Morpher: The World’s first fold flat cycle helmet

morpher-folding-helmet

The Morpher is a new innovation in portable cycling helmet technology. Would a bicycle helmet that you can fold flat persuade you to wear one? Inventor Jeff Woolf is hoping so: after having his life saved by his headgear after a hit and run accident 20 years ago, Jeff has developed a compact Morpher helmet that’s easy to carry around with you. With 9 out of 10 Londoners who hire Boris bikes choosing not to wear a helmet, the new innovation could prove to be a lifesaver.

The Morpher isn’t pocket-sized, but the flat-folding, portable design means it can be easily slipped inside a rucksack or handbag. Whether or not it makes it into production depends on the success of the project’s Indiegogo campaign, which kicks off at the start of November in the search for funding. However, the prototype has already won three innovation awards.

The helmet slips easily into a rucksack or laptop bag.
The helmet slips easily into a rucksack or laptop bag.

Jeffrey Woolf isn’t new to the invention game and has been named British Inventor of the Year twice. He has also been awarded an OBE for his services to innovation. Of the Morpher helmet, he says: “I have been aware of the increasingly large number of cyclists taking to the streets without helmets and, with my experience in inventing, I wanted to see if I could help to reverse this trend.”

“I am delighted to announce the launch of Morpher’s Indiegogo campaign, providing the opportunity for people to be involved in the creation of Morpher and to own one of the first folding helmets in the world. Morpher helmets will fold up small enough to fit into a work bag or typical laptop carrier. With more and more people riding every day, Morpher helmets will help to protect cyclists and save lives around the world.”

Inventor Jeff Woolf is looking to raise funds for production.
Inventor Jeff Woolf is looking to raise funds for production.

As on the similar crowd-funding site Kickstarter, you can commit different levels of cash to the project in return for different levels of reward. For a mere $20,000 you can get an all-expenses paid trip to China to see the helmet in production and get your hands on 25 of the helmets with your own custom-made graphics. Those with less money in their pockets can chip in for a far more reasonable $5.

The Morpher helmet is built from expanded polystyrene (EPS) with nylon hinges that help it to fold up. The headgear weighs in at 250g and has been developed with the cooperation of the British Standards Institution. For more news on the helmet, which is scheduled for a Spring 2014 release, visit the official website at or the @morpherhelmet Twitter account.

Top 5 Car Stereos

Parrot-Asteroid-

It’s a rite of passage for any first-time driver to upgrade their car stereo, and with the proliferation of mp3s, streaming services and smartphones there’s never been a better time to buy a new car stereo to use with your new smart device.

Whilst car stereos haven’t changed all that much over the past 10 years, it’s safe to say the way we consumer music has. With this in mind it’s now really easy to stream music from your phone onto your car’s stereo, and with our top 5 car stereos you can all do of that and so much more.

Pioneer-Car-Radio

Pioneer MVH-350BT

The long-time car stereo experts Pioneer have recently released the MVH-350BT, which is specifically designed to play music stored on your portable devices for under £150. On the front there’s an illuminated USB and Aux-in gives your iPod, iPhone, or Android smartphone direct connection to your car speakers.

The system is fully Bluetooth-enabled so you can easily make hands-free calls and stream Bluetooth audio from your device, whether it’s iOS or Android.

The MVH-350B’s built-in amplifier is capable of a solid 50-watts across four channels. There are also 2 RCA pre-outs so you can hook up another stereo component, like a subwoofer for some extra kick. The only downside for the Pioneer is the lack of CD playback, which might be a deal breaker for some.

Pure-Car-Radio

Pure Highway H240Di

In-car entertainment manufacturer Pure has joined forces with Halfords to develop and manufacture a range of car stereos that will get you streaming music from your iPod or iPhone in no time at all.

The mid-range Highway H240Di costs £129, but for that you do get quite a lot of bang for your buck; it comes with digital DAB radio, traditional FM and AM tuners, and there’s connectivity for iOS devices via USB.

If you’re still using CDs as your main source of music, the head unit is compatible with a range of mediums including CD/CD-R/RW, CD/CD-ROM and MP3 CD/ USB playback. There’s also a clever bookmarking feature, which is perfect for listening to audio books on the commute to work. There’s an AUX input, and enough power to run four 45-watt speakers.

Pure-Highway-260dbi

Pure Highway H260DBi

Pure’s has also released Highway H260DBi, which costs a little bit more, coming in at £149. But for the extra £20 you get full wireless Bluetooth streaming and hands-free calling via Bluetooth, and an extra 5-watts across all four channels.

Drivers are able to safely make and receive phone calls via the Bluetooth receiver using the Highway’s controls and an external microphone to ensure the best call quality possible. Finally, you can also customise the button lighting to better suit your dashboard’s internal lighting.

Parrot-Asteroid

Parrot Asteroid

Newcomers to the in-car entertainment market Parrot offer the world’s first Android powered car stereo but for the added functionality you should expect to pay around £240.

The Asteroid is capable of running Internet applications and can access geo-location information via 3G and GPS. You can also listen to Internet radio stations and music streaming services too. Basically it’s like a fully-fledged Android tablet but for your car.

The Android-powered system comes with a decent sized 3.2-inch colour screen, which displays your phonebook, menus, music, playlists, album covers and Internet applications.

The Parrot Asteroid is compatible with an array of music sources whether it’s an iPod, iPhone, USB, SD card or Bluetooth wireless streaming. You can also access to your music via voice command; just say the name of the artist and the music will be launched automatically.

The Asteroid comes equipped with an impressive 55-watt MOSFET amplifier, spread across 4 channels. And there are subwoofer and 6xRCA preamp-outputs, too.

Thanks to a new technology called MirrorLink, it is now possible to bring smartphone apps directly to the screen of our car’s stereo. And, the new Sony XAV-601BT is one of the first systems to offer MirrorLink connectivity.

Sony-XAV

Sony XAV-601BT

The Sony XAV-601BT is a double-DIN audio-video center for your dashboard, so it’s quite a bit bigger than you standard head unit. There are a number of ways to enjoy music on the system whether it is via Sirius XM or Pandora, via the app control feature. There’s iPod compatibility, as well as Bluetooth, dual USB inputs and CD and DVD playback. The XAV-601BT comes standard with everything you could possibly want – except perhaps GPS navigation, but there is an added option for that too.

The main selling point of this is system is obviously 6.1-inch WVGA TFT touch