part in a “green mileage” initiative, with the goal of encouraging behavioral change by showing a large group of individuals what the environmental impact of their collective actions is.

In addition to the social networking and tracking software, MIT is developing a “Smart Bike” that uses regenerative braking to charge a battery for a motor that supplements peddling power. The battery, motor and regenerative braking system are all integrated into a rear wheel and could be retrofitted to existing bicycles.

Beyond local behavioral changes, social networks, and smart bikes, MIT envisions that this sort of monitoring could allow cities such as Copenhagen to conduct carbon-trading using the detailed data and supplement city funding by cutting CO2 emissions.

Copenhagen is a natural fit for the pilot project because 40% of the city’s inhabitants already use bikes as their main mode of transportation.

Images and Source: MIT newsroom

Nick Chambers

Not your traditional car guy.