Smartphones Sync Social Biking System

Citizens of New York will have a new mode of transportation this fall that combines commuting, smartphones, social media and—you’ll never guess—bicycling.

The Social Bicycle System, or SoBi, allows users to pinpoint individual bicycles, which will be distributed throughout the city, using the GPS on their Androids or Iphones; then, they can use their member pin, which is assigned after they sign up and pay a membership fee, to unlock the bicycles.

SoBi is the first communal bike system that is tracked, located and unlocked using wireless service, and the creators, amazingly, said they did if for less than half the costs of similar communal bike programs.

The model is based on three parts: the social cyclist, who creates an account; a central server, that stores all bicycler information and tracks all bicycles; and a social bicycle, which is unlocked and used for—well, transportation.

Once a social cycler has created an account they can immediately begin searching for bicycles on their GPS and unlocking bicycles using their codes.

The on-bike keypad even has a hold function that will lock the bike for ten minutes to keep other social bikers from swiping your bike, though it only lasts for 10 minutes. However, social bikers can text SoBi staffers to have them deliver bikes when needed.

Using their SoBi profiles, riders can track their rides, how many calories they have burned, and even view maps of their travel habits, showing which routes they take most frequently.

And, for the SoBi staffers, the central server keeps all inventory stats, status alerts and bike density data, which allows them to see which areas need the most bicycles for relocation.

The SoBi team is using the fall release in New York to test the prototype, but eventually hopes to expand to other cities, college campuses, and even corporate campuses worldwide.

Here’s the confusing part: each SoBi has to be returned to a docking port called a hub by 9 PM every night. After 9 PM the user who last accessed an out-of-hub bicycle will be charged $2. So, if Johnny Biker uses a Bike at 2 in the afternoon and doesn’t return it to port, and it doesn’t get returned by another social biker, then Johnny Biker is charged $2.

Now that bike is shown as delinquent on the map of available bicycles, and it will be marked by a $2 bounty. If another user finds the delinquent bike and returns it, $2 will be credited to their account. A pretty neat addition if you think about it, because, if Johnny Biker finds a delinquent bike and turns it in sometime later, he gets the credit back.

Also, bikers who want get credit toward their membership fees can go around collecting stray SoBis to build it up, possibly even getting gift certificates from program sponsors.

To view the SoBi website click here.