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Chicago idea: A bike that texts you when it's stolen

  • BikeSpike consists of a palm sized GPS and cellular device, as well as an app for iPhone and Android.
BikeSpike consists of a palm sized GPS and cellular device, as well as an… (Courtesy of BikeSpike )
March 28, 2013|By Mick Swasko, @mickswasko | RedEye

If someone were messing with your bike right now, you wouldn’t know it until you found the broken chain on the ground near the rack. But if a group of Chicago entrepreneurs have their way, you could get a text message and email the second someone touches your ride.

That’s one feature Three Man Rocket, a team of Chicago entrepreneurs, hopes to bring to market if their project, BikeSpike, is fully funded through a Kickstarter campaign. BikeSpike, a GPS tracker and cellular device that fits in the palm of a hand, has raised about $40,000 of the $150,000 goal to launch the product, and its developers hope it changes the way Chicago bikes.

“We’re shooting for the moon here, and we think this product is very special,” said Clay Neigher, 30, of Lincoln Park. Neigher originally came up with the idea of BikeSpike in late 2011, but with no technical background to put it in motion, he enlisted some help from Chicago’s tech community, and Three Man Rocket was born.

“Why on earth are all these bikes getting stolen when there’s technology in our pockets right now that, assembled in the right order, can at least make a dent in the recovery rates,” Neigher said.

If it gets off the ground, Neigher said, BikeSpike will be some serious help to theft victims. When a bike is tampered with, a text and email notification is sent to the user’s phone. From there, the location of the bike can be tracked on a map, with updates being provided about every 30 seconds. The app will also generate a PDF form with all the details of the theft that can be given to police.

But BikeSpike’s feature’s go beyond an anti-theft device. With a built in accelerometer, the device collects a host of data like speed, road conditions and location. What does that mean? Josh Billions, 27, of the West Loop and a developer on the project, said it could come to the aid of bikers in trouble. For example, if BikeSpike detects a sudden deceleration or impact, it can send location and accident data to a users contact list to let them know they might be in trouble.

“This is far more than just a recovery device, this has way more potential,” he said. “It can improve the city that you live in.”

Billions also said BikeSpike will allow users to anonymously share the data they generate when they ride. A user who typically rides home from the Loop to Lincoln Park every day might always take the same route. BikeSpike can analyze other users' data, and potentially suggest shorter, faster and even smoother routes home. 

The company is in talks with the City of Chicago about how the anonymous data could be useful. Eventually, the team hopes all the biking related information could be shared with the city to influence bike rack locations, bike lane placement and even where roads need work.

“Chicago has really been wonderful to us,” Neigher said. “We want to partner with the city as quickly as possible to make it an even more cycle friendly city.”

Full details on BikeSpike’s specs and subscription rates can be found on their Kickstarter page. The project currently has 12 more days to reach their goal, and the team hopes to launch in October. 

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