Regeo

A small GPS tracker for children's bicycles.

June 2013

Regeo is the result of the final project for my Industrial Design Engineering BSc degree. The product is a small GPS-tracker for children’s bikes, enabling their parents to keep track when young children arrive at (or leave) a certain location. Children—on the other hand—are challenged to explore their living areas through an online service to discover streets and routes they didn’t know before. This stimulates the development of their mental map and traffic experience.

Problem definition

The goal of my bachelor final project was to create a physical product for a company that specializes in bicycle lights. Considering the fact that innovation in the bicycle light-sector is almost inherent to innovation in the automobile lighting industry, I challenged myself to take a new direction—a clean sleeve— for the company to break free from the bicycle light sector.

Children are the most vulnerable road users, especially on bicycles. They are also new road users and they should carefully be adopted into daily traffic. In The Netherlands, children start cycling to and from school without parental supervision around the age of 8 or 9. When school’s out, many also cycle to sports or pastime activities, such as football or music lessons.

During their daily trip, children may run into different types of problems. To design a solution to an actual problem, I clustered these problems to and started generating ideas in the form of principle solutions.

Principle solutions designed for problems concerning the navigation of children.

Principle solutions designed for problems concerning the navigation of children.

Something that has my particular interest is how parents deal with their children cycling by themselves (or with friends) from the age of 8. When you look at traffic accidents for cycling children in The Netherlands, almost 11.000 children between the ages of 8 and 14 require first aid every year. There’s a particular noticable spike betwee the ages of 12 and 14, which is the result of children going to high school and cycling new routes that they don’t know that well yet.

I interviewed parents with children between the age of 8 and 14 and gathered some interesting insights:

  • Parents are troubled because they don’t always know if their children arrived safely at school
  • Parents let their children cycle the same routes to school on purpose

So the problem with children cycling to school is actually twosided: Parents don’t know if their children arrived at their schools safely and have their children cycle the same route every day. Children get accomodated to the route they’re cycling and start to underestimate traffic situations. Also, children may know their routes very well, but they tend to not know the area surrounding those routes; areas that contain different traffic situations. The product I will design should accomodate those problems; the goals of my product are to:

  1. Inform parents if their children arrived safely at their destination
  2. Stimulate children to discover the world around their routes, so that they get in touch with new traffic sitations to help train their insight in traffic situations.

Conceptualisation

Parents

A physical product can be attached to the bicycle and keeps track of where the child currently is. Parents can use multiple platforms to add different locations. When children enter or leave a certain location, their parents get notified of their arrival or departure. Only in case of emergency, a parent should be able to see the actual (on the move) location of their child. To help identify emergencies, the product can contain sensors to detect traffic accidents.

Children

A child can use the collected data to see what routes they usually cycle and should be challenged by the software to pick a new route to their destination. Considering the fact that children should focus on the traffic, this should take place when they’re safely at home; the system does not help the child navigate on the go. Through a web or tablet interface, children can see what parts of their environment they have discovered and where they haven’t cycled yet in order to get to know their and their routes’ surroundings.

regeo-concept-sketch

A product service system

A physical product deals with different constraints in which it can operate. In this day and age, the internet removes many of these constraints as people are always connected through different kinds of devices. The true synergy emerges when you combine a physical product with a software-based service. The company I’m designing this product for is in a matured market where competition is more focused on price points than on quality of their products. Their innovation stems from the automobile industry or the wishes of bicycle manufacturers. To break away from this matured market, product service systems can fulfill the needs of the users (parents ánd children) in a more holistic way; technology removes those boundaries. The concept—as described above—will communicate through the internet to accomplish this.

