javascript hit counter
Close

This site uses cookies. You can read how we use them in our privacy policy.

Review: Smart e-bike (£2495)

No Comments

2013-10-05 11.18.27.jpgreview-line.JPGName: Smart e-bike 

Type: Electric bike 

Specifications: Click here for full specs

Price as reviewed: £2495

review-line.JPG
I love cycling, but living in a particularly hilly part of North London I'm not really inclined to take the bike out on long rides, unless I wanted to attend meetings in a big sweaty heap. So the idea of getting an electric bike or Pedelec (Pedal Electric Cycle) does appeal. 

Back in April I reported on a new range of electric bikes from German firm A2B including a very retro looking number called the Galvani (see my review here). Very different, however, is this new electric bike from car manufacturer Smart. Developed and built in conjunction with electric bike experts GRACE, it looks like a bike for the iPhone generation, similar at first glance to the original Go Cycle, but much, much sturdier. 

smart ebike 3.jpg

Indeed, the first thing you notice about this bike is its weight. Tipping the scales at 26.1Kg (57.5lbs) it really is a big beast, much heavier than a conventional mountain bike, let alone road bike. This is largely down to the whopping 423 Wh Lithium Ion battery which, the manufacturer claims, can deliver a range of up to 62 miles on a single charge 

Smart and stylish

Styling, as you might expect from a brand like Smart, is exceptional. There's a comfortable green and white coloured leather saddle and the battery - though heavy - is discreetly located within the framework and can easily be removed for charging. 

Key to the bike's control is the console panel that sits in the centre of the bike between the handlebars. This displays information about the bike's speed, distance travelled and whether the bike is in Power Assist or Generator mode (more of this later). When the console is switched on the headlamp and the tail lamp also both switch on (reflective strips on the sides of the tyres are also provided for safety).

Optional extras includes a smartphone cradle and a luggage carrier to fit on the back though neither was included on my review sample.

2013-10-05 17.05.44.jpg

A beautiful green bell is included on the left handlebar though to be honest I was expecting something a little more hi-tech. On the right handlebar sits the gear lever (just three gears are provided) and the all important +/- buttons which can be used to control how much power assist you need (this toggles between minus three and plus three). 

Originally this adjustable assistance handle sat in the middle of the bike, but Smart has now moved this to the right to provide greater stability. It also makes more sense to have it next to the gears as the two functions are complementary. Rather than a standard bike chain, the Smart has a carbon drive belt which is much more reliable.

Got the power

2013-10-05 17.04.34-1.jpg

Apart from the fact that it's extremely heavy the Smart e-bike can be ridden as an ordinary bike. However, that's really no fun. The best bit about the e-bike is using the Power Assist function by pressing the +/- buttons on the handlebar. 

As the Smart is a Pedelec it works by providing assistance only when you exert pressure on the pedals - a bit like being shoved in the back to get you going. Stop pedalling and the pedal assist will stop too. Three levels of power assist are provided though generally you only need the highest level when you are cycling up a really steep hill. 

I found most of the time level one was enough, though I sometimes used level 2 to get a bit of acceleration - it's particularly handy when you are stuck in traffic. Maximum speed with pedal assist is 25Km/h (15.5 miles per hour) though without Pedal Assist you can cycle as fast as you like - within the speed limits of course.

Alternatively, for those feeling particularly fit (or just riding down hill) it's also possible to ride the bike in 'generator' mode, effectively putting charge back into the battery. Because the bike has regenerative brakes the electric motor also acts as a generator when the brakes are applied.  

Would I buy one?

For wealthy brand-conscious eco-warriors who like the idea of cycling, but don't like the idea of hills, then the Smart e-bike possibly fits the bill. It looks great and rides well. Certainly it was a talking point among my cycling friends and everyone was keen to have a go.

It's just I can' t really see who is going to spend nearly £2.5K on an electric bike, especially when you consider that you could probably pick up a decent scooter for this sort of price and a fairly good road bike for half the price. 

Obviously at the moment the product isn't intended to be a mass-market proposition, but I think to really catch on even among the wealthy commuters it's aimed at I think it needs to be come down in price to at least £1500. 

review-line.JPG
Verdict:

Nice idea. Superbly styled, well made and has some nice features. But really who is going to spend £2500 on an electric bike? Also I'm not sure I would leave it even locked up in a bike rack as I'd be just too worried that someone was going to steal it! Let's hope the price comes down soon because I really like it, just not at this price. 

review-line.JPG

3/5

review-line.JPG

Enhanced by Zemanta

hyperloop-top.jpgElon Musk, the entrepreneur behind the launch of PayPal, Tesla and SpaceX, has today lifted the covers off the Hyperloop, an insane new transport concept that could hurtle passengers through a tube around the US at near-supersonic speeds.

Working on a principle similar to that seen within old office buildings (where pneumatic tubes deliver paperwork between departments) the solar-powered Hyperloop would see passengers sit inside magnetically balanced capsules propelled along a cushion of air at top speeds of 760mph.

Musk is proposing the Hyperloop be used to transport commuters between the Californian cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles, a 380 mile journey that theoretically would take only 30 minutes on the Hyperloop. Musk estimates the system would cost $6bn (£3.9bn) to build.
hyperloop-mid.jpg
"Short of figuring out real teleportation, which would of course be awesome... the only option for superfast travel is to build a tube over or under the ground that contains a special environment," stated Musk in a paper outlining the Hyperloop proposal.

A form of transportation preferable to air travel for journeys shorter than 1,000 miles according to Musk, he estimated a trip would cost just $20 (£13) making it an affordable method of transport too. With capsules potentially departing every 30 seconds, it has the potential to be a high-capacity system, with the concept also supporting the transportation of vehicles within the capsules too.

Requiring four years to build a demonstration model (something Musk is putting of while he focusses on his SpaceX endeavours), the Hyperloop could set alongside a regular Californian elevated motorway, negating the need for overly intrusive construction and avoiding land disputes.

It sounds like sci-fi stuff. But so did SpaceX, and so did Tesla. Musk has the vision and the money to see many wild ideas through to fruition, so don't expect this to be the last you'll hear of Musk's Hyperloop concept.

Find Elon Musk's full Hyperloop proposal embedded below.

Hyperloop Alpha

terra-scooter-smartphone-connection.jpgIn terms of maps and location services, we all have it pretty good, with the ability to find ourselves as long as there's a mobile signal. But less mapped areas such as South East Asia, don't have such easy access to good mapping services.

That's why Terra Motors have developed their newest scooter, the A4000i, which includes an iPhone connection for data collection. The scooter is being marketed as a way of collecting locational data, which presumably will then be sold onto mapping partners to improve the cartography of the region.

"Analyzing the location information of users", the A4000i press release reads, "new services such as personalized advertisement will be possible."

In terms of pure scooter performance, the A4000i also has very good mileage and battery performance, eking out 50,000km from a single charge - five times longer than the average for electric scooters in China.

There's been no release date yet for the scooter to launch over seas, with Terra Motor's main aim being to put 100,000 units in Asian markets before 2015. But when it does, the price point will be expected to be around $4,500 (around £2970).

terrafugia-flying-car.jpgFlying cars could leave the realms of science fiction and become commercially available vehicles within our lifetime, according to Terrafugia, a Massachusetts-based company working on making the futuristic transportation a reality.

The company (best known for the Transition vehicle which was basically a plane that also doubled up as a car) are working on a new airbound vehicle called the TF-X, which it believes will be ready to start selling by the early 2020s.

The TF-X looks like a mash-up between a car, a plane and a helicopter. Taking off vertically using electric-powered rotor blades mounted on each side, its rotor blades fold away when in flight, with gas engines taking over when the vehicle is flying.

Computer controlled, the vehicle drives itself in the air and lands automatically (with a prompt that clearance is good from the passenger) with the wings folding away as it comes in to land. It then can be driven off down the road like a conventional car, using a hybrid engine.

With much of the control taken over by autopilot, Terrafugia state that anyone with a driving license could learn how to control the TF-X in just five hours. With a range of 500 miles, it'd sure ease traffic congestion on a bank-holiday weekend (with traffic easing one of Terrafugia's main selling points to investors).

