Vodafone enters the road safety debate with smart jacket for cyclists

Vodafone is putting pedal to the metal by helping develop a new smart jacket for bicyclists.

Vodafone has thrown its weight behind bike safety by trialling a Dutch-developed smart jacket designed for cyclists on local roads.

The jacket connects to the cyclist’s smartphone via an app, which, once pre-programmed with a desired travel route, communicates directions to the cyclist and surrounding traffic.

Much like the lights on a standard motor vehicle, 300 built-in LED lights embedded into the jacket illuminate to give other road users an indication of where the cyclist is heading.

The tech was first developed through a collaboration between Vodafone Netherlands and technology company Magic Bullet and then rolled out in the European nation (last year, Volvo also got into the cycle safety space with its award-winning Lifepaint).

For now, the technology is only a prototype being trialled by BMX professional Sarah Walker and comedian Jon Bridges.

However, the telco’s communications team says it believes the smart jacket has the potential to move on from prototype to product quite quickly. The team says that early discussions about the next stage have already commenced.  

Vodafone consumer director Matt Williams says this initiative shows the important role technology can play in making the world a better place.

“Technology is changing everything,” Williams says. 

“The potential to connect things for good is limitless, and smart jacket is a great example of what’s possible in a world where everything is connected.”

While there certainly is a for-good element to the campaign, it also provides a practical means by which to showcase the reliability of the Vodafone network. If the safety of a cyclist can be put in the hands of the technology, then surely it’s sufficient for streaming the odd video clip while waiting at a bus stop.

Vodafone’s previous campaign also touched on the reliability of its network through a short video clip showing Red Bull stunt driver Mad Mike Whiddett relying on a stream fed from mobile phones (fixed atop the car) to tablets (fixed onto the windows inside) to navigate the tight turns of a race track in a car.

The latest campaign, also brought to life by FCB, goes a step further, however, by putting the Vodafone brand at the centre of the road safety and traffic debates, currently taking place in mainstream media.

This approach certainly resonates with the talk FCB chief strategist David Thomason recently gave as part of the agency’s School House series. Thomason explained that effective brands respond to societal issues (even those that might be negative) and find a way to participate in the discussions taking place.

He pointed to how iconic brands like Coca-Cola have consistently throughout history found cultural and social causes. From sending Coca-Colas to soldiers during the Second World War to aligning its brand with the peace movement during Vietnam, Coca-Cola has never been afraid to enter tough discussions.

And while bike safety certainly isn’t as testy a subject as war, it does still present an opportunity for Vodafone to participate in a subject Kiwis care about.    

This story originally appeared at StopPress.