When wearable tech is not the answer.

I love wearable technology.  Since I started learning about it a few months ago I am constantly amazed and delighted by how engineers,designers and artists are integrating technology into the clothes we wear and designing new devices designed to be worn. A lot of these can help to overcome disabilities and give people abilities that wouldn't be possible without technology.

I'm also a Cyclist. On and off i've been using a bike to ride to work since I was at University. Cycling in  London has been in the news a lot recently and not for good reasons. Sadly 6 cyclists have been killed in the recently.

In a previous job I have also spent time driving around London so have seen things from both sides.

So you would probably think that if I was to come across a wearable technology device that had the potential to make cycling safer I would be in favour of it.

Well this article really annoyed me. Initially because the product isn't powered by LEDs.  It uses LEDs but it isn't powered by them.  Once I'd got over the Semantically incorrect headline I read more about the device. The SEIL bag is designed to send signals to other road users of the intentions of the cyclist.

The intention of the device is honourable.  There is nothing wrong with trying to show drivers what you intend to do by displaying an arrow on your rucksack but that isn't why cyclists are being killed.

Cyclists are being killed for lots of reasons.

1) Cyclists.  A lot of cyclists on London's roads are very sensible.  They ride well, look around them, have lights and bright clothes on.  But there are stupid cyclists.  I've seen people riding around hyde park corner not just talking on their phone but reading the screen as well.

2) Drivers.  There are drivers who show utter contempt for cyclists, not giving them room on the roads, parking in bike lanes, driving into the areas at traffic lights that are reserved for cyclists.  But I suspect that the majority of drivers have simply never ridden a bike in a busy urban environment so don't know what challenges cyclists have on the roads.

3) Road design and vehicle design.  There are bad junctions that put cyclists into dangerous situations and there are problems with HGVs that mean drivers can't always see cyclists.  Something that a lot  cyclists probably don't understand.

I'm not convinced that a Rucksack that shows an arrow that you are turning left is the answer.   If a Cyclist can't be seen or is being ignored by a driver showing an arrow won't make any difference.

There is also the problem of the actual interface.  I understand when a vehicle has a flashing orange light on its left hand side that is the driver displaying the intent to turn left.  A arrow pointing left is not familiar and the meaning of it most likely wouldn't be understood until a cyclist actually made the turn.

The technology of the SEIL bag is very similar to that of the FOS display I looked at a few months ago.  The SEIL shows a potential application for the technology that was developed for  FOS.

The SEIL bag didn't make its Kickstarter goal and i'm not sad about that.  There may be a good application of the FOS technology and there may be a wearable technology product that can help cyclists and other road users stay safe but this isn't it.








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