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Singapore has successfully stick a foot into the realm of technology in the cycling industry. Singaporean Eu-wen Ding and his partner, Jeff Chen, have designed and created a smart bicycle helmet that proudly took a spot in the Transport Category of the 2016 Beazley Designs of the Year. The prestigious award is held annually and organised by The Design Museum in London. Every winner will receive a trophy and his or her product will be exhibited in the museum until 19 February.
The winning factor of the smart helmet lies with the straps of LED lights on the front, rear and sides of the headpiece. Whenever a cyclist brakes, the rear LED lights will be turned on to alert other motorists. When he or she presses a button on the wireless remote device that is mounted on the handlebar to signal a turn, the LED indicator lights on the corresponding side of the smart helmet will light up.
The journey of coming up with the smart helmet has been a fulfilling but tumultuous one. The product of what we have seen today is the fruition of three years of crowdfunding. Through Kickstarter, the 31-year-old entrepreneur and his partner managed to raise about S$1.3 million to engage a manufacturer to produce the helmets on a production scale. So far, about 14,000 units have been shipped to the United States, Europe and the Asia-Pacific.
The idea of the smart helmet was first conceived when Eu-wen was studying at Harvard University. Having experienced a few near-accidents whilst on his bicycle, Eu-wen decided to design a headgear that gives visibility to other road users.
A year after meeting Jeff, who was also a student at Harvard, in 2013, Eu-wen made the decision to stop schooling and co-founded the company Lumos in the United States (US) to work on the helmet. The partnership turned out to be a great pairing, with Eu-wen handling the business and marketing, while Jeff manages the areas on engineering and manufacturing.
The smart helmet, christened Lumos, has a built-in accelerometer that detects braking and activates red brake lights accordingly. Weighing about 440g, it has a rechargeable battery that provides juice for up to six hours. Meeting both US and European safety standards, the smart helmet costs about US$180.
It certainly took a number of trials and errors to arrive at the Lumos of today. Eu-wen recounted that the first prototype was visibly very ugly. He recalled: "One of our friends donated her helmet to us. We basically tore it apart, we dug into it and we put electronics inside. There were wires coming out of it... People were stopping me on the streets and asking what it was."
At present, the company is working on making different sizes of the smart helmet, and there are plans to design a smart helmet specifically for children.
Mr Marcus Fairs, who is the editor-in-chief of design magazine Dezeen and a member of the judging panel, was impressed with the Lumos. He said: "The Transport category is usually occupied with grand schemes for planes, trains and automobiles, but something as simple as a helmet that helps a cyclist to become more visible and safer is just as important." He added: "Transport is not only about city-defining projects that are 20 years in the making; it is about the everyday experience of commuters as well."