Still some way off from production Terrafugia are not yet discussing cost, but tease that it'd be in line with that of high-end luxury cars.

Check out Terrafugia's concept video in the clip below:

Unless you are a big aficionado of electric bikes, A2B is probably not a brand you've ever heard of. But they actually launched one of the first electric bikes, or e-bikes, nearly four years ago.

Dubbed the A2B Metro it was quite well received at the time but at £2500 was quite pricey as well as fairly bulky, tipping the scales at a hefty 37Kg. Since then the company has gone through a number of changes, including new ownership (it is now owned by Indian scooter firm, Hero-Electric) as well as a complete re-branding.

Still available, the A2B Metro has been renamed the Octave while new models include the retro looking Galvani which I tested out at a launch at London's National Theatre. Also just launched are several new premium e-bikes manufactured in Germany, rather than the Far East where most are currently made. 

There's even a foldable electric bike, the Kuo, which at 19Kg is the lightest in the range. The aim for 2015 is to get the whole range down below 20Kg, making them much nearer the weight of a conventional pedal bike. 

Get on your e-bike

In 2013 it is expected that around 2 million e-bikes will be sold globally with Germany and Japan the largest markets by quite some margin with around 1 million units between them. Though the UK still lags some way behind with e-bike sales of less than 50,000 per year it's expected that initiatives such as e-bike rental for major cities like London will help boost numbers as well as raise awareness. 

Approximately 40 per cent of e-bikes are used for commuting purposes and they are particularly popular with older users (55 per cent of users are over 50) who are keen to cycle to keep fit but don't fancy the challenge of cycling up steep hills!

Whereas early incarnations of e-bikes were little more than conventional pedal bikes with huge batteries strapped on them, later models have - thankfully - focused more on design. Expected to retail for £1400 the Galvani looks like a conventional, if somewhat retro-styled hybrid bike at first glance but differs in one key respect - underneath the rear pannier sits a 36V Lithium Ion Battery. 

Two versions are available (male and female) though the male retro-looking version is by far the more attractive of the two. I tested out the black model but it is also available in white and silver versions.

Weighing in at around 23Kg, the Galvani is a little heavier than a conventional pedal bike, but there is a  Shimano Alivio 8 speed gear box if you want to change gears manually and use it in non-powered mode to give your legs and lungs a work out. As I was cycling on a flat surface I kept it in fourth gear, and switched on the power assist using the backlit display in the centre of the handlebars. 

Feel the power

Three Power Assist modes are provided and they take a little getting used to. However, basically the harder you pedal the more assistance will be provided. The end result is that you can find yourself going quite fast without having to put that much effort in, especially driving along a flat surface.

Maximum speed is limited to 25Km/h (15.5 miles per hour) to comply with legal requirements. Any faster and the bike would be classified as a scooter and you would require a licence. Either you can charge the battery via the mains in situ on the bike or you can remove it and charge it in your house if you prefer. Charging takes around 4 to 6 hours and gives a range of up to 90Km depending on how much you use the Power Assist modes.

So would I buy an electric bike? Probably not but that's because I don't like the idea of cycling in rush hour traffic around London, even with a motor. However, if I wanted to commute  by bike and lived somewhere quite hilly then I certainly would consider it. At £1450 it's not exactly cheap, but it would be a good investment especially when you consider how much public transport prices have gone up. 

See YouTube video of A2B Galvani Electric Bike below: And you can see me riding the bike here:


Specifications:

Model: A2B Galvani 

Price: £1450

Speed: Maximum speed 25km/h (15.5mph)

Range: Up to 90km (56 miles)

Battery: Lithium-Ion, 36v 9ah (recharging 

Motor: 250w brushless DC hub motor

Brakes: Tektro V brakes

Tyres: 28inch x 1.75 Kenda Khan

Weight: 22.8Kg

For more information go to the A2B website.
Enhanced by Zemanta

bus-contactless-payment-top.jpgOver one million journey on London buses have now been payed for using contactless NFC payment systems, Transport for London have today revealed.

The scheme, which launched four months ago and allows commuters to pay for single journeys by tapping an NFC-enabled credit card against an Oyster reader, attracts 10,000 users each day, with over 1,000 new cards being registered to use the service every week.