Brand

A completely new product needs to be branded properly. In order to stay in line with the current product line up, the name of this product should end with the letter ‘o’. After a small brainstorm I settled on ‘Regeo’, derived from the Dutch word ‘regio’ (mening region) and the English prefix geo, which stands for earth and in this case for location. The logo contains a subtle reference to the iconography of a GPS system.

regeo-logo

Product Design

Shaping the exterior

The product itself can be designed as a simple box, as it will only contain certain electronics. In order to stay in line with the design of the company I’m developing this product for, I explored possible designs by taking elements from their current product lineup, as can be seen in the image below.

regeo-design-exploration2

regeo-frame-angle

When you mount a product to a bicycle, you have to make sure that it cannot be stolen and that it integrates with the form and shape of every bicycle. A good place to mount the product is underneath the saddle, directly on the frame. The product should be streamlined with the slanted design of every bicycle frame. You can see thepart of the frame that goes upto the saddle and the part of the frame that connects to the rear-wheel of the bike in the image. If you attach the product with a ring, the product should be able to rotate slightly, to match the angle of the frame. A variable rotation up to 25° degrees makes sure that the product can be mounted perfectly on every single bicycle.

However, to make the product more characteristic, a slight slant on top of the product will definitely help. The slant will also help the user to see possible indication-lights on the rear of the product. A rubber jacket will protect the product from possible fall-damage and because it’s colored differently, will create the illustion that the product is kinked.

regeo-sketch

The product will be made from weather-proof plastics with a nice contrast in color and structure, as rendered below.

regeo-rendered

Electronics

To have Regeo functioning according to specification, we need several electronic parts. By far the largest electronic part is the battery, which is why the exact design specifications are based on the size and capacity of the battery. The battery of choice is a 1590 mAh Panasonic of 44 x 62 x 5 mm. In that case, the exact size of the Regeo enclosure will be 46-64 mm wide and 80 mm long, with a wall thickness of 2 mm, as can be seen in the image below.

regeo-dimensions3

The most important electronics that need to be mounted on the PCB are:

  • Microprocessor
  • Flash storage
  • GPS module
  • Accelerometer (including gyroscope)
  • GSM modem and M2M sim card for internet connectivity
  • Micro USB plug for charging and initial setup

With these components the battery of the Regeo lasts a full mid-week, which allows for charging on weekends, when children are free from school.

A full exploded view of Regeo, showing all components.

A full exploded view of Regeo, revealing all components.

Service Design

Mobile application for parents

The mobile application for Regeo was designed to serve the needs of the parents. In the mobile application, parents can add up to 5 locations per child. The system draws a geofence around those locations and notifies the parent when a child enters or leaves a location.regeo-iphone-complete

The homescreen of the app shows the last location that a child checked into. Parents cannot see their offspring on the move. You may go up to two days back in time and see the check-in and check-out times of your children for those days. This function was designed to prevent parental anxienty: you may calculate whether or not a child should have already arrived at a certain location.

As mentioned before, Regeo will contain sensors (an  accelerometer and gyroscope) to detect accidents. As children can fall without serious injury, the system waits a minute to prevent false alarmsafter a collision to see if the child starts moving again which is measured through GPS. If the child doesn’t move, a notification of a possible accident goes out to the parents.

Webapplication for children

Thanks to its technology, Regeo can serve children completely different than their parents. The GPS technology tracks and saves the different routes that children cycle to their different destinations, which include school, friends, sports, music lessons and of course their homes.regeo-webapp-route

After signing in a child can enter new locations and view routes between those locations, or D-routes if you like. You can even add your friends and their location will be automatically added to the map.regeo-webapp-area

One of the coolest features is that the system can show you where you haven’t cycled yet; the territory that has yet to be discovered. By pressing a simple button, you can show your explored territory (as in the videogame ‘Age of Empires’).

When you’ve added friends on Regeo, your friend can leave a Crumble (the gingerbread cookie icon) somewhere on your map where you haven’t cycled yet. You can easily plan a route from A to B via a Crumble and if you cycle that route the next day you can earn points for the Crumble Competition, where you and your friends battle to discover more of your environment. This stimulates children’s mental map and helps children train their experience in traffic by going through different traffic situations every day.regeo-webapp-discovered

My final product was rewarded with a 9 out of 10, concluding my Bachelor’s degree with a very nice grade. After ten weeks of work, I was very happy with how the product turned out, even though the company decided not to go into this direction.