The conventional wisdom is that you shouldn't reinvent the wheel. Leave it to MIT to do just that, and make it worthwhile. MIT's SENSABLE City Lab unvieled their Copenhagen Wheel at COP15 last month to great fanfare. And for good reason. The rear bicycle wheel can turn your ride into an electric hybrid powered by regenerative braking, and with the use of a smartphone, a personal trainer and trip information assistant. 

That's pretty cool by itself, but what has gotten overlooked in all the gadget hoopla is the truly awesome way the wheel aggregates useful data for users and city planners. The wheel has sensors that collect data about your surroundings including carbon monoxide, NOx, noise, ambient temperature, and relative humidity. If you choose to share this data, then you get information services based on the data collected by all users and you help your city by contributing to a useful database. 

The aggregate data will enable city planners to cross analyze different types of environmental data, gain more insight into the impact of transportation patterns on the city, and study dynamic phenomena like urban heat islands. This crowdsourced information will help city officials better allocate resources,develop environmental and transportation policy, and respond to environmental conditions in real time. Now that's a sensable wheel.

The shareable aspect of the wheel is really cool, but I also think it's savvy of MIT to lead with the wheel's personal benefits. This will speed adoption and lead to faster realization of the collective benefits. Given the wheel comes from the SENSABLE City Lab, the personal benefits may intially have been a design decision aimed at driving adoption of an urban data collecting device. 

Any other ideas about how the data collected by riders could be used to improve the urban environment? 

Neal Gorenflo


Neal Gorenflo | |

Neal Gorenflo is the co-founder and board president of Shareable, an award-winning nonprofit news, action network, and consultancy for the sharing transformation. An epiphany in 2004 inspired Neal to

Things I share: Time with friends and family, stories, laughs, books, tools, ideas, nature, resources, passions, my network.