Few innovations can claim to be as disruptive as inventing the wheel. Neither can our project. However, with SMART BRAKE ® Technology, we have invented a new way to control the wheel.
The first mechanical brakes were applied on bicycles more than 200 years ago. Since then, most brake solutions for sports, mobility and leisure have been of the similar type; mechanic and cabled drum, rim and disc brakes. Limited innovation has taken place, meaning that the original solutions have worked well for the large masses in the market.
However, the “one-solution-fits-all” philosophy ignores a huge and growing segment – users with reduced handgrip and body mobility. Parents have for sure observed one of these user groups; kids on their first bike. Handling the hard and oversized brake lever is often a bigger challenge for kids, than finding the balance on two wheels.
For millions of users worldwide, the handgrip challenges affect their activity level and quality of life; spinal cord paralysis, stroke, rheumatism, cerebral palsy, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, arthrogryposis, multiple sclerosis and ALS are examples of disorders reducing handgrip strength and mobility.
Common for many is the need for tailored equipment to handle daily activities. Besides the brain, the hand is the most advanced and fine-tuned tool of the human body, with a complex set of muscles and nerves controlling every movement. When these muscles and nerves are not playing along, even the simplest handgrip fails. Operating a mechanic brake on a bicycle, wheelchair or even rollator requires significant grip strength, size and endurance.
This is our spot. This is where SMART BRAKE ® makes a difference.
SMART BRAKE ® Technology is the first wireless brake available in the market. Cutting the wire is not only opening for new and better design of the vehicle. More important is the performance and functionality of the brake:
- Soft: With more than 100 points resolution and limited friction, activating the brake requires less than 10% handgrip strength
- Easy: The brake controller can be positioned where most convenient for the user, and be activated via lever, push button, piston trigger, movement sensor, or even voice.
- Multifunction: Active brake and parking brake in same unit
- Customisable: The brake software can be adjusted to user needs, e.g. brake force
- Smart: Auto-calibration of brake system, to optimise brake performance according to different wheels, tear-and-wear, etc.
SMART BRAKE ® is compact and lightweight, and with universal design to fit a wide range of wheels and frames. The technology platform can be adapted to any form of brake system to fit different vehicles and needs.
So, what have we learned from our innovation process?
Innovation is neither linear nor predictable. It is a combination of multiple factors put together in the right mix and time; available technology, competence, user insights, funding and hard work. And, a bit of luck. Build and motivate your team with patience, but push for short innovation cycles. Set high standard and lead by example.
Involve your customers. Our technology was originally invented as a wireless brake for roller skis. Addressing the needs of disabled was not on our map. It was introduced to us by the users themselves, looking for a better solution to a fundamental problem. We accepted the challenge. Leveraging the experience from our first product series, combined with thorough studies and tests with disabled users and institutions, we are now ready with a brand new product series for bicycles, trikes and wheelchairs.
Punch above your weight. Leverage being a small start-up, by making decisions and progress much faster and determined than your global competitors. If the product is creating high user value, your disadvantage in brand power will be compensated by customer referrals and willingness to share your story.
Do not underestimate the complexity of simplicity. Consumers worldwide have commented to us; “I have had the same idea!” “This is so obvious, why hasn’t it been done before?” Because it is neither simple nor obvious. Finding the optimal combination of mechanics, electronics, materials and user interface design to control speed of 8 cm wheels for users of 100 kg at 50 km/h in 10% downhill – there is a (steep) learning curve.
By expanding our technology platform, we will be doing exciting business in the cross section between sports and mobility in the coming years. Keeping a sharp eye on the user needs, we strongly believe we can help further people to become more active and independent. Any feedback and suggestions to where we can create most value is appreciated!