BT launches smart cycling trial

Professor John Davies, Chief Researcher Future Business Technology

Moving to greener forms of transport is one of the key challenges in addressing today’s environmental concerns. At BT, we recognise that biking to work is an effective way to be environmentally conscious but it’s not always an easy decision to make so we’re testing a way to help eliminate some of those hurdles. 200 volunteers from BT’s Adastral Park technology campus and the surrounding area have begun trialling smart Internet of Things (IoT) bike lights to improve the cycling experience. This innovative use of connected technology helps encourage and protect cyclists locally, with potential to extend this to other parts of the UK.

BT is accomplishing this with the help of smart IoT bike lights designed and built by See.Sense, an innovative start-up that was the winner of the BT Infinity Awards in 2016. Since their win, See.Sense was recognised by Road.cc, the biggest online cycling site in the UK, to be the ‘Best Bike Gadget’ in a vote by their readers. The smart bike lights use advanced sensor technology to monitor their environment, reacting by flashing brighter and faster in riskier situations. They also pair with a smartphone app that provides additional connected features for the cyclist including crash detection and theft alerts.

As the 200 trialists travel around Adastral Park and Ipswich, the lights will also collect insights on ride conditions encountered by cyclists, including road surface conditions, chosen routes and traffic hotspot areas. The smart lights send information to BT’s IoT Data Hub allowing BT to combine the anonymised trial data with other factors such as weather. This will demonstrate route preferences and reveal the conditions under which people choose not to cycle – helping to identify areas for improvement. The data gathered by the cycling trialists will be crucial for improving the cycling experience and encouraging more people to consider this green mode of transport.

Using smart technology to better understand the road blocks that face green transportation enables us to prioritise the safety of sustainable means of transport. The smart light sensor trial in Adastral Park and Ipswich is only the beginning of our efforts to improve the cycling experience. With cyclist safety at the heart of our work, we’re already running similar trials in Manchester, Dublin and Antwerp. BT’s Suffolk trial provides the framework for better cycling conditions and the opportunity for all involved to improve their carbon footprint.

Over 12 months, we aim to build up a picture of the way people use cycle routes in and around Ipswich which has a large cycling community. Gaining insight and then sharing it back with trialists will enable BT to improve cycling conditions around Adastral Park, BT’s 100 acre global engineering campus. This data will also be useful to Suffolk County Council in assessing opportunities to improve facilities for cycling. By showing seasoned and potential cyclists the popular routes, road conditions and their level of difficulty, consumers can make evidence-based decisions on cycling. Volunteers have been recruited from BT and the other tech organisations located at Adastral Park, alongside local cyclists recruited with the help of Suffolk County Council. Upon completion, Adastral Park trialists will have the option to keep their smart IOT light in exchange for their £10 deposit being donated to the Children in Need charity.