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Cyclists! Enjoy your ride with space technology

A smart satnav in a bicycle bell, a virtual protective field for cyclists, and a tracker that can text you if your bike is stolen as well as keep an eye on your children while they are out on their bikes - three UK start-ups are using satellite technology at the European Space Agency’s Business Incubation Centre in Harwell (ESA BIC Harwell) to help us cycle smarter and more safely.


A satnav in a bicycle bell –sounds simple, but it’s so much more than that. With growing pre-order demand, Blubel empowers the cycling community to report potential hazards simply by ringing the bell. A supporting mobile app uses the data to find the safest, quietest routes.

With funding and world leading technology support from the ESA BIC Harwell, the Blubel team has developed, and are now bringing to market, a satnav in a bicycle bell that uses an LED interface to guide the cyclist. There is no longer a need to mount, or follow directions from a phone on the handlebars, figure out maps or look out for street names, which can be distracting and dangerous when cycling. Instead, the lights show upcoming turns and the direction of the final destination, so the cyclist never loses their bearings.

Using the GPS technology on the smartphone, the Blubel app finds the best cycling routes and communicates the instructions to the device via Bluetooth. Each time a cyclist rings their Blubel when encountering obstacles on their journey, such as roadworks, a high number of pedestrians crossing or traffic, the app crowdsources this data to identify alternative, safer routes for the rest of the community. A built-in accelerometer can even pick up sudden stops or uneven road surfaces. The data will also be shared with urban planners to develop safer cycling infrastructure and smarter cities.

Sasha Afanasieva, CEO and founder at Blubel, said: “Cycling is one of life’s great joys, it’s fast, fun, healthy and free, but it’s not always straightforward getting from A to B. Cycling with Blubel is like cycling with a local expert wherever you go.”

Further information at the Blubel website.

Blubel’s video, including their work at the ESA BIC Harwell.
(Credit: Blubel)


Imagine technology that sends you a notification if your child falls from a bike, or if a bike that should be safely stored in your garage is stolen. Satsafe is developing a next generation micro-tracker that can do all this, and more. A tiny, waterproof device that is fitted into a small bicycle light, the GEOBLOC® ‘blackbox’ telematics device is packed with smart sensors and GPS satellite technology, and can tell you, to within a few metres, where it is at any time.

The Company has devices currently deployed in Greater Manchester with a number of different modes being trialled. For example, in static mode it is constantly monitoring motion detection and will send an alert to a smartphone, tablet or PC if a bike that should be static at home is unexpectedly on the move, and tell you where it is. If a bike is being used by a family member, impact sensors can detect shock events and send a notification, with exact location details, if the bike is in an accident or stays in a horizontal position for a period of time. It can even be set to send a notification to a parent if their child cycles out of their pre-agreed perimeters of where they are allowed to go.

The uses for Satsafe’s GEOBLOC® are multiple, and go way beyond cycling. Satsafe has recently been selected as lead consortium partner for road safety as part of Manchester's £10m Internet of Things smart city demonstrator project, CityVerve. Here it will be demonstrating how telematics technology can be used to protect not only cyclists, but also other vulnerable user groups including young drivers and the elderly.

Stuart Millward, CEO and founder of Satsafe said: "Joining the ESA BIC Harwell was perhaps the most important strategic development for Satsafe since our inception more than two years ago, particularly in terms of practical support, funding and advice received, as well as the credibility and validation that being part of the ESA BIC Harwell has given us.”

Further information at the Satsafe website.

Satsafe Driver Monitoring
(Credit: Satsafe)


It’s not hard for a cyclist to be dangerously obscured in the blind spot of a large vehicle. In fact, the Department of Transport’s THINK! campaign states that a third of collisions between cyclists and lorries happen at a left turn, many due to blind spots.

SeeCycle is developing a system that makes cyclists more visible to HGVs and buses by creating a ‘virtual protective field’ around the vehicle, which alerts the driver when a cyclist moves into their blind spot.

Combining satellite navigation technology with hardware, fitted either as a tag or via an app to both the cyclist and in the bus, SeeCycle is developing a system that can alert heavy vehicle drivers as soon as a cyclist moves into their blind spot so that they can react appropriately.

Daniel Warner, Co-founder at SeeCycle said: “With funding and technology support at the ESA BIC Harwell, we are now finalising the development of our first prototype. As people want to be healthier and help protect the environment by cycling more, safety is a major and valid concern for cyclists. By virtually eliminating blind spots in large vehicles, we are creating a safer journey for cyclists to save lives.”


(Credit: SeeCycle)

The ESA BIC Harwell

Managed and co-funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), the ESA BIC Harwell is the first business incubation centre supported by ESA in the UK. Its sole mission is to enable small, budding businesses and entrepreneurs to translate their brilliant ideas on how they can use space technology and develop the ‘next big thing’ in non-space fields.

Michael Norris, Head of Business Incubation at STFC, who also worked with the Great Britain Cycling Team as mechanical services manager for the 2012 London Olympics, said: “Blubel, Satsafe and SeeCycle are clear proof that, with the right business support and expertise, pioneering UK start-ups can take space technologies into completely different industries, turning brilliant ideas into successful, profitable businesses. This is exactly what STFC and the ESA BIC Harwell sets out to help small companies achieve. And, as a keen cyclist myself, I am really excited to see space technology used in exciting ways that will enhance our cycling experiences, and keep us safe at the same time.”

The ESA BIC Harwell is one of a wider European network of 16 successful ESA BICs, as part of ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme. It provides up to ten companies a year with an impressive two-year support package that enables them to harness intellectual property, technologies and expertise generated by ESA research, alongside £41,500 funding, access to STFC’s world class research facilities and skills, and a dedicated STFC business champion. Being part of the ESA and STFC communities also enables access to a variety of additional funding opportunities, including access to a network of regional, national and joint venture capital funding sources.

Calls for proposals to join the ESA BIC Harwell take place throughout the year. Further information and how getting involved with the ESA BIC Harwell could benefit your company can be found at the ESA BIC Harwell website.

Science and Technology Facilities Council
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