Feedback from users of the Bike Bell Project trial identified a number of key issues that were felt to have a negative impact on the use of this technology to help in bike safety. These related to how the operation of the app could be automated as more of a background service so that it only turned on when we needed it, and turned off when we didn’t. One of the anticipated outcomes of the trial was the challenge in providing short time frame warnings for users in a consistent manner due to the variables involved in the solution. When taking into account the independent behaviour of each device – their processing speed, phone reception strength and speed, GPS signal strength and accuracy etc., combined with the signal latencies of internet communications – it is very difficult to provide a consistent warning time to the presence of cyclists at close range.
We believe that Bluetooth Beacons can address both the issues to provide an even better solution! BT Beacons are tiny self contained devices that broadcast out messages up to 10 times per second that are received by devices within a range of 40-50m. These Beacons are inexpensive (around $10), self powered lasting up to 3 years depending on the battery size and broadcast settings applied. These beacons can take the form of stickers or key tags, and could for example be attached to a bike or steering wheel of a car. With this configuration we could automatically turn the Bike Bell app on and off as the user either got on or off their bike – or in or out of their car.
Importantly, it could also enable the app to alert drivers in car dooring situations, and also provide support to the app in locations where there is no phone coverage, or poor GPS reception.
The major goal remains how to encourage drivers to run the app even if they aren’t particularly concerned with bike safety. It has to be convenient and provide some other benefit to them to either their hip pocket or make their trip shorter or easier.
The application of this technology in a broader road safety role is how we see this challenge can be met. Road workers, road works sites, road defect locations – and perhaps even information points and safety reminders to international tourists are topics that have bee raised with us. We’re looking forward to implementing support for the BT beacons and would welcome any interested parties who would like to work with us on this.