Flashback 2009; my Wife and business partner (Suzanne) and I returned from a 16 year international working odyssey. Based in Abu Dhabi and then Dubai; Suzanne as chief medical scientist with Emirates Airline medical clinic and myself as licensed helicopter engineer supporting offshore oil.
Returning to Perth and purchasing our home in the Perth (WA) wine region of The Swan Valley I quickly took to riding my bicycle through the many vineyards on my ways to work; surrounding yourself with stunning vistas and grapes ‘through the seasons’ on the 50 minute commute was truly inspirational; that is until being on the wrong end of my first ‘hit and run’ accident which left me face down on the side of the road, battered and bruised thinking “if only I could have seen this coming”.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that event was to be the seed of creation and I started tinkering with devices with which could be mounted to a bicycle that would record and better still enable you to view rearwards approaching traffic.
I need to remind myself that that the year was 2009 and the world’s first smartphone had only just been released, and a sobering reminder that we were “not as smart as we think we are” especially compared to today’s technology, at the time in 2009 we were in the primitive stages of a current visual revolution.
Micro cameras, mini CPU’s and tinny HD screens were extremely limited but none the less I fixed crude low resolution camera under the bicycle seat which was wired to a small colour LCD screen mounted on the bicycle handlebars. Success was immediate and I rode safely to work for the rest of our tenure in Perth with I guess one of the only electronic rear view mirrors for bicycles in existence.
Happy Days, mid 2014 we moved to Tropical North Queensland, Cairns whereby the scientist and the engineer continued in chosen careers; with me riding the 50 minute commute along the Captain Cook highway on my journey to and from work; until fate came around in Summer with yet another ‘hit and run’ event; this time leaving me torn to bits by the blackened teeth of the asphalt grinder, bloodied and bleeding I made my way home. (none too happy) as the culprits never stopped and all I remember was the sight of a white van speeding around the corner; my main annoyance was I had not bothered to keep up development of the bicycle seat camera and as such did not have it functioning at the time (complacency had taken its toll) the dangers of cycling remained the same but I had become complacent
From the creaking of my bones I realised that I needed protection and decided to revisit my fledgling creation but this time I wanted to look at it from the point of view where I had become lazy and did not bother to recharge and affix my homemade device to my bike, but it occurred to me that if I moved the camera concept into my bicycle helmet I would then take it with me every ride.
But with all great ideas I guessed it must have already been done; so there started the search, and researched and made many enquiries only to find that this wearable technology was simply not available.
Why it was not available “I have no idea”
And then came the notion “Do It Yourself”
But first comes the prototypes and I set about carving up numerous bicycle helms at the dining room table only to insert new technology micro cameras, switches, resisters and small Lipo batteries into the cavities I carved into the helmets.
Would this concept hold up? Would it work? It did not take long to answer these questions because success was instantaneous, the whole concept was seriously better than I could have ever imagined and height aspect ratio as a recording platform (as compared to a seat mounted camera) was amazing.
Best of all the chosen cameras for my prototype creations were Wi-Fi active to my smartphone (mounted on the handle bars) being able to observe rearwards approaching traffic in HD was simply sensational.
I told myself that this was so good that it must have already been done, so I enlisted help even from my work colleagues and a sustained effort pursued, but no matter how hard we all looked we could not find anything remotely like the innovation concept that I had stumbled on.
February 2015 Cyclevision Pty Ltd was born,
Suzanne and I set about to create the world’s first bicycle helmet with integrated cameras; but no great idea is without its share of ups and downs and the struggle ahead to keep the company afloat and fund it through costly R&D, patent protection, a technical and electrical revolution, structural testing, company trade mark protection plus all walks of professional services and still the entire product build process all lay ahead; like negotiating a series of well laid snares we need to tread our way through the maze if we were to succeed
This was to be the challenge of a lifetime.
You would be right to say I entered this endeavour very naively, I had no idea of the avalanche of bureaucracy and technology that was about to hit me, but I had a few things on my side; faith in me from my wife that I could get the job done, and the belief from a number of small investors who not only believed in the concept but they were also willing to contribute from their own finances with no guarantee of return to help get this innovation over the line.
When people believe in you and are willing to support you with their hard earned funds you need to take notice and place yourself in their shoes; and no matter what lays ahead you have an obligation to make good on your promises. These are no ordinary people these are extraordinary people and we are forever grateful for the sacrifice and commitment they have made to the product
Let’s talk about bicycle helmets.