As the system remains more expensive to use than an Oyster card, it's intended to only be used in situations when your Oyster isn't handy or has run out of credit. As such, Oyster cards remain the most popular payment system on the TFL network by a significant margin.

Visa, Mastercard and American Express cards are all gradually being updated to support the new payment methods.

"Paying for a bus fare should be as easy as buying a sandwich," said Shashi Verma, TfL's Director of Customer Experience

"Enabling customers to use their contactless payment card on the buses removes the inconvenience of needing to top up an Oyster card or dig around for cash before making a journey. It is fantastic that we've already seen a million bus journeys made using a contactless payment cards and it's a great sign that our customers are keen to benefit from this technology. We are now working hard to roll contactless payments out to the rest of the transport network."

Scroll down for an infographic on London's bus system and its contactless payment offering.
bus-contactless-payment-info.jpg

london-underground-sign-640.jpgReading this post while waiting for the Tube on London's Underground, connected to Virgin Media's Wi-Fi network? Enjoy it while you can; from Tuesday, the free-for-all service goes premium.

Virgin Media will end the free service next week for all but those who are either Virgin Media broadband or mobile subscribers, EE (T-Mobile and Orange), or Vodafone customers. If you're currently subscribed to one of those services or tied to one of those networks, you should have received an email describing how you can continue to access free Wi-Fi on the Underground.

If you use a different broadband provider, or are on a mobile network not listed above, you're going to have to pay. You can nab a day pass for £2, a week pass for a fiver or go the whole hog and sign up for a £15 monthly pass. A one-time log-in, tied to the device of your choice will let you continue to access the service after signing up.

Launched in time for the 2012 London Olympics, Virgin Media have kitted out 92 London Underground stations with a Wi-Fi connection, with plans to expand that number to 120 of the 270 stations that make up the Underground system by the end of 2013.

new-london-bus-2011.jpgLondon buses have been upgraded to accept contactless fare payments from NFC-enabled smartphones and credit cards as of today, alongside regular cash and Oyster Card fares.

All 8,500 of London's buses will have the new systems introduced today, though the old-style jump-on heritage Routemasters will be the exception, with no NFC payment systems planned for the vintage buses.

Fares stay at £1.35, just as they are with Oyster Cards, though there are a few quirks with the new system that need to be remembered before you go trying it out.

First of all, there's no cap on the money taken through the new NFC payments, unlike an Oyster Card which automatically caps the money you've spent in line with the price of a one-day travelcard. In other words, the new system should be used as a back-up plan for if you've forgotten to bring you Oyster Card out with you, or haven't topped up its credit.

Secondly, don't keep your NFC credit card and Oyster Card in the same wallet when making a payment; it'll send the reader haywire and you may be charged twice, once on each card.

Lastly, an NFC card or NFC smartphone can only be used to pay for one person, so if you're boarding the bus and aim to pay for friends or family, you'll still need either individual cards for each passenger, their Oyster Cards or cash.

Despite the quirks, it's a welcome addition. Transport for London also plan to introduce NFC payments to the Underground tube system, though the roll-out has yet to be finalised. The premium you payed for your NFC-enabled smartphone is starting to pay off, it seems.

Via: TFL

london-underground-sign-640.jpgVirgin Media have now rolled out Wi-Fi to 41 London Underground stations, with 100,000 people getting online down in the tube stations within the first month of the service going live.

One million tweets, Facebook posts, emails and web pages were accessed between June 25 and July 1 alone using the new service.

"Londoners and visitors are loving our new Wi-Fi service and we're on track to connect Tube journeys right across London ahead of the Games," said Kevin Baughan, director of metro wireless at Virgin Media.

"With millions of smartphones, gadgets and devices taken onto the Tube each day, the demand for data continues to grow and we're rolling-out a future-proofed service that makes superfast wireless connections the standard.

"In partnership with TfL, we've achieved a huge amount and have launched a service London can be proud of."

