MIT's iPhone-Linked Copenhagen Wheel Makes Your Bike Smarter While Giving You A Boost

The innovation slingers from MIT Senseable City Lab have shown up at the Copenhagen Conference, and they've brought an idea with them that's actually worth talking about. The Copenhagen Wheel – named not just for the city of its unveiling but also for Copenhagen's role in a biking renaissance over the past several years – employs regenerative braking, an electric motor and even a Bluetooth connection to your iPhone for real-time data display.

Anytime you step on the brakes, the generator collects power that it stores in an on-board battery. A sensor in the wheel's hub can tell when your ride becomes strenuous, like when you're heading uphill. The sensor then triggers an electric motor that boosts your forward pedaling power. The next time you hit the brakes the cycle starts all over.

The Copenhagen Wheel, Up Close

MIT Senseable City Lab

But this next-gen bike doesn't stop at regenerative braking and electric helper motors. A Bluetooth connection in the wheel can speak to an iPhone that fits snugly into the mount on your handlebars. From there it feeds you all kinds of information through an app, including map and traffic info, heightened pollution alerts, speed, distance, fitness data, etc.

The app then lets you share your data with friends through social networks, helping you keep track of your friends throughout the city. It also allows riders to anonymously share urban and environmental data collected by sensors in the wheel with other riders around the city, creating a centralized information hub that's constantly fed real time info by bikers spread across the landscape. It even lets you rack up "green miles" as you travel about, a system not unlike a frequent-flyer program that rewards you for logging time on your bike rather than a car, bus or train.

All of the sensors, instrumentation, batteries and motor are packed in the Copenhagen Wheel itself (which is actually just the hub), and a spoking method devised by the team allows the hub to mount on any bicycle rim, though there's no mention of how much weight it adds to your ride. The Copenhagen Wheel should hit the market within a year, retailing for between $500 and $1,000.