The Future of Cycling Apps: Amazon Launch Voice Enabled Smart Bike

In this rapidly evolving world of tech, it seems there isn’t a single innovation that couldn’t be improved by prefixing the word “smart” before its name. We already have the smartphone, the smart TV, the smart home, and the smart car. So it should come as little surprise that technology boffins have turned their attention to smartening-up one of the world’s most analog technologies. Ladies and gentleman, we present the smart bicycle.

That’s right folks, the good people at Amazon have announced the launch of the Cybic Legend, a range of bikes, including a traditional hybrid push bike and an eBike model, combining pedal power with their Alexa voice-powered smart assistant.

Speaking to journalists about the launch of the bike at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, David Kumar, Principal Product Manager, Alexa Voice Services (AVS), said: “Adding Alexa functionality expands the notion of ‘Alexa On The Go’, where Alexa is available anywhere where the bike is. The combination of Alexa and Cybic enables riders to enjoy a great range of innovative, integrated bike features without their hands ever having to leave the safety of the handlebars.”

So basically, while you pedal, Alexa looks after things like turning your lights on, helping out with directions, playing music and monitoring speed/distance, etc. It can also handle things like turning the heating on back home when you are out on a cold ride or even ordering a takeaway meal to greet you on your return from a healthy ride.

The bike comes equipped with a SIM card and a free data allowance, essentially turning it into a mobile hotspot. This will be great for riding in towns and cities – but not so good for those long country rides and associated mobile dead spots. The “connected” nature of the bike will also help with location and retrieval in the event of theft.  

OK, this all sounds very exciting, but there is just one question that many people will have:

Do We Actually Need a Smart Bike?

At first glance, it would be very easy to be cynical about the Cybic Legend. You could argue that it doesn’t really do anything that a smartphone does already, and most cyclists would carry a smartphone with them while they ride.

However, after speaking to a colleague (a self-confessed MAMIL – Middle Aged Man in Lycra), perhaps the idea isn’t as crazy as it seems.

Cyclists carry their smartphones with them for many reasons, first and foremost, to call home in the event of a mechanical problem or accident. They also use popular apps like Strava and MapMyRide to track their speeds and distances and get competitive with their fellow riders. Route planning apps like BikeGPX combined with online mapping services like Bikemap.net are also invaluable for long distance rides. And for those cyclists who love to share on social media (because a ride never happened unless it’s posted on Facebook) who can’t resist re-living a ride on an app like Relive.

However, as anyone who relies on their smartphone while riding a bike will tell you, it’s not a great solution.

Your phone is either stashed away in pocket or pannier, making it difficult to access without stopping or strapped to your handlebars in a waterproof case, making it difficult to engage with (especially when wearing gloves) or actually see depending on the angle of the sun. Phones left on bikes during café stops also become magnets for opportunistic thieves.

So, it would seem there is a place for built-in smart technology on a bike.

Room for Competition

The Cybric Legend will appeal to some riders. Amazon’s brand recognition and the familiarity many people have with Alexa will almost certainly appeal to the occasional rider who seeks the added confidence a virtual ride assistant might offer. This will be especially true in the burgeoning eBike category beloved by older riders.

As for more serious riders, this will probably be seen as a bit of a gimmick. But with the right screen (enabling it to be seen in all light conditions), the right styling (it’s got to be aero), and the right apps (Alexa currently offers approximately 57,000 skills compared to a staggering 2.1 million apps in the Google Play store), the smart bike could become a much sought-after product.

Until then the Cybric Legend will more likely be referred to by serious cyclists as a bike shaped object and riders will continue to rely on their smartphones and associated apps.

Do you have an app that needs pushing? Talk to one of our advisors today about how Digital Turbine can help your app go further and reach the right people, at the right time and on the right device.