Apple invent the bike computer

Finally you'll be able to see your speed and... what? Oh.

by Dave Atkinson   August 6, 2010  


You know how you've been riding around all this time and not been able to find out how far you've been, or how fast you're going? Well that's all set to change thanks to Apple. the US Patent & Trademark Office yesterday published a patent application from Apple covering a range of concepts that they'll be using in a new development, the Smart Bicycle System.

According to Patently Apple the patent, which can be seen in full here, was originally filed in the first quarter of 2009.

"Many bicyclists desire accessing different information as they ride, such as speed, position, heart rate, power or other information related to components of the bicycle", it reads. "To provide such information to the cyclist during the ride, a bicycle computer can be coupled to the bicycle, for example on handlebars".

"Bicycle computers, however, are typically expensive components that would not be purchased by casual or semi-serious bicyclists", the patent document goes on, although it fails to give any examples of bike computers that are more expensive than an iPhone. "Many bicycle computers only provide information for the bicycle with which the computer is coupled. The bicycle computer can not share information related to the bicycle with which it is coupled with other computers, or can alternatively only provide information related to a ride once the ride is completed."

The basis of the patent seems to be that the Apple system will build on the basic functionality of a bike computer and add the ability to share information in real time with other users. "The electronic device can be associated with a first bicycle, and include control circuitry operative to detect several electronic devices associated with [other] bicycles. The control circuitry can... determine at least one riding characteristic of the first bicycle, and receive, in real-time from each of the detected several electronic devices, at least one riding characteristic of each of the plurality of bicycles.

"Riding characteristic can include at least one of speed, distance, time, altitude, elevation, incline, decline, heart rate, power, derailleur setting, cadence, wind speed, path completed, expected future path, heart rate, power, and pace".

Got that? Essentially the deal is that the system can be a mobile version of a sport tracking site such as ChampionChip, where you can see your mates on a ride and how they're getting on. The patent goes on to talk about further uses of the system, including real-time communication with other iders, comparison against past performances, riding recommendations and so on. It's pretty thorough.

The worrying part of the patent is further down, when it talks about hardware. The brains of the system could be, according to Apple, "a media player such as an iPod.RTM. available by Apple Inc., of Cupertino, Calif., a cellular telephone, a personal e-mail or messaging device (e.g., a Blackberry.RTM. or a Sidekick.RTM.), an iPhone.RTM. available from Apple Inc., pocket-sized personal computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), a desktop computer, a laptop computer, a cyclocomputer, a music recorder, a video recorder, a camera, radios, medical equipment, domestic appliances, transportation vehicle instruments, calculators, and any other portable electronic device capable of being carried in the vicinity of bicycle"

So, basically anything. Even a calculator or medical equipment. Which raises some interesting questions. Obviously much of what is written down in the patent is already available to buy in bike stores across the world in the form of bike computers and GPS devices, and presumably Apple won't be attempting to go after them. But there's plenty of smartphone-based apps already on the market, and more in the pipeline, probably all of which will have been developed since this patent application was first filed.

Many, such as the excellent Endomondo go some way to realising the concepts of the Apple patent, and are in constant development with new features being added all the time. The risk is that Apple's wide definition of the controlling device will allow them to challenge developers using non-Apple hardware, which isn't something we want to see. We're all for Apple making a go of this system, but not for them using a patent that's deliberately vague in terms of hardware to try and control the market.

10 user comments

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Unfortunately, from FIG. 1 diagram, it seems they have also invented the world's first set of forks that are integrated into the frame, so tracking the location of other users is unnecessary, because it will only work on a dead straight course.

posted by handlebarcam [545 posts]
6th August 2010 - 12:54

1 Like

So it helps you find out where other riders are?

I suppose Alberto Contador could have done with one of these when his radio went AWOL on the final TDF ITT?! Wink

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [9376 posts]
6th August 2010 - 13:04

1 Like

iBike ? They can't get that as it has gone to another device. iDominate ?

posted by SimpleSimon [116 posts]
6th August 2010 - 17:08

1 Like

This is basically what Team HTC were using during the Tour...

...but apparently it was an HTC handset under each saddle connected through combined technology from HTC and Google...

posted by [1 posts]
6th August 2010 - 17:31


well, that's the worry. if the patent gets ratified it's possible we'd see apple bringing a lawsuit against HTC for infringement.

wonder how they hooked up the ANT+ stuff with an android phone? i'd like to do that...

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7830 posts]
6th August 2010 - 17:51

1 Like

Add it to the list.

posted by handlebarcam [545 posts]
6th August 2010 - 19:02

1 Like

they have also patented a pedometer for our rambling friends called the iplod.

ok, my coat is on and I'm out the door.

It's not just about the size of your cog.

TRs Blurb n Blog's picture

posted by TRs Blurb n Blog [270 posts]
6th August 2010 - 19:33

1 Like

Apple won't be able to make a patent stick against a firm with pre-existing technology offering the same features. I remember when the Californians who held the patent for the windsurfer lost their patent claims against a UK firm run by guys who had developed the first windsurfer at least 10 years previously (in the 50s). The British firm was the only manufacturer that didn't have to pay patent rights to the US patent holder as it could be proven the Brits had the idea first and had developed working versions. In other words, Apple's patents will be worthless, all the more so in China where firms copy products with abandon and then sell them cheaply.


posted by OldRidgeback [2553 posts]
7th August 2010 - 20:49

1 Like

If we bought it, would we get a free bumper to make it work?


Apple can kiss my...Garmin!

I like my bike but it needs a hidden 25cc motor Smile

Fish_n_Chips's picture

posted by Fish_n_Chips [380 posts]
9th August 2010 - 18:59

1 Like

And they can kiss my Motorola too - Android + Endomondo kicks their ***!

Anyone else have a problem with Apple's wheelbuilding? Radial spokes, unsymmetrically placed?

PJ McNally's picture

posted by PJ McNally [600 posts]
25th October 2010 - 14:12