Though Virgin Media plan on having 120 stations online by the end of August, that will also mark the end of the service's run as a free one. After that, you'll have to pay to send your subterranean tweets.

london-underground-sign-640.jpgYesterday we saw the first ever tweet to be sent from Virgin Media's newly installed London Underground Wi-Fi system, and now we have a list of the initial 80 stations that are lined-up to see the service go live this summer.

As well as world famous stations like Oxford Circus and Leicester Square, smaller stations such as Bethnal Green and Mile End will benefit from the scheme.

"The first stations include some of our busiest and most well-known destinations and we're on-track for a successful launch this summer - all delivered at no additional cost to fare payers or tax payers," said Gareth Powell of London Underground.

However, the service doesn't extend to the trains themselves, so you'll have to get your status updates away before your ride arrives.

Virgin Media reckons 120 stations will be packing Wi-FI connectivity once the project is completed, but here's the initial list of 80 stations where you can expect to get online whilst underground this summer:

Aldgate East
Angel
Archway
Arsenal
Barbican
Bayswater
Bermondsey
Bethnal Green
Blackhorse Road
Borough
Brixton
Caledonian Road
Camden Town
Canada Water
Canary Wharf
Canning Town
Chancery Lane
Charing Cross
Clapham North
Covent Garden
Edgware Road (Circle)
Elephant & Castle
Embankment
Euston
Euston Square
Finsbury Park
Goodge Street
Green Park
Hammersmith (District/Picc)
Heathrow T1-3
Heathrow T4
High Street Kensington
Highbury & Islington
Holborn
Holland Park
Hyde Park Corner
Kentish Town Kings Cross/St Pancras
Lambeth North
Lancaster Gate
Leicester Square
Liverpool Street
London Bridge
Manor House
Mansion House
Marble Arch
Marylebone
Mile End
North Greenwich
Old Street
Oval
Oxford Circus
Paddington (Main)
Piccadilly Circus
Pimlico
Queensway
Regents Park
Seven Sisters
Southfields
Southwark
St James Park
St Johns Wood
St Paul's
Stepney Green
Stockwell
Stratford
Swiss Cottage
Temple
Tottenham Hale
Tower Hill
Tufnell Park
Vauxhall
Victoria
Walthamstow Central
Warren Street
Warwick Avenue
Waterloo
Wembley Central
Wembley Park
West Ham
Wimbledon Park
Westminster

london-underground-sign-640.jpgLondon's commuters took one important step closer to getting underground Wi-Fi access today, with Virgin Media's new London Underground Wi-Fi service delivering the first tweet from the iconic tube system.

BBC journalist Rory Cellan-Jones had the privilege of sending the first landmark tweet, saying, "Historic first tweet from deep under London using @TFLofficial @virginmedia new tube wifi service - testing, testing."

Today's news seems to suggest that Virgin Media are on track to deliver their network in time for the 2012 Olympic games.

Earlier in the year London Mayor Boris Johnson pledged that 80 stations in the capital would be online in time for the summer of sport:

"Millions of passengers will now be able to connect to their work, friends or access the latest news and travel information while on the move.

"This is a fabulous new and free resource which will be in place from this summer when London is being showcased on a global stage and playing host to millions."

new-london-bus-2011.jpg
London's latest double decker bus has hit the streets of the UK capital for the first time, after first being revealed back in November 2010.

Described as a true "21st century bus" and the "most environmentally friendly of its kind", it's the first time in 50 years London has had a bus designed specifically for its streets.

Built by Wrightbus in Northern Ireland and set to be operated by Arriva, it's green credentials boast a hybrid set-up that promises twice as efficient fuel consumption over a standard diesel bus at 11.6mpg.

Test showed the bus emitted only 640 grams per kilometre (g/km) of carbon dioxide and 3.96 g/km of oxides of nitrogen (NOx). These figures are less than half the carbon dioxide emitted by a current diesel bus (1295g/km), and under half the NOx emitted too at 9.3g/km.

The bus will serve the 38 route from Victoria to Hackney as of February 2012, and is one of 8 new designs set to hit the tarmac in London next year.

"Christmas has arrived early in the form of this revolutionary new bus whose gleaming coat of red paint and sinuous curves will brighten the day of all who see it humming along our great city's streets," said Boris.

