By Kevin Rouse
Recently brought to light by patentlyapple.com, Apple's 2009 patent application for a bicycle computer marks an interesting incursion into the cycling world. Their patent application, entitled "Systems and Methods for Integrating a Portable Electronic Device with a Bicycle" immediately poses the question: Can Apple pull it off? Sure, Apple makes some great computer products, but what do they know about cycling?
Apparently, quite a bit. Apple has definitely done their research, as their patent application details a device with significant capabilities, although it is anyone's guess as to the likelihood of it ever seeing production.
The device outlined in the patent application has a bevy of proposed functions both basic and highly advanced. In terms of the traditional functions one expects, Apple has all the bases covered and then some. The proposed device would measure metrics including speed, distance, pace, elevation, derailleur setting, incline, decline, heart rate, power, cadence, wind speed, path completed and expected future path (complete with turn-by-turn directions).
The folks at Apple have even acknowledged the different interests of mountain and road riders within the patent, accounting for such features as the ability to measure the air time and height of a jump, as well as the number of falls a rider takes.
Why would it measure crashes? So all your riding buddies can know the count in real-time of course. The device outlined in Apple's patent application would possess the capability to communicate with other riders' devices in real-time, delivering whichever metrics riders wish to share. This allows for some very interesting capabilities including being able to track other riders' positions on a particular course using the device's GPS capabilities. Another proposed feature, buried roughly a third of the way through the 16,000-word document is particularly interesting.
“In some embodiments, the electronic device can receive and display any suitable type of information received from other cyclists, including for example riding characteristics or sensor outputs received from sensors or electronic devices associated with the other cyclists. Using the received metrics, the electronic device can provide riding recommendations for the user to catch up to, ride with, or ride faster than one or more cyclists within the group. For example, the electronic device can direct the user to ride at a particular speed, or at a particular cadence and gear ratio based on the metrics associated with one or more other riders. In some embodiments, the electronic device can indicate a path for the user to ride to reach a destination ahead of, behind, or at the same time as other cyclists, or to meet other cyclists at a particular time or in a particular distance. The electronic device can also, based on the riding characteristics of each of the cyclists (e.g., power generated and calories burned), recommend that a particular cyclist ride in front so that other cyclists (e.g., cyclists that are fatigued or a team leader) can draft the particular cyclist to conserve power.”
Other highlights in the patent application include a user network that allows riders to exchange data, rate and review rides, and access comparison data for themselves and other riders.