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”?
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:
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?