"It is the latest, greatest masterpiece of British engineering and design, and I am certain it will become a much-loved and iconic vehicle akin to the legendary Routemaster from which it draws so much inspiration."

But forget all that; the best bit, as true Londoners will attest to, is that the jump-on platform a the rear of the bus is back! Sure, it's now doored as standard, but will bring back many happy memories to those who ran and caught a ride at the very last minute, Indiana Jones style.

Via: TFL


Today car giant Ford announced that it is developing one of the world's first digital human child body models as part of their program to make car travel for young people safer.

The company has won numerous awards for the safety of their cars and now wants to increase their knowledge of how to create a safe travel environment for people of all ages from adults to young children. Specifically focusing on the impact of injuries to younger travellers are different to those of older passengers.

Dr Stephen Rouhana, Senior Technical Leader for Safety at Ford Research and Advanced Engineering, said "Our restraint systems are developed to help reduce serious injuries and fatalities in the field, and they have proven to be very effective. But crash injuries still occur. The more we know about the human body, the more we can consider how to make our restraint systems even better."

Thumbnail image for FordCrashTestDummies_05.jpg

Digital bodies are very hard to make, the work on Ford's adult human body took a staggering 11 years to complete. They aren't replacing test crash dummies, the digital bodies are used in research laboratories to further understand the effects of injuries caused by accidents and how they can be avoided.

The digital bodies take so long to create because a very large amount of information is included in every bone and organ included in the body and how it works and effected. The data is gathered with lots of different medical scans taken from patients, and the research team can build a perfect copy to research with.

With the child's body Rouhana said, "Building a digital human model of a child will help us design future systems that offer better protection for our young passengers."

FordCrashTestDummies_02.jpg

Of course, test crash dummies are still used in testing and development, and they have been for the past 70 years with Ford, the original design being created for the US Airforce to test ejector seats in jet fighters. However more modern crash test dummies have vinyl skin, a steel ribcage, a spine made of metal discs, moveable neck and knees that are designed to respond like the human equivalent. No longer are they just plastic figures bent into shapes.

Each test dummy has a variety of sensors built into the surface of the object to record impact crashes and pressure levels,"Today's crash test dummies are very complex devices, a Hybrid III costs approximately 34,000 Euros but with full instrumentation this can rise to more than 50,000 Euros." explained Senior Engineer for Safety Jake Head

It is life saving research that the team are doing and with these more insightful tools and equipment researchers will be looking for way to save more lives in the future and make it safer for everyone in cars.


acousticz.jpg

Letting you cycle and listen to your favourite tunes without fear of getting your headphones caught among the wheels or missing ambient noises crucial to staying safe whilst peddaling away is the new ACOUZTIC bike light and speaker from Xceon.

Popping onto your bike's handlebars, the unit combines an ultra-bright 170 lumens LED flashlight with a 3 watt omni-directional speaker capable of playing back MP3 and WMA files via its built in storage.

A single charge will offer 40 continuous hours of lighting or 70 hours of music playback, while the water resistant light features 5 different flash modes (Hi, Low, Flash, Disorienting Strobe, S.O.S.) also making it the perfect companion for campers or festival-goers this summer.

"As gas prices rise, more cyclists have appeared on the road," reads the Xceon press statement.

"Unfortunately, so have theirheadphones that can endanger their owners' by reducing spatial awareness and ambient road noises. While listening to music on a bicycle ride can be pleasurable, it can also be very dangerous.

"Xceon designed the ACOUZTIC to keep cyclists and outdoor recreationists safe, but sharing music with friends while having fun outdoors is just plain cool."

Available now in 6 different colours for $139.95, click here to find out more.


Augmented realiy features are quickly becoming widespread in smartphone technology, and are now even making their way into games consoles with the launch of the Nintendo 3DS.

It's an exciting area of growth for the tech industry, and even car tech manufacturers are looking to grab a slice of the AR pie. We've already seen a demo product from Pioneer at CES earlier in the year
which projected a HUD onto the inside of your windscreen, and now windscreen repair experts Autoglass are throwing their thoughts into the mix too. They've produced a video of how they expect an AR-capable windscreen in the year 2020 will look.