First invented around 1880 and made of a crushable reed extract called ‘pith’, at the turn of the century pith was replaced with leather lined with wool, early
Motorcycle type ‘bump caps’ and others were worn by cyclists, however in 1970 the Snell Foundation recognised the first bicycle helmet standard and ‘Bell Co. crated the first effective Expanding Polystyrene Foam (EPS) bicycle helmet adhering to this standard. Effectively a ‘bone dome of foam’
The next real evolution was in 1990 by ‘Giro’ who introduced the hard shell cover over EPS foam with familiar looking air vent and thus the modern day helm was born.
Australia adopted the roll out of mandatory helmet usable (state by state) starting form 1992 and essentially up until today's the humble bicycle helmet has stayed the same.
That is until Cyclevision.
Cyclevision is the first real technical innovation to the humble bicycle helmet in 3 decades;
So we have the basics now we needed to get to work;
Firstly I needed a technical product design team; I am an aircraft engineer by trade and I don’t have the necessary skills to draw up on a ‘solid works CAD’ the exacting specifications for this project; luckily we found Form Design, Perth, from Western Australia who came on board with these necessary skills and an appetite to see the project through. (Form Designs are the same talented team that first pend the Cyclic ‘fly6’ so we were in good hands here)
However this was to be a challenge as Form Designs are 5000k to the West of Cairns (our new home base) so all communication was to be via email, phone or Skype (just got to love the challenge)
Next we needed manufacturing on a multi-level scale from product mould fabrication, helmet construction, electrical design and fabrication, assembly and testing plus packaging and dispatch (just to name a few) What's interesting here is that there is no bicycle helmet manufacturing in Australia what so ever, so all the above prerequisites needed to be sourced for overseas.
Secondly we needed to keep our R&D and our ever increasing stockpile of intellectual property (IP) to our self.
Cyclevision is a world’s first product so we needed to secure the services of reputable internationals that won’t go tell the ‘big boys’ of the helmet world about our concept.
To get some perspective there are approximately 30,000,000+ bicycle helmets made annually around the world, from around 400 manufacturers, not one bicycle helmet before today had ever been constructed with integrated front and rear HD cameras with Wi-Fi transmission in the genera that we were pursuing, so early secrecy was essential.
Early concept drawings were initiated and the camera helmet concept process was fully underway; by mid-2015 a series of carefully correlated dance steps ensued, ‘2 forward and one back’; every time we made even the slightest modification to the basic design it had such a ripple effect throughout the build process that every element inside the helmet was impacted and subsequent redesign was necessitated
We soon learned that the problem with designing something from nothing is you have nothing to base your assumptions on, it’s pure ‘hit and miss’
2015 rolled into 2016 but we had stayed true to the course and persisted to the point whereby we had a fully rounded and solid concept sufficient to enlist the services of a Patent Attorney to attend the protection of our IP
Factory sourcing was undertaken and we secured the services of some extremely motivated and professional manufacturing internationals, these are the nicest guys in the world and all keen to bring their unique skills and their factories to the project;
A number of mock-up helmets were produced which led to further redesign, we needed to make it lighter, the electronics better, more powerful and the helmet stronger; and after a lengthy program the first fully functioning bicycle helmet prototypes were manufactured and sent to us in November 2016.
These inspirational helmets we took to the Tropical North Queensland Innovation Awards whereby Cyclevision came away as an award winner
We had a great product and a rigorous testing regime proved that the helmet worked better than you could have ever imagined, the recorded and live vision from both front and rear cameras was extraordinary; but we still believed we could add further value through yet another redesign;
Its attention to detail that leads to product excellence, so constantly challenging ourselves with the pursuit of perfection was the only way would agree to release the product to market.
Complicating this process was the need for the helmet to undergo international destructive testing and electrical compliance certification
We were exhausting our funds quicker than a dogs breakfast, and nearly 2 years without revenue was taking its toll on our resources and we started to believe we would need to look towards Crown funding to see the project to completion; however late 2016 Cyclevision received the best Christmas gift ever with some generous investment through some truly remarkable people and the redesign was initiated (proving there really is a Santa) and we are forever grateful
Early 2017 Cyclevision received further recognition though a Queensland Government Grant to help see the product through to market. What's important here is the attention Cyclevision was beginning to receive from all walks of life and we are simply delighted that we were being supported from such high office A carefully crafted series of targeted modifications ensued and the many technically challenging helmet moulds were manufactured coupled with the integration of next generation cutting edge electronic the helmet morphed into today's extraordinary compilation of sophisticated elegance
Record the moment and enjoy the ride,