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The turn signals, reverse lights and brakes lights on automobiles make our roadways a safer place, but unfortunately, those same safety indicators have not been broadly adopted by cyclists.
Born out of a Kickstarter campaign, a line of ‘smart’ bike helmets from a company called Lumos could make light-based signaling for cyclists a more common sight on our roads.
The helmet design that came out of the campaign was called Kickstart and central to the concept is an integrated accelerometer that can sense when a rider is slowing down or stopping. If the accelerometer detects deceleration, it triggers a red brake light on the back of the helmet to show motorists and others nearby. Riders can also signal a turn in either direction by using a remote control that attaches to the bike's handlebars. When a rider is cruising or accelerating, the helmet can either shine a steady light or flash a distinctive pattern intended to increase visibility. With fully sealed electronics, Lumos helmets can be worn in any weather. A Lite version of the helmet features LED lighting, but not the turn signals or remote.
The Lumos helmet was made with safety, comfort and fashion in mind. According to the company website, the helmets line has been internationally certified to meet impact safety standards. Its 22 vents and sweat-wicking interior keep wearers cool. Buyers can upgrade their helmet with the Multi-Impact Protection System (MIPS). This system supplies added protection for angled and rotational impacts, which are scientifically recognized to increase the chance of brain injury. Certified MIPS helmets can tolerate impact speeds up to 6.2 meters per second.
Lumos also offers a companion app that allows users to customize flashing LED patterns, check battery life and document physical activity. The app can sync with both Strava and Apple Health. Apple Watch connects to a Lumos helmet to enable gesture-based controls. According to Lumos, the Kickstart model can fully charge in two hours and power-saving modes can sustain battery life throughout a cycle marathon.
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While the company was not the first to develop a bike helmet concept with illuminated turn signals, it was likely the first to take the idea to a premium level, including "smart features" and a fashion form made from high-quality materials.
As a Kickstarter project, the Lumos helmet concept raised more than $800,000. Perhaps more importantly, the campaign captured a lot of interest that grew into a committed fanbase. The helmet even made the cover of Time Magazine's Best Inventions of 2018 and Oprah Winfrey’s Favorite Things of 2018 lists. The Kickstart helmet became the first bike helmet available for purchase at the Apple store that same year.
How is the Helmet Constructed?
When Lumos first launched, Electronics had to be constructed into the helmet and the company's negligible supply chain translated into a relatively high cost.
While the original Lumos model had independent taillight and turn indicators, the newer helmet has a taillight that has been incorporated into the turn indicators. The Ultra model is also lighter. The original Kickstart helmet weighed 490 g, while Ultra is around 370 grams. Replacing a cumbersome lithium polymer battery with an 1100 mAh rechargeable pack, Ultra boasts a power supply that is 50% larger. This bigger power supply is partly used for more brilliant lighting and also allows for as many as 10 hours of battery life.
The basic principles of the Ultra model are the same as previous iterations. However, the newer model is more aerodynamic than earlier versions. Each contour has been enhanced for aesthetics and performance using in-molding, a sophisticated manufacturing method that combines the helmet's outer shell and interior foam liner. The Ultra helmet is also tougher and more able to withstand the elements. Made to meet the IPX6 waterproofing standards, the Ultra helmet can also be upgraded to the safer MIPS package.
With all of the electronics, weatherproofing, and safety padding, breathability is a concern on any Lumos helmet, and the new Ultra addressing this with three exhaust vents in the rear, which help to keep a wearer cool by allowing hot air to escape. Consumers can also add on a visor attachment that helps shield the eyes and face.
Resources and Further Reading
Lumos. Ride the brightest with a Lumos Helmet. [Online] Available at: https://lumoshelmet.co/products/lumos-Kickstart?utm_source=Website-US&utm_medium=StickyBar&utm_campaign=Text
Feinstein, L., Lumos's Smart Helmets Are Saving Lives and Illuminating City Streets. Kickstarter Design & Tech (Core77). [Online] Available at: https://www.core77.com/posts/100364/Lumoss-Smart-Helmets-Are-Saving-Lives-and-Illuminating-City-Streets
Sensiba, J. The Lumos Ultra Bike Helmet: Safety More People Can Afford. CleanTechnica.[Online] Available at: https://cleantechnica.com/2020/09/15/the-lumos-ultra-bike-helmet-safety-more-people-can-afford/