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Ride the "connected" bike

The connected car is getting crowded (literally!), so borrowing concepts from the car to motorbike makes a lot of sense, isn't it? The explosion of M2M (Machine to Machine) technologies and specifically communication technologies is expanding the possibilities for anything connected.

So, what makes a bike connected and what are the possibilities once you have connectivity to the bike? In my opinion, a bike is truly connected when access to bike data is available outside of the bike - be it on the cloud or be it for bike peripherals or accessories. Once the connectivity is established, there are a number of applications around safety, ride planning, navigation, infotainment, preemptive diagnostics that are possible.

The usefulness of these applications is amplified when the bike data is coupled with location and contextual rider information. The electric bike phenomenon is fueling these applications as well.

Let's now demystify the components of a connected bike. I would like to explain this through three simple components -

  1. On the bike: Many motorcycle OEMs are moving towards a standard protocol for the communication between the electronic components. The CAN (Controller Area Network) is a popular protocol that is borrowed from auto OEMs. The data that passes on this network is typically exposed through a data port and once again, the OBD (On Board Diagnostics) protocol is becoming popular. The ability to tap into this data port lets external applications read bike data such as Speed, RPM, Battery level, Fuel level etc.

  2. Bi-directional Connectivity: Connectivity is critical and has two end points, one that connects to the bike data and other to an application "off" the bike. Of course, all of us are aware of the evolution of communication technologies - Moore's law for communication would be "A generation jump every 24-36 months" . While this is a crucial element, I think the applications that are built have to be connectivity agnostic. 

  3. "Off" or "Outside" the bike: This is probably the interesting part where a mash up of data from different sources such as bike data, location, rider preferences, social information is intelligently analyzed and presented to rider, and other stakeholders in a usable manner. The applications could either reside on the "cloud" or on the "mobile".

Now that we understand the components of a connected bike, let's delve into the applications. First and foremost is safety related which is obvious given the "openness" of a bike vs. a car. The number of deaths on bikes is 30 times higher than in cars. Safety applications include collision avoidance, road condition warning, and in the future bike to bike connectivity. Next in the list is maintenance related, if the app can perform bike diagnostics and alert the rider real time and asynchronously these would be really useful. The alerts can be delivered real time to any number of peripherals such as helmets, haptic gloves, or mobile applications.

Next up, is the ability to plan rides and provide guidance during the ride. When you think about it, this may not sound very different from the cars, however weather, road conditions influence the ride much more than in cars. The art of the possible is limited only by imagination, however I think a company has to start building or buying capabilities to support newer services as they evolve.

Given that we have now looked at the benefits for the rider, what must OEMs be doing to make this happen? It's going back to the classics and fundamentals of people, process and technology.

  1. Having a dedicated organization with the right governance to drive the connected bike initiatives
  2. Continue to be customer centric, listen to the voice of customer and do a show and tell since
  3. Create a holistic strategy and roadmap that aligns to the product plan
  4. Encourage innovation through supplier community
  5. Ensure that the customer experience is consistent right from purchase till ownership transition and while on the bike
  6. Provide tools that encourage the community to plan and share rides

I really think the connected bike is real, and has immense potential in emerging markets where the volume is high.


Good article Vinod. My only doubt is - in which countries this "Connected Bike" can be implemented? In developing countries like India where the bike density is very high, I guess it may not be economically viable to implement. Your opinion please.

Thank you Viru. The "Connected Bike" can be implemented in all countries where there is widespread connectivity. In fact, I would think otherwise - higher density will result in scale of economies. I really think improving safety and security in emerging markets is the most important use case that can be realized. Motorbikes in India have many innovative applications right from restaurant delivery to ambulances, so amplifying it with technology will have a significant impact

Well, if I put myself in a typical biker's shoes in India, what would be delighting for me is a bike that talks to me. That would include an intelligent dash probably connected to an earpiece in the helmet that would show and tell me what I want. This could be temperature, whether air pressure is right, if there are any road blocks ahead, if I should be concerned about any particular vehicles behind me and music of my choice to name a few.

Sure Ajay. Infact technology is advancing at a rapid pace that smart helmets and other accessories are being prototyped. It wouldn't be too far out before these start seeing the light of day. In my opinion, countries like India where the density of bikes is very high - some of these technologies are going to have a significant impact.

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