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Would you trust your safety to wireless signals?

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Will wireless brakes be the future of safety?

Wireless technology is now commonplace in both business and domestic settings. However, the potential of this technology has been developed further than to simply offer services such as Internet connections -- from wireless charging for vehicles to applications in the health industry.

Now, it seems rather than simply being used experimentally on large transport models such as trains and planes, the bicycle is now of interest.

A team of researchers at Saarland University, Germany, are developing a prototype bicycle model that engages wireless technology as a braking system. Regulating entire transport networks may be something we can look forward to in the future, but for now, the technology is being implemented on one of the more low-tech transport methods -- the humble bike.

The scientists are currently developing a system based on wireless transmissions and mathematical equations that can calculate the correct brake functions required and compensate accordingly.

The size of a cigarette packet, the wireless bicycle brake removes the need for a traditional brake cable and lever. Instead, the cyclist squeezes the right handle whenever they need to brake. A wireless pressure sensor registers the movement -- including how much force is used when gripping the handle -- which then sends signals to a receiver placed on the bike's fork. This signal, in turn, is then transmitted to an actuator that operates the disk brake.

The harder you squeeze the handle, the more force is transmitted to stop the bike in its tracks.

The electrical energy is supplied by a battery, which is also attached to the bicycle fork. In order to enhance reliability levels, additional senders are also attached to the bicycle -- and the same signal is repeatedly sent dependent on the motions of the bike and cyclist.

The braking system is currently only suitable for cruiser models, and can brake within 250 msec. This means that at average speed of 30km an hour, the cyclist would need to react and press the rubber handle at least two meters before reaching the cause for concern.

"Wireless networks are never a fail-safe method. That's a fact that's based on a technological background," explained Professor Holger Hermanns, a member of the scientific team behind he braking system. However, by using algorithms that are generally reserved for control systems in aircraft or chemical factories, the team has reported that their prototype brakes have 99.9999999999997% reliability.

"This implies that out of a trillion braking attempts, we have three failures," Hermanns said. "That is not perfect, but acceptable."

Whereas the team believe similar experiments being performed on train and airplanes may be moving too quickly and are too sophisticated, by working with a low-tech mode of transport they view it as a 'playground' to perfect the safety system -- before potentially moving on to bigger projects.

(Source: M2CI)

Image credit: Henadz /Freshphoto

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Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure