It's easy to assume that most crowdfunding websites ideas are startups that are new to the game, but this isn't always true.
In the case of Brim Brothers, the Ireland-based company behind the Zone DPMX cycling power meter that raised over €180,000, this has been a labour for love for some time. "It started off eight years ago," CEO Barry Redmond, told us.
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Redmond, an engineer and cycling enthusiast explained, how he came up with the idea of the wearable device that clips onto cycling shoes and is packed with sensors to measure power (watts) and cadence (rpm) from under your shoe as motion sensors on top of you shoe track your distance. It's a big deal, because as most cyclists will know, installing a power meter onto your bike is an expensive business. The ANT+ compatible setup puts the tech on the rider instead of the bike making it easier to track your riding performance.
"It was in 2008 when myself and another member of the cycling club that I'm in, were on a Sunday ride," Redmond said. "We started to talk about power meters. I think someone in the team had one on. We wanted to use power meters, but none of the ones we could see really made much sense to us and as engineers we thought maybe we could do a better job. What we wanted is for it to not be stuck on the bike because most cyclists have three our four bikes."
Naturally, Redmond thought the solution was already out there but that wasn't the case. "We set out thinking there must be some technology out there that can help us do this and we discovered there actually wasn't. We had to develop some of the sensors used in our product ourselves," he said.
Unsurprisingly, building those sensors from scratch provided the most challenging aspect of building the DPMX power meter and Redmond explains why it's been a long time in the works. "Essentially we have a force sensor that goes underneath your cycling shoe," Redmond said.
"What we we are trying to do is to create a scientific grade instrument that you can walk on and dunk in pools of water and it will fit onto any shoe and it will still work. That was a huge challenge. We went up a number of blind alleys. Developing that has been the hardest part of building the product."
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Building other aspects of the product have been easier to implement including the decision to make the setup ANT+ compatible. "Almost 100% of power meter use this connectivity," says Redmond. "We don't have to create a bike computer because this will fit right into that ecosystem. Bike computers from Garmin and other companies can pick up our system no problem."
And testing has been a huge part of the process as Redmond and his team push to meet the May and July 2016 shipping dates.
"The product is in constant use by a number of testers," he said. "Every time we adjust something or change something, it's changed for them. It's in constant testing in all types of weather. As you can imagine in Ireland, it's mostly damp and cold. We've had a number of testers around the world testing it as well."
So the decision was to turn to crowdfunding, where Brim Brothers has appeared on both Kickstarter and Indiegogo. It wasn't always the plan to take this route however.
"We considered for a long time whether we should do that or not," Redmond said. "But then we got to a point where we needed a significant amount of funds to get us over the line and into production. We spent a lot ourselves but we needed funding, just working capital to get this over the line and into production."
Redmond talked about the importance of building a community around the DPMX, and explained that this happened way before crowdfunding started:
"We ran a pre-order list on our website," he said. "There was no deposit taken or hard commitment just an expression of interest. We had accumulated a community around the product.
"Some of them were extremely loyal, extremely committed and extremely patient. When it came to opening the Kickstarter campaign, we gave the community, the ones that we had on our pre-order list the first opportunity to be part of it. Most of our backers from Kickstarter came from that list. The loyal patient community we had built up ourselves."
He also believes that this is only just the beginning of what wearable cycling tech is capable of and feels there's companies already doing amazing things.
"The number of different kinds of wearable sensors that could provide interesting information for cyclists is growing," Redmond tells us. "There are biological sensors that are being introduced that can monitor various aspects of muscle performance, blood and lactate. We can measure the heck out of the bike. It's now moving to the rider."
"Normally a cyclist needs to go to a lab to do VO2 tests and lactate threshold tests to figure out their weaknesses and strengths. I think more and more this is going to be done in real time while the rider is on the bike."
The immediate goal for Zone DPMX wearable power meter is to deliver the device to the backers but Redmond already has ideas of where the tech could go next.
"Our device records power and cadence from your feet. In the future, we may consider expanding that," he says. "Inside the black box on your shoe, we have to measure and calculate a number of data values to come up with a value for power. Some of which would be extremely interesting to a user.
"The force distribution across the pedal and how it changes as you cycle. Things like the exact angle of the pedal, the exact crank. There are many different things. There's a lot of different information that we think could be useful."
Redmond said that there are other ideas on how the technology can be used away from cycling, but he's not ready to talk about those just yet. The first product will focus on offering the power and cadence plus a couple of extra things. The good news for hardcore cyclists is that there could be a whole lot more to look forward to from this crowdfunding success story.
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