Dr Chris Davies, head of technical research & innovation at Autoglass® said, "As well as accounting for up to 30% of a vehicle's structural strength, the windscreen has become an interactive tool for sharing information and improving the driver experience. Essentially the car is becoming more like a laptop and the windscreen will evolve into the virtual information screen."

Davies continued, "Augmented reality technology has been widely used in smartphones for more than 18 months. Manufacturers are already working on assistance technologies such as collision avoidance systems, lane departure systems and sign recognition. We believe that within 10 years car manufacturers will have completely revolutionised the function of the car windscreen."

"We're very in tune with technological innovation in the motoring industry, particularly around the role of the windscreen. Both glass and augmented reality technology are nearing a point where the windscreen can work harder to improve road safety, awareness and driving in general. The traditional dashboard will become obsolete," added Davies.

Click the video above to check out the Autoglass concept. We particularly like the plug near the end when the car windscreen is "compromised" and the intelligent motor rings Autoglass automatically!

qantas.JPGQantas flight decks may soon come equipped with iPads, according to Australian Business Traveller.

The airline are reportedly looking into using the touchscreen tablets to replace the ring-binder flight manuals that are commonplace within airplane cockpits. The benefits of an easily searchable digital copy of the manuals are obvious; you're not going to end up with a dog-eared iPad are you? Though long-haul flights may encounter battery problems.

If the move gets the go-ahead, it'll be interesting to see if it will affect passenger's allowances to use mobile devices in-flight. Currently, using connected devices on a flight is a security issue, as it can potentially call radio interference, dangerous as it disturbs communications between the aircraft and ground crews.

london-underground-logo.pngLondon's Underground tube network is to get a series of Wi-Fi hotspots in time for next year's Olympic Games, it has been revealed today.

120 hotspots will be coming to the capital's tube stations, with the first 16 coming from the private networks staff themselves already use in some stations being made open to the public too.

While the networks' ranges won't extend into tunnels, those passing through stations or waiting on platforms will be able to check mail and websites on their web-connected devices during the morning commute. A tiral is already underway at Charing Cross station, as organised by BT.

TFL are currently looking for a company to undertake the installation process.

Via: Cellular News

CeBIT 2011 PREVIEW: Ford SYNC

2 Comments

Ford Sync top.jpg


Car giants Ford took this week's CeBIT technology expo in Hanover, Germany, as an opportunity to announce the global launch of their new connected dashboard system, SYNC. Already available in North America, the voice activated MyFord Touch interface opens up your dashboard to a whole host of connected devices, as well as promising increased road safety. Tech Digest went hands-on with the device at the show.

Embedded within the car dashboard, SYNC features a bright 8 inch touchscreen,with connectivity options for RCA cables, an SD card and two USB inputs. The screen suffers from a slight-but-noticeably present lag when pushed, but you'll be touching it very little in any case; SYNC's trump card is its impressive voice activated commands.

Pulling in the software expertise of Microsoft and voice-recognition experts Nuance, the SYNC system can recognise and respond to 10,000 commands in 19 languages. In theory, you should barely have to touch the screen in order to access SYNC's many functions. In our quick test the voice recognition software was very responsive, understanding various ways of asking for the same actions ie. "Play playlist X" or "Open and listen to playlist X" and so on.

The interface is split into four sections; phone, navigation, media and climate control. Each has its own lengthy list of associated voice commands. Syncing a phone via Bluetooth allows calls to be answered via voice activation alone, and received text messages will be read aloud by the system's HAL-like voice. You'll also be able to respond to messages by selecting from a list of presets, again adding to Ford's safety mantra that eyes on the road and hands on the wheel make for a significantly better driver.

Music controls are similarly intelligent. MP3 files are read from an MP3 player, mobile phone or directly indexed from a USB thumbdrive, and then churned through Gracenote to ensure suitable artwork and track names are applied. You'll then be able to browse your library and control playback by voice commands alone, with the superior voice recognition software and Gracenote's metadata intelligently understanding unusual characters in artist names (AKA Kie$ha) and even commonly used nicknames such as "The King" for Elvis.


