Michael Baird, Network Engineering

Riding high on a great idea

Michael Baird, network engineering student is developing a sensor system that integrates multiple sources of data inputs to improve rider safety—and enjoyment.

Cycling is an increasingly popular way of getting around

However, in 2013 alone, eight cyclists died, 171 were seriously injured and 646 suffered minor injuries in police-reported crashes on New Zealand roads.

Lowering the risk for cyclists

Cyclists are less protected and less visible than other motor vehicles they share the road with. Studying towards a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours, I'm trying to discover how cyclists can lower these risks.

This project involves developing a sensor system that integrates multiple sources of data inputs to improve rider safety—and enjoyment.

Developing information to feel safer on the road

I got the idea for the project while cycling with my brother. I asked him what sort of data he’d find useful to make cycling a safer and more fun experience, then I compared his ‘wish list’ with the features of the products that are on the market now.

Today’s products provide basic, mostly fitness-related information such as speed, heart rate and cadence (how fast you spin the pedals as you ride). My focus is on developing a product that gives cyclists the information they need to feel safer on the road, including alerts to problems or faults with their bikes.

Real-time information

Information will include the real-time status of both bike and rider (for example, speed, condition of brakes and cycling characteristics), that will be provided via a set of on-bike sensors that communicate with an on-bike controller.

Using your senses

I'm also looking at integrating multiple modes of sensory information (including one of the world’s biggest networks, Google Maps) that will enable warnings to be given to riders about difficult terrain ahead, or whether they are approaching a junction too fast.

Proximity sensors will also warn riders that they are approaching or being approached by another vehicle too closely.

Improving safety

Improved safety is my primary goal. I also plan on including data that will increase enjoyment for recreational or competitive cyclists, together with “some route planning features that will recommend roads to take and speeds to ride at, based on current conditions”.

Working with leaders in the field

I’m really enjoying working on something I can relate to personally. Professor Seah is one of the top academics in the field of wireless sensor networking, so I feel very lucky to have him as one of my two supervisors.

My current focus is on finishing the development of the project’s programming and electronics in time for testing and evaluation at the end of the year, but I haven’t ruled out the possibility of taking it to market in the future.

It’s cool to think there’s a possibility that I might be able to build a business out of it!