Kickstarter gadget turns regular bicycle into a ‘smartbike’


Xavier Peich said he’d never seen that much money on a computer screen in his life. But there it was, in plain english. Just under $215,000 has now been raised on Kickstarter for the SmartHalo hardware and app component for bikes, created by Montreal startup CycleLabs.

“When you press the launch button it’s a very stressful part of life,” said a laughing Peich before turning more serious. “Because we’ve invested so much time and energy in this that anything could have happened.”

The SmartHalo is a “smart biking system,” or a small device that permanently attaches to a bicycle frame. Working with a smartphone application, it can tell cyclists where they need to go with turn-by-turn navigation. It also provides a host of insightful metrics for the rider, acts as a personal assistant by pushing call notifications and weather alerts and even offers a smart night light.

Best of all, an anti-theft integrated alarm component proactively aims to prevent the cyclist from losing their bike while it’s been parked. Peich, CycleLabs’ business director, said it’s like “turning a bike into a smartbike.”

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Online consumers have been responding to the new offer in droves. The SmartHalo goal of $67,000 was smashed within 24 hours. The current high sits at $214,591 and counting with 23 days left in the campaign.

As the numbers grew over the past week, so too did the media coverage. Every outlet from Fortune to TIME has now covered the SmartHalo, with sites like Wired, Mashable, The Next Web and Gizmodo having also written about the gadget.

“That’s another thing I’ve learned,” said Peich. “It’s really hard to get PR done before you launch. I reached out to 60 different outlets and nobody cared. Now we’re in TIME and Mashable.”

That doesn’t matter now though, as the SmartHalo is on it’s way to becoming yet another Montreal-made crowdfunding champion.

In SmartHalo’s opening video on it’s Kickstarter page, Peich immediately nails down what the device does for its users: solve navigation and security problems. For starters, the SmartHalo is never meant to come off the bike. It works with your own smartphone to solve a number of issues in transforming a regular cycle into a connected cycle.

The SmartHalo attaches to a handlebar set and finds the quickest and safest cycling route for its user after they’ve entered their destination in the app. The light patterns on the interface show the cyclists where to go and warns against oncoming turns. Meanwhile, the app automatically tracks metrics during a trip, like average speed, time, distance, calories burned and total elevation. Moreover, there’s no need for the cyclist to press start or stop.

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Peich, 30, is one of four cofounders at CycleLabs.

It wasn’t long before Toronto startup VanHawks was brought up in our conversation with Peich. VanHawks, cofounded by Ali Zahib and his brother Sohaib, produces a full SmartBike called the “Valor” currently retailing for US $1,399. There are immediate similarities between the two companies: VanHawks went through the FounderFuel accelerator program one year ago in a city that is undoubtedly cycle-crazy.

But not everyone can afford a Valor, pointed out Peich, and many people hold a special bond for their own cycle.

On the SmartHalo Kickstarter, CycleLabs wrote that the existing solutions for city-cycling problems like navigation and cycle theft fall into two categories. One of those categories was “Fancy (and expensive) smart bikes that are attractive to thieves.” It isn’t too hard to assume which company is being referenced.

Peich and his teammates want the SmartHalo to be proactive in preventing bike theft. Basically, the gadget can sense movement and it can recognize its rider. If it thinks “funny business” is going on, it’ll send a warning to the user who can deactivate the alarm. The alarm will sound if the meddling with the bike continues or if the user has indicated there’s a problem.

The SmartHalo’s super early-bird deal currently goes for just $105, although all 100 of those have now been snatched up by Kickstarter contributors.

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