Dec 10 2013

MIT Reinvented the Wheel to Make Cities More Efficient and Sustainable

The Copenhagen Wheel collects valuable data and powers cyclists with its small motor.

Four years ago, MIT's SENSEable City Lab took on a project to reinvent the wheel. Why dabble with one of the world's greatest inventions? Well, your old bicycle wheel didn't have connectivity, a motor or a smartphone app. Welcome to the future, available for $699 in early 2014.

The Copengahen Wheel collects energy (and data) as cyclists pedal and brake. That energy can be used to power a small motor while going uphill or just when cyclists need a rest from pedaling. The wheel also collects data that can be used to make cities more sustainable and efficient, according to MIT:

Controlled through your smart phone, the Copenhagen Wheel becomes a natural extension of your everyday life. You can use your phone to unlock and lock your bike, change gears and select how much the motor assists you. As you cycle, the wheel’s sensing unit is also capturing your effort level and information about your surroundings, including road conditions, carbon monoxide, NOx, noise, ambient temperature and relative humidity. Access this data through your phone or the web and use it to plan healthier bike routes, to achieve your exercise goals or to meet up with friends on the go. You can also share your data with friends, or with your city – anonymously if you wish – thereby contributing to a fine-grained database of environmental information from which we can all benefit.

Bicycles Are Now Part of the Internet of Things

In 2012, Assaf Biderman, the associate director SENSEable City Lab, founded Superpedestrian to sell Copenhagen Wheels. Pre-orders of the wheels are being taken, and they’re expected to ship in spring 2014. In addition to the standard wheel, software developers can purchase the Developer's Edition, which comes with access to Superpedestrian's API. According to Wired UK, "there are five ideas for apps in the making that Biderman [won't] expand on."

The release of this wheel not only offers a glimpse into the future of cities but also shows how universities can provide the necessary research to make cities smarter. Endgadget details more information about the bike and be sure to check out the video below for a more in-depth explanation.

The Wheel, which sports a range of 30 miles, is powered by a 48-volt rechargeable battery. It's designed as an entirely self-contained unit -- instead of adjusting your speed using a throttle or button, you'll simply pedal faster, just as you would while riding a lesser-equipped bike. The device will compensate with additional power whenever needed, and it locks when you walk away, providing a bit of additional security.