Connected Motorcycles and IoT The Internet of Things

Connected cars are becoming more common these days, but only in the past few years has the IoT expanded its horizons to other vehicles. A California based company, Zero Motorcycles produced a prototype of its first electric motorcycle in 2006 and began marketing them in 2008. In 2013 the company produced a mobile app enabling communication with the bike using Bluetooth; effectively using the Internet of Things to connect owner, motorcycle, and service facility.

The app allows the rider to configure his or her motorcycle in a number of different ways. For example, it can be configured for a more energy efficient ride or for a higher performance using only the app. One of the rider benefits is that the app can also tell you your current battery capacity as well as an estimation of how far you can travel on the charge.

Another boon to riders is that the motorcycle can communicate directly to the manufacturer, dealer, or repair shop. Most vehicles today can communicate with the mechanic by being plugged into a computer, but it entails a trip to the garage. The available app allows the motorcycle to send that diagnostic information directly to the mechanic over the internet no matter where you are. Anyone who has ever paid to have a vehicle diagnosed via a garage computer can appreciate the value of this particular feature.

In addition, if a rider experiences mechanical problems with the motorcycle, all they need do is to tap the help button located in the app. The information is transmitted and the rider can get troubleshooting advice on location as well as having the company schedule a service appointment if desired. Rather than taking days to get your motorcycle into a mechanic for diagnosis, it is all done in minutes. The company currently has four models of connected motorcycles on the market, including bikes that are designed specifically for law enforcement and military use.

With all of the information being passed back and forth online, many potential users (myself included) will have concerns about security, and rightly so. According to Zero’s director of customer experience, Aaron Cheatham, security is always the company’s top priority. To ensure the privacy of both customer and data, access to the bike is curtailed through the use of a short range Bluetooth connection. In Cheatham’s own words, “A user must have physical access to the motorcycle to pair the mobile device to the bike and enable the communication.” The logs that are taken from the motorcycle are then sent in a format that is proprietary and to review them requires a decoder.

As more of our daily life is handled by computers, it’s easy to dwell on the things that could potentially go wrong. While those things are always possible, you should also think of the benefits that we as a society can reap. This single application of the Internet of Things may provide benefits that range from a reduction in motorcycle fatalities to a more energy efficient future.

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