DT sees enough bike gadgets designed to make your ride smarter than a precocious fifth grader. The downside is a lot of them are complicated, battery-guzzling contraptions that require part replacement or a trip to a bike shop. Not the SmartHalo. And many seem to agree, since it has already doubled its Kickstarter goal.
The simple circle of the SmartHalo contains low energy LEDs, crypto-authentication, a gyroscope, accelerometer, and magnetometer, and it connects to your phone via BLE. This is familiar tech (except for the crypto-authentication), but it’s how the CycleLabs team designed SmartHalo that makes it truly special. The CycleLabs folks are a group of urban cyclists that understand riders’ woes, and from the outside looking in, it looks like they employed the KISS method (keep it simple stupid, or keep it stupid simple).
With that tech, it would be easy to call SmartHalo a little circular tracker, navigator, alarm, and light all in one, but it’s more like a bar mountable phone assistant. In addition to the bike computer functions (tracking and navigation), it also sends weather, call, and message notifications (SmartHalo begs you to pull over when you get an incoming call notice).
Navigation is SmartHalo’s most intuitive function. It indicates direction using a circular light that looks like a rainbow halo. Use your iOS or Android phone to put your destination into their app, and SmartHalo takes over from there; no need to keep your phone on your bars. Snow and rain can certainly prevent your snazzy new iPhone from completing its appointed rounds, but SmartHalo is weather-resistant and decidedly more helpful than your postman.
Location, location, location applies not just to real estate, but also to where you parked, and the SmartHalo can also remind you of that (handy in bike-heavy areas where you’ve had a few drinks and all the bike-covered poles start to look the same).
SmartHalo also acts as an automatic tracker. It covers speed, distance travelled, and elevation; stats tracked by a basic bike computer. The upside: It doesn’t need to be started or stopped (no more “If I pass out, pause my Garmin!”). Using the proximity between you (your phone) and the SmartHalo in conjunction with the accelerometer, it knows when nothing’s happening and turns itself off.
This little Halo is so smart, it also realizes when darkness falls and turns the 250 lumen front light on for you. Like the rest of SmartHalo’s functions, there’s no on-off button — it’s smart enough to figure out when you’re done with your ride and shuts off the light on its own, but there is an option to control it yourself within the app.
The SmartHalo team predicts the 2000mAh battery will last for about three weeks of regular riding without a charge. When it does finally die, you can charge it with USB.
All this is fine and well, but there are a few other devices that try to do what SmartHalo is doing. Almost all of them share one common trait, though — you shouldn’t leave them attached to your bike when you park it outside, unless you want to give away your gadget. The SmartHalo doesn’t have that problem. It attaches to your bars with a military-grade locking system. It comes with a key that lets you unlock it, but thieves will have to fight the good (or bad) fight to get the SmartHalo off without the cryptyo-authenticated key. Further, too much fussing with your bike or SmartHalo alerts the Bike Defender system: “Persistent meddling” sets off an alarm. Since SmartHalo detects your phone it will know if you’re the one doing the meddling or if it was someone else doing the fussing about, and shut off when you (and your phone) come over to investigate the alarm.
It would be incredibly annoying if the device thought it had been tampered with and your phone was dead, leaving you unable to shut off the alarm. CycleLabs is well aware of the battery trap, and the team designed a Morse code-like recognition system that lets you input your own custom code of four to six taps on the top of the SmartHalo to deactivate the alarm.
The obligatory app is also simple. The five screens cover the navigation map (think Google Maps), notifications, alarm, and light settings, as well as tracking (which has its own breakdown for current, past, and lifetime stats).
The SmartHalo is the antithesis of expensive, obvious bike accessories that need to be removed to prevent theft; no energy-intensive screens or awkard-to-navigate menus. There’s a reason it crushed its relatively low $50,000 Kickstarter goal. The early birds for $80 and $90 are all gone, but you can still grab one for $100 and save yourself $50 off the retail price. The CycleLabs team plans to ship in May, 2016.
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