“A bike is a Dane’s best friend” boasts the Danish Ministry of Foreign affairs, and the Danes seem to agree. Nine out of ten residents own a bike, and the average Dane rides some 1.6 kilometers a day. Beyond these impressive figures, Denmark is home to a network of 45 “cycle superhighways” that crisscross the nation. These “highways” extend cycling’s appeal beyond exercise and leisure and into the realm of practicality, with biking accounting for a quarter of trips less than 5 kilometers.
The relatively mild climate and level terrain of this coastal nation likely plays into this as well, but cyclists in Denmark face a challenge unique to this latitude: darkness. In the depths of winter, there are a mere 7 or so hours of daylight, making the prospect of commuting by bike a difficult one. While adults can seek out other methods of transit, school-aged children don’t have quite as many options.
Adding fun and safety to the bike ride to school
The municipality of Egedal, however, sought to make the idea of biking year-round not just feasible for its children, but enjoyable as well. As a result, this suburb of Copenhagen brought in a team from a research and development company called Lolle & Nielsen to workshop ideas that would encourage children to bike to and from school year round.
Together with kids from the school, they dreamed up a zoo of massive, steel, and acrylic animals. These giraffes, tigers and more would be arranged along a roughly 2 kilometer shortcut and would light up when kids rode their bikes past them. Termed the “superZOOkelsti,” which loosely translates to ZOOperpath, this IoT installation would provide both illumination and a bit of fun to a dreary commute.
Connecting the creatures with a Particle Photon
When it came to actually bringing the ZOOperpath to life, Lolle & Nielsen brought in Niels Jerichau Clausen, a technology consultant, to assist with the technical side of the project. Niels had encountered Particle earlier in his career and immediately brought in Particle Photons to control the responses of the animals.
“We want something to turn on when we tell it to turn on and we need to be able to reprogram it without going out there because it’s far away from where we work,” says Niels on why he chose the Photon for the project.
Inside the animals, the Photons are linked with RFID readers that pick up on tags attached to the helmets of the bikers as the rode past. Additionally, these tags can be programmed using an app set up by Niels to customized the light show displayed by the animals, adding to the excitement of the ZOOperpath.
Kid tested an parent approved
Since its roll out, the ZOOperpath has been a hit. “We are very happy with the final product. It looks great and is very user friendly,” says Sune Schøning, the Smart City Coordinator for Egedal. “We have experienced, that it is not only the kids who are interested, but the general activity has increased in the area – even outside the school commuting periods. We have also seen the local farmer driving around with RFID tags on his tractors.”
With many more kilometers of bike paths stretching out across Denmark, there are many more opportunities to come up with “ZOOper” solutions to getting kids – and the community in general – out and about, even when the sun refuses to play along.
Riding into a connected future with IoT
As the world gradually comes to embrace cycling as an increasingly valid alternative to commuting by car, IoT technology is also finding itself playing a part in this rise of healthy travel. From bike share data being tracked and analyzed in China to better understand commuting habits and inform urban planning to providing navigation assistance, lighting, and more, cycling and IoT technology seem linked.