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This $50 device could change bike planning forever -

This 50 device could change bike planning forever BikePortland org


Here’s the secret behind Knock Software’s dirt-cheap bike counter: It doesn’t connect to the Internet.

Instead, it detects every passer-by — with or without a smartphone — and keeps a count in its simple, tiny onboard computer. Then it waits.

Knock’s tools for detecting bikes aren’t new. A magnetic panel the size of a grain of rice detects the distortion a bike creates in a magnetic field as it passes. An infrared camera measures the heat pattern of a human. The new bike counting device combines those observations and uses a speed calculation to guess whether the passer-by is in a car, on a bike or on foot.

What’s new, Henderson says, is what happens when someone who’s installed a special smartphone app passes within 20 or 30 feet of his device. Every time that happens, the device uses a low-energy Bluetooth signal to pass the information to that person’s smartphone, which then uses its own Internet connection to pass the stockpiled bike counts anonymously into the cloud.

The passer-by with the special app might be a city employee or volunteer. Or it could be someone who’s installed Knock’s related product: a new mobile bike route-planning app called Ride.

Ride, which entered private beta testing last week, is the other half of Henderson’s big plan. He wants it to be the app you install to get turn-by-turn bike directions customized to your personal comfort level.

But that’s in the future. For now, he’s focused on finding a “core group of people who are using it just because they’re advocates.” Using data voluntarily gathered via those advocates, Henderson hopes to gradually build features that will appeal to the public at large — and to finance the whole thing by selling the bike count devices to cities like Portland.

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Seems like a cheap, useful tool for counting bikes.

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