Month: July 2016

Forget IoT, join the latest megatrend of IoB!

Maybe compared to IoT, the Internet of Things, the new trend IoB hasn’t quite hit Mega-trend status yet, but it is super-cool nonetheless.   Yes, I am talking about the IoB – The Internet of Bicycles.  Over the last year I have been riding the Expresso Bike at the YMCA.  Does anyone remember those bikes with a pedal-controlled fan?  They looked like a bicycle attached to a caged ceiling fan. Pedaling faster not only added  resistance but cooled  you off in the process.   Well – the Expresso bike is about a million times cooler.

   Vintage Schwinn Airdyne Ergometer Gold Exercise Bike LOCAL PICK UP ONLY

Yes, this is an independent assessment – I don’t work for Expresso Bikes.    But, through riding it, I have realized that technology has the power to disrupt every business in the world,  from Healthcare, Finance, Retail, Manufacturing, and even the not-so-huge industry of “stationary bike riding”.   So, let me tell you about the Expresso bike – and give you my vision of the next generation of bicycles.    My opinion: these bikes are awesome, but with the confluence of cloud, big data, and mobile technologies, there are lots of possibilities for a next generation of stationary cycling.   I am guessing Expresso is working on some of these ideas already – if not, one of their competitors certainly will.

With the current generation of Expresso bike, I can log on and track my progress.   I can ride 40 virtual courses, some relatively flat, and some are full of hills.  And, like those video games where you sit in a car and race those around you, this has the same concept, allowing me to race others on the same network.   However, Expresso took it one step further.   They keep track of my best rides on every single course – so I am always shooting for my personal best time.   When I ride a particular course, I see a virtual “ghost” from my previous best ride.   So, I can not only race friends, or people across the world, I can race my past self.  Awesome.   And I hate losing to a younger me!

Furthermore, Expresso keeps an online leader-board, similar to many multi-player online games.   They have a leader-board by age category on every single course that resets each riding season.    For example, on my best course – the 1 mile sprint called  “Expresso Speedway”,  approximately 5000 riders have completed the course.   I currently have the 13th fastest time at 2:12, which is 2nd in my age group.   I am much further down the leader-board in the longer rides.   For example in the 12.2-mile hilly “Grapestomper” I am 57th, 14th in my age bracket.   I guess I need to work on my endurance.   Leader-boards and postings of past results is much more motivating than seeing how fast you could make that fan spin on the old stationary bikes.  And for the 12 people ahead of me, congrats and I hope to see you “virtually” on the track.

  1. Luke Charles – Club Aquarius
  2. Michael Young – Wheatridge Recreation Center
  3. Shane Uhler –  Central Stark County YMCA
  4. Carl Stewart – YMCA of Greater Houston
  5. Richard Hull – YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties
  6. Brian Colwell – YMCA Greater Rochester-Maplewood
  7. Cedric Chanez – Fit Budget Fribourg
  8. Michel Line – Abbeville France
  9. Andy Anderson – Health Unlimited
  10. Eric Babule – Fashion Fitness, La Norville France
  11. David Alador – Fitness Park, Melun France
  12. M. Burns – YMCA Metro Atlanta, Cobb

Check out the Expresso Speedway leader-board  here:

 

Where will the next innovations come in IoB – the internet of bikes.   I have a six thoughts:
1.  Currently, the Expresso bike allows me to enter a user name and password.   While this is how it keeps up with my rides, I currently have nearly 50 other logins and passwords for everything from my bank account to my Pokeman Go login.   It is impossible to keep up with all this.  The next generation of bike has a handlebar sensor that reads my fingerprint and instantly says “Hey Mark – lets ride!” the minute a jump on the bike.
2.  The Expresso bikes have 40 virtual courses, some even have virtual billboards, just like you might see on a real road ride – but all the billboards are advertising bogus products.  Bikes could easily be connected to regional advertisers who buy virtual signs on the courses.      I would love to see a sign for Relus Technologies  appear on the Expresso Speedway course whenever a US rider is taking a spin around the track. A local pizza chain could advertise for all bikes connected within our immediate geography.   My message to Expresso marketing management- please give me a free billboard on Expresso Speedway for giving you this idea.
3.  Today, the Expresso bikes monitor heart rate, and keep track of your average and max rate for each ride.    But, the bike doesn’t currently give you feedback as you ride on how your heart rate compared to past rides at the same part of the course.   Using your heart history, and big data analytics of all heart rate data, the bikes could potentially sense dangers, or tell you to pick up the pace.   We had someone pass out on a bike at our YMCA – probably of dehydration.   In the future, the perfect IoB workout will monitor your heart, blood pressure, hydration and warn the rider of any immediate risks.
4. Bicycles, treadmills, and other cardio machines break down frequently.   Although the Expresso is fairly reliable, it is frustrating to get to the YMCA and find out that the bike is not functioning properly.   The next generation of IoB will fix this issue.   Sensors in the bicycle should notify the owner (our YMCA staff) and the factory of any issues.   The bike should know when it is broken and notify management, and order parts  on its own via the internet.    Why cant the bike send out an email and a voice message:  “Hey Val, this is Expresso Bike #4, my gearbox is sticking.   I scheduled a service call for later in the afternoon, and updated the display on the bike to say that I will be taking a break until 10:00 tomorrow.   I ordered the required parts on Amazon, and they will be arriving in the morning”.    Furthermore, sensors should know before something breaks by picking up on unusual vibration,  computer anomalies, etc in order to schedule preventive maintenance. Downtime on the next generation of IoB will be nearly zero.
5.  We only have two Expresso bikes at our YMCA- bummer.   What stinks is getting to the Y with the intent of riding, and seeing that both are occupied.   The next generation of IoB fixes this problem too.   Using mobile technology, my Expresso app should allow me to see the status of both bikes before I head over to the YMCA.   And, why not allow me to reserve a time-slot to insure availability.   And, I want the bike to send me a friendly reminder every once in a while.   “Hey slacker, you usually ride every Saturday afternoon – would you like me to put you down for bike #2 at 2:00 today?”.   That would be cool!
6.  Exercise equipment often comes with connectors to hook up your iPod – but who actually does this?   When Apple changes their connectors every year, usually we don’t have a device that fits so everyone brings their own device and headphones.   Or, the bike allows you to listen to some list of songs or maybe watch TV.   But, I am not good at keeping my iPhone charged and hate it when it dies mid-ride.  The next generation of IoB knows who I am and is connected to my streaming music source – which,  for me is Spotify.   Why cant my bicycle immediately log me onto Spotify and also give me song recommendations based on my music taste and the course I selected.   My bike should know to cue up  The Cure: She Sells Sanctuary  when I am doing a sprint.  That would also be cool!
Expresso people – if you read this, I hope you like my ideas.
My company, Relus Technologies, helps companies like Expresso to leverage cloud computing and big data technologies.    Drop by the Y on Saturday and lets talk cloud computing, and we can both ride the Grapestomper.
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CIO’s Need to Catch Pikachu

Pokémon Go is all over the news. Millions have downloaded the online game, making it the fastest growing application ever. But, it hasn’t been without problems. People have walked over cliffs, crashed cars, and found dead bodies while playing. To top it all off, servers have continued to crash due to the onslaught of players and a few dedicated hacker’s intent on causing chaos. I am not sure of their motives of denying us the fun of catching Pikachu, but they have attacked nonetheless.

When I first heard of the game, I thought it sounded a little silly. But the constant news reports have intensified the craze, and I recently became sucked into the augmented reality of Pokémon Go while on a trip this past weekend. After playing, I would encourage every CIO to download the game and cancel your weekly staff meeting. Instead, take the team outside and see who can catch Turtwig, Charizard or Dragonite. I am guessing you will learn more in an hour of this than going over your TCP reports or compliance reviews.

Lessons from Pokémon Go are pretty evident:

  1. It has been said that the best technology is so simple that it seems like magic. Pokémon Go is no exception. There is cutting edge technology behind this game, but to the user it is incredibly easy to navigate. One doesn’t need a manual or user guide to figure out how to find and catch a Pokémon. All applications should be this simple
  2. Augmented Reality is an awesome new technology. It has actually been around for about 10 years, but it is now popping up everywhere. And the use cases extend way beyond gaming. This weekend I watched the trajectory of a golf ball hit in the British Open, augmented by the line tracing the path of the shot.  This evening I was teaching my 16-year old daughter to drive and wondering what AR technology could be used to actually make this safer and less stressful.   Teaching her to drive from the comfort of my La-Z-Boy would be a breakthrough.
  3. Disruption will continue. I don’t think anyone would have predicted that a Pikachu could disrupt the world of advertising, but it could be the catalyst for massive change. Using location based marketing, the makers of Pokémon Go can now charge retailers to have these virtual creatures running through their stores. If successful, retailers could shift marketing funds from other campaigns like coupons or print ads
  4. Security is still a top priority. For three days in a row, DDoS attacks have reportedly brought down the servers running Pokémon Go. Having a strong defense, a scalable load-balanced infrastructure, and a proper mitigation strategy is crucial.
  5. Architect for elasticity and scale. Cloud computing platforms like Amazon Web Services are perfect for viral applications that have unexpected spikes in traffic. The public cloud can be configured to automatically scale up its processing with an almost unlimited number of virtual servers to meet demands. And, unlike traditional IT, you can also scale back down if and when traffic subsides.
  6. Technology (and the CIO) can have a profound impact on revenue and the bottom line, but only if you move away from the role of keeping the lights on and the internet up and running.   Nintendo’s stock price jumped 70%, adding nearly $7 billion of market value due to the launch of Pokémon Go, and may have thrust Nintendo into a position to compete for billions in online marketing revenues. Mobile apps, augmented reality, proximity based marketing, and cloud computing could all have an impact on many other industries as well.

My company, Relus Technologies, helps companies architect highly scalable, innovative solutions like Pokémon Go. Good luck catching Pikachu.