Sometimes it takes someone from outside an industry to come up with something revolutionary. When it comes to wearable data collection, BeBop’s entry into the world of flexible smart sensors stems from their experience with musical instruments. Keith McMillen is the founder of KMI, an instrument company out of Berkeley, CA that specializes in MIDI controllers and keyboards that have already been using a similar fabric sensor for years.
“BeBop is a natural step for KMI, where we have diligently tuned fabrics, geometries, and production processes allowing us to ship over 1 million sensors to some of the most demanding musicians in the world,” said Keith McMillen, Founder, KMI and BeBop Sensors. “All musical instruments are essentially sensors with forms of acoustic processing attached. The same care and creativity used to build our instruments will serve well for our non-musical customers as we expand into the wearables market.”
Now with over 1 million of the sensors in current use, Keith is taking his sensor and eyeing a new market – anything that can be worn. Unlike any of the sensors currently on the market, the BeBop sensor uses a proprietary and patented monolithic design that is capable of measuring all components of movement including bend, location, motion, rotation, angle, torque. In addition to monitoring various physical vitals the sensors can also be used as wearable controllers for smart phones. Answer calls, change tracks, volume, etc. all while the phone remains in your pocket.
Obviously the sensor is just the beginning as it will take clothing manufacturers integrating it into their products for it to be really useful. But what are the possibilities? Try on a few after the break…
One of the biggest differentiators of BeBop’s design is the ability to create 3D data maps which can be used for a number of athletic purposes. Capable of being built into a 1mm thick shoe insole that can measure things like gait, contact, fit, and flex, it’s the ability to measure pressure that makes us think that at some point in the distant future, this could be the future of power meters. Or at least another option.
While the ability to use the sensors as a power meter would be great for the end user, the sensors look like they could also be very useful for manufacturers during testing. The 3D mapping would allow the sensors to be used to measure impacts under helmets or other protective gear since it would easily fit between the head form and a helmet.
The same goes for the use of the BeBop sensor as a grip sensor – would this allow for the development of an even better ergonomic grip?
Really, the possibilities for use of the BeBop sensor are far wider reaching than just the bicycle market, but the technology could usher in a new era of performance. With the sensors currently available as turnkey solutions for OEMs, BeBop can provide basic kits or the far more interesting complete wireless solution with “advanced power management.” We have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of this technology in the near future.