Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends
How new technologies are modifying our way of life

mardi 6 juillet 2004

If you live in West London, more precisely in the Hammersmith and Fulham borough, you can use your mobile phone to unlock and rent a bicycle. In "Phones power bike rental scheme," BBC News Online writes that users receive a PIN via SMS when they want to rent a bicycle and a second one to return it. They also receive the price of the trip via SMS and are charged monthly on their credit cards. Rates are fairly low, from 30p for less than 15 minutes, up to £8 for one to eight hours. The company behind this new scheme, OYBike, has already 28 docking stations near metro stations or car parks, and expects to extend this service to other areas of London starting this month.

OYBike special lock OYBike bicycle Here are two small pictures of the special lock and bicycles (Credit: OYBike).

Here is how the system works according to BBC News Online.

Anyone wanting to use an Oybike signs up and pays a £10 annual fee, then uses their mobile phone to unlock a bike for as long as they need.
The phone receives a pin number to unlock the bike at the start of a journey and a second one to lock it at the end and to determine how much the rider is charged.
Hire prices start at 30p for 15 minutes and rise to £8 for up to eight hours of time on an Oybike.

And your clothes will not get dirty when using these bicycles.

Suit wearers will be happy to know that the Oybikes do not use chains, so there's little chance of getting oil on your clothes.

OYBike claims that you'll save time and money by using this system. Here is an example.

Bob lives in Queensway and works in Brook Green. He would normally get the Central line tube to Shepherds Bush, and then either get a bus or walk through Shepherds Bush Green, and along the Shepherds Bush Road for the remainder of his journey. OYBike could make his journey easier. Instead of having to wait for a bus, or take the time to walk he could rent an OYBike from outside of Shepherds Bush Central line tube station and cycle the 5 minutes to the office, leaving the OYBike at an empty docking station just outside the office in Brook Green.

Here is the comparison betwween the bus and the bicycle rides.

Cost of Journey via Bus: £0.70
Cost of journey via OYBike: £0.30 (as journey time is between 0 and 15 minutes)
Estimated time of journey via OYBike: 5 minutes
Estimated time of journey via bus: 20 minutes (including waiting time)

This method of using a phone to reserve a bicycle was patented in August 2002. For more information, you can use the Online European Patent Register search engine. You just have to enter the application number "02250767.7" without quotes.

For a quicker access, here is a direct link to the abstract of the patent, "Controlled access systems." If you are very curious, just hit the "Drawing" button. It's very refreshing to see that such a simple sketch can be used to deposit a patent in Europe.

Sources: Mark Ward, BBC News Online, July 5, 2004; OYBike website; Online European Patent Register website

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