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KiwiNet and Massey researcher team up to design safer e-bikes

Top image: Massey University researcher Dr. Matthew Miller.

Massey University researcher Dr. Matthew Miller has received a $25,000 boost to develop e-bike feedback sensors that improve braking control and rider safety. Miller, a former elite mountain biker and lecturer at Massey University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Nutrition, received the award from the KiwiNet Emerging Innovator Programme, which helps early career scientists develop clever new ideas to take to market.

“As the cycling community becomes more connected to technology the demands for feedback systems are increasing,” he says. “E-bikes have the ability to travel very quickly and often have a less-experienced user. Manufacturers are looking for innovations which improve safety.”

Dr. James Hutchinson, CEO of KiwiNet, says: “While the e-bike market is evolving quickly braking technology hasn’t progressed at the same rate as other areas. Currently e-bikes and mountain bikes largely use the same brakes, but the industry is moving towards integration of electronics and e-bike specific brakes. Matthew’s sensor technology could be incorporated into new braking technology to both improve control and safety and collect valuable feedback data to improve efficiency.”

Through the KiwiNet Emerging Innovator programme, Miller has already met with over a dozen big players within the cycling industry to determine the best applications for his intellectual property (IP) for the fast-growing e-bike market. And how fast are we talking in terms of the growth of the market? Try $24.3 billion in revenue by 2025, at least according to some analysts.

Hutchinson says: “The programme has allowed Matthew to be immersed in the world of commercialisation to allow him to develop a solid platform of skills, experience and contacts that will enable him to progress his proof-of-concept e-bike brake sensor towards an investor-ready stage.”

Check out this podcast with Manta5’s Guy Howard-Willis on riding your bike on water:

Miller started the e-bike project based on earlier research that demonstrated the link between changing braking patterns and improved performance. Together with Dr. Philip W Fink, he has already developed a brake power meter (BPM) for mountain bikes, which automatically measures braking power and time spent braking while you ride – which is claimed to be a world-first innovation.

“Riders want to gather performance and skills data, rather than just fitness data previously available, so the BPM is the next logical step – as it measures the braking power of a bicycle and transmits the data to a mobile device with performance analysis software”, he says. 

Miller is also receiving support from Massey Ventures, a fully owned subsidiary of Massey University, to protect the IP and to license the technology to target e-bike manufacturers.

Mark Cleaver, CEO of Massey Ventures Ltd, says: “We see opportunities to both integrate the sensors into current market technology to improve feedback and safety, as well as, offer an alternative to existing speed sensors.”

The KiwiNet Emerging Innovator Programme, open to early career researchers based at universities and Crown Research Institutes across New Zealand, is designed to boost research with a commercial application at a critical time. It also enables researchers to partner with a business and refine their project for market. Programme recipients receive legal advice from KiwiNet corporate partner MinterEllisonRuddWatts, and IP advice from Baldwins, as well as $25,000 in cash from donations from the Norman F. B. Barry Foundation.

John Smith, chair of the Norman F. B. Barry Foundation, says: “We’re very pleased to support this early phase in Dr. Miller’s commercialisation journey though the Emerging Innovator Programme. One of our goals at the Foundation is to invest in areas that will have a long-term impact for the benefit of New Zealand, so we’re very pleased to support him and other KiwiNet Emerging Innovators.”

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