Navigation controls are likewise voice operated, with the integrated GPS system making the likes of TomToms redundant. Again the clever implementation of Nuance software ensures that the system can account for variations in dialect and location nicknames; you'll just as easily turn up at Her Majesty's doorstep by saying "Buckingham Palace" as by asking for directions to Westminster, London SW1W 0. Also, the software can handle an entire address in one single voice command, rather than splitting it into street, city and postcodes, which is a plus.

Of course these controls logically carry over to the climate control system too, asking the car to warm up or cool down and it responding accordingly.

While USB inputs for music playback in dashboards aren't uncommon these days, the SYNC system goes one better by allowing you to power a mobile dongle from the port. Your car in effect becomes a portable Wi-Fi hotspot, allowing up to 5 devices to pair with it. In an age where all the kids and the dog too have a smartphone or web connected games console, laptop or tablet, having an in-car internet connection will be a god-send on longer journeys.

SYNC runs alongside Ford's other in-car innovation, App Link, for which developers can either create dedicated SYNC apps for driver's smartphones, or submit SYNC-compatible variations on existing apps, allowing for hands-free control. It has already thrown up its first gem in the shape of the Emergency Assistance feature, which uses GPS and cell data to locate the vehicle in the event of an accident, immediately call emergency services, and relate accident information to the accident controller in the language most likely to be used in the location you're currently driving through.

"At Ford, we have always believed that the intelligent application of technology can help us deliver the very best customer experience and help us contribute to a better world, so we challenged ourselves to build technologically advanced cars that make driving greener, safer and smarter for all," said Ford CEO Alan Mulally.

"SYNC is a smarter, safer and simpler way to connect drivers with in-car technologies and their digital lives."

Ford plan to roll out the SYNC system across the continent in 2012. The new Ford Focus model will be the first off the production line with SYNC built in, with Ford promising to add the new dashboard to other models soon after.


(Guest post from Shiny Shiny)

h-oyster-card-2.jpg

The Oyster card was a small revolution in ticket payments when it was launched less than a decade ago, but it seems it may soon become obsolete. Transport for London has confirmed that by the end of 2012, it will accept contactless credit and debit cards at the tube turnstiles, according to The Register.

Card payments on the bus will be enabled earlier in 2012, in time for the Olympics, but due to the work involved the tube will follow only later in the year. While changing the ticket system is quite complicated, it is cheaper for TFL to deal directly with the banks, omitting the Oyster middle-man.

There are some problems related to the project still - such as the time it would take for the system to call up the bank to check if there's any money available. Commentators are speculating the solution may be to check this later in order to avoid massive pile-ups at the turnstiles, and then catch the cardholder as they tap out to leave the underground system.

I for one will miss the Oyster card, which feels like an integral part of London life. But an all-in-one chip that covers payment as well as travel is appealing too - actually we can probably just go ahead and implant this magic chip directly into our phone handsets?

Ford Focus football At the weekend those nice folk at Ford took us out to Madrid to race cars around a test track and look over their new Ford Focus. So what I hear you say has a new car to do with tech?

Actually quite a bit as it turns out. We've already written about the new in car tech that the Focus has including bluetooth connectivity, wi-fi and a voice activated Satellite Navigation system (just talk to it and it will give you directions - a bit like KITT, the car in the 80s TV series, Knight Rider).

But this time there was an opportunity to test the gear inside for ourselves as well as thrash the hell out of the car and, er, play football with it, as you do. See picture above . One thing we also got to test was a new feature called Park Assist which was good fun.

This actually takes the hard work out of reversing into a parking space. All you do is go along a line of cars with your indicator on and the car will find a space that's big enough to get into. Then you press a button and put the car into reverse and it will steer the wheel into the space for you.

It's good but not foolproof. You do need to make sure you are close enough to the parked cars for it to recognise a space and you also need to brake once the proximity sensors beep. Which is what one of the guests forgot to do and ended up crashing into the car behind him. Whoops!

You can see the video of me not crashing the car but still looking pensive - below.

Thanks to Ford and Jochen Siegle from German tech site Tech Fieber for putting up with my lunatic driving

©2014 Shiny Digital Privacy Policy
Related Posts with Thumbnails