We are about to enter the age where everything is smart, whether smartphone or smart wristband, smart watch or smart home. The technology that enabled these transformations is changing every aspect of our lives, including our means of transportation.
China has long been known as the kingdom of the bicycle, with 370 million units in the country as of 2013. Although the country’s development has greatly weakened the role of bicycles as the major means of transportation, it has given rise to another popular function, as a way of physical exercise or sport.
Putting these trends into perspective, a wave of Chinese internet companies, big and small, are eyeing this market to upend yet another traditional industry.
Chinese search giant Baidu launched its smart bike DuBike last year in collaboration with the Industrial Design department of Tsinghua University. DuBike tracks all kinds of health metrics, like heart rate, pedaling frequency, velocity, and seat pressure. An accompanying app collects and analyzes these data, and then gives personalized fitness suggestions.
Moreover, riders can find the best routes to their destination via the navigation signal atop the handlebar or share their fitness data on social media. The bike generates its own electricity by converting kinetic energy to electric.
The company has yet to announce the shipment date and price, but local media have reported that the price tag will be higher than RMB10,000 (US$1,613).
BICI (also known as Basic Conception) is a Shanghai-based smart bicycle manufacturer. The company showcased its first product Qizi last year. Like DuBike, Qizi is equipped inbuilt sensors to track cycling stats and find routes, and offer powerful anti-theft protection. The product retails at RMB3,999 and is offered in five candy colors.
Last November, BICI received a boost by closing Series A financing worth several million US dollars, led by early-stage venture capital firm Ceyuan.
700Bike was founded in 2012 as a cycling information portal and event organizer that promotes bicycle culture. Zhang Xiangdong, co-founder of NASDAQ-listed Sungy Mobile who is also a passionate cyclist, left the mobile content provider and joined 700Bike as co-founder last year.
The company is expanding its business to bicycle manufacturing based on internet technology. Its new products are still under development.
Besides its moves into the smart car sector, Chinese smart TV and online content company LeTV is also expanding into the smart bike market. LeTV Sports and LeTV’s smart technology affiliate Leie have joined up with an unnamed bicycle manufacturer to develop a new smart bike. The three parties will hold 50%, 10% and 40% of the joint venture respectively. The company is planning to release the smart bike on April 2 and the partner will be announced on the same day.
Image credit: DuBike, BICI, 700Bike
Editing by Mike Cormack (@bucketoftongues)