OpenBike universal power and control hub standard for bicycles

As our bicycles continue to add more and more electronics to them (lights, shifting, computers, motors, etc.), we’re also adding batteries. Which means additional weight, complexity and things to charge. Not to mention separate controls and things that aren’t necessarily designed to work with each other.

Enter OpenBike, a new platform that combines the power and control of all those devices into a single hub. And a single battery. And makes them play nice with each other. It’s done by creating a central hub and common, shared communication protocol that lets parts operate together from a single power source and shared controls. Could this be the future of bicycle “operating systems”?

OpenBike universal power and control hub standard for bicycles

They’ve developed a launch package with several component brands that’ll be incorporated onto a new Marin commuter bike (shown here) coming later this year. An accompanying app will help control the system, allow for updates and system monitoring and even add theft prevention measures and more.

As founder Randall Jacobs put it, here are the key highlights to adopting their system:

  • OpenBike allows 3rd-party components to connect to the OpenBike bus for power, communication, and connectivity. To ensure that components play nicely, the platform defines power, protocol, connector, and other interfaces and specifications necessary to ensure component-interoperability and a seamless user experience. Wireless peripherals and smartphones interface via Bluetooth.
  • Regarding integration with the bike (vs. the bus), you are correct that our Marin “launch package” concept was designed to integrate with existing bicycle models with little to no modification. We imposed these requirement to minimize barriers to adoption early-on.
  • By developing on OpenBike, component-makers and OEMs are freed to focus on core-competencies like mechanical engineering. Physical integration (LEDs embedded in frames, clever cable routing, and the like) thus provides an opportunity for these companies to innovate and differentiate.
  • Furthermore, because any developer can create a peripheral without the need to create an entire system, development costs and other barriers to entry are reduced. Make hydraulic braking systems? Embed some buttons/sensors and a microcontroller into the controls to connect to the OpenBike bus and now you can control someone else’s derailleur. Or tail/brake light. Or suspension. Or dropper post…
  • The establishment of an open platform is ambitious yet critical to the health of our industry. Initially, we are collaborating with the most committed parties (of which Marin and PCH/Highway1 are but two) to bring OpenBike to market.

The goal is to not just simplify the user experience, but also to go from this:

OpenBike universal power and control hub standard for bicycles

…to this:

OpenBike universal power and control hub standard for bicycles

Component-makers, OEMs, engineers, and investors interested in participating can contact them via email. What do you think? Are you ready to ditch the myriad batteries and user interfaces for a more streamlined bike?

OpenBike.com

7 comments

  1. Bernd on

    So d*mn open, not even a proper concept, documentation or intended license is published on their fancy hompage.

    For me it all reads like:

    “Dear Developer,
    please contribute to our propritary platform, which we totaly own. You are allowed to improve the system, by adding content. You are even allowed to earn some pennies by doing so, but you will NEVER have any control over the OpenBike infrastructure at all.”

    And:

    “Dear Customer,
    you can buy all this.”

    Reply
    • JasonK on

      Bernd, I mostly agree. A reference to the GPL, Apache license or similar would be helpful. Plus, the page is marked “copyright 2015.” With no substantial content on the Openbike web page, it’s hard to tell whether this is even an active project.

      A quick Google search will take you to Randall’s LinkedIn page. He’s got no technical training listed there. If that’s accurate, I’d couldn’t call him an engineer.

      His partner at OpenBike, Kyle Manna, has a computer science degree. So ok, fine. But Manna also has experience with Linux, which is open-source. So, in terms of declaring an intended license, he should know better.

      There’s zero information on the web site. The site is so vague it’s not even clear what their idea is. This article mentions power, connections and a protocol, so that implies a spec for the physical layer and maybe the transport layer. But as far as I can tell, this is the sum total of the published technical information about OpenBike.

      With apologies to Gertrude Stein: there’s no there there.

      I wonder why they’re seeking publicity via a BikeRumor article now, before they’ve got a fully-formed idea. And if they do have a fully-formed idea, why aren’t they disclosing that fact?

      They could easily disclose enough information to show they’ve thought this through without revealing any trade secrets or other intellectual property.

      The article asks the reader, “what do you think?” The only rational answer to that question is “about what?” There’s not enough information here to come to any conclusions.

      Reply
      • Mike on

        They’re already in a prestigious incubator; they don’t need publicity and have access to VCs, and I bet someone in the bike industry picks them up. You guys are in the dark. Just showing your ignorance.

        Reply
        • Bernd on

          Well, I complain about the “Open” which is part of the name. There is nothing open beside the word itself. And looking at their hompage, there is only marketing foo* but no content nor license, no nothing. Thats pritty lame and I don’t care is someone throws money at this. If one invests, they want to see (a lot of) profit. I’m working on free and opensource software and my experience with such conditions are very bad. Profit oriented company without content / proper license -> Don’t touch. Not as Dev and not as Customer!

          Just compare it to BB30, it’s a kind of open standard. Well documented, clear licensing terms applied. Thats something to work with.

          *placeholder word used by IT folks

          Reply
  2. Antipodean_eleven on

    eTap solves a ‘problem’, if one can call cables a problem (I’m sold on eTap BTW), and makes a bicycle even simpler through the use of technology, so I buy into it 110%.

    This solves what exactly? To me if you have that much ‘stuff’ that needs syncing on your bike, you should either buy a moto or stay in a car.

    Reply
  3. matthewinseattle on

    I don’t get what needs to be standardized. StVZO has already decided for the German market (and by proxy pretty much all of the EU and a good chunk of the world) what output from a dyno hub will be: 6V, 3W, and 60Hz. E-bike electrical buses are being standardized to provide the StVZO source to peripherals so you can buy a e-bike motor and power your dyne headlight from it without fuss.

    Wireless transmitters and receivers are gravitating towards ANT+ and Bluetooth LTE, with the exception of SRAM’s AIREA for eTap.

    What’s left to be standardized electronically?

    Reply

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