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.
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.
- Luke Charles – Club Aquarius
- Michael Young – Wheatridge Recreation Center
- Shane Uhler – Central Stark County YMCA
- Carl Stewart – YMCA of Greater Houston
- Richard Hull – YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties
- Brian Colwell – YMCA Greater Rochester-Maplewood
- Cedric Chanez – Fit Budget Fribourg
- Michel Line – Abbeville France
- Andy Anderson – Health Unlimited
- Eric Babule – Fashion Fitness, La Norville France
- David Alador – Fitness Park, Melun France
- 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.