World first: bike route satnav with vibration & voice

13/11/2010 iPhone App

The Bike Hub iPhone app gets a major update next week. Beta testing has all been positive so far. The current app is a journey planner and bike shop finder. The update to the app adds to these functions, introducing the world’s first bicycle route specific satnav functionality.

Cyclists could navigate with the TomTom app or any of the other multiple satnav apps available for the iPhone, but none of these can guide users via bike shortcuts and cycle paths, because none of these satnav apps use the bike-specific routing engine from Cyclestreets.

Bike Hub 2.0 has a 3D satnav function, with either a male or female voice to announce directions. Prior to turns, and when right upon them, the iPhone also vibrates, a feature not on any other satnav app or standalone satnav.

A user can attach an iPhone to handlebars and use the app with full-on 3D map mode with all the usual satnav info, or the iPhone can be hidden away in a pocket with voice guidance and vibration alerts only. In busy traffic, the voice is just about audible inside a pocket but use of one ear-bud would solve this problem. Of course, the app was created to steer cyclists away from busy traffic. When on quiet cycle paths, the voice and vibration alerts work brilliantly from within a pocket.

Bike Hub 2.0 also has other improvements such as adding ‘via’ waypoints for A to B to C route finding. There’s also now the option to add a ‘home’ location. And the route line is now opaque so street names are visible. Talking about street names, the voices on the updated app say these out loud so you know exactly where you are when you’re riding along.

The current version of the Bike Hub app – which is free, thanks to the Bike Hub levy – is available now on the iTunes app store. The update – also free – will be submitted to Apple on Monday and, touch wood, will be available to all four or five days later.

An Android version of the app will be introduced in December. This will be a journey planner only to begin with and will get the satnav functionality in January. Both apps will feature the bike shop locator function, listing 2500 bike shops across the UK.

Here’s how the app routes users on roads, and bike paths:

Armstrong Bridge

This is Armstrong Bridge in Newcastle upon Tyne. It’s a bike and pedestrian route and runs above and parallel to the busy four-lane Coast Road. Below are screen shots from the app in the same location.

Journey planner

Here’s the journey planning screen of the Bike Hub app, with the current location marked by the Bike Hub logo. This moves as you pedal along. Armstrong Bridge isn’t marked as such on OpenStreetMaps (an easy fix) so the satnav app can’t use the ‘street name’ for this stretch of the route.

Satnav option

And this is the 3D satnav screen in the same location. Cool, hey?

Coxlodge Waggonway

When a cycle route is named on OpenStreetMap (many short cut-throughs aren’t) the Bike Hub app can list it in the information screen and the synthetic voice can say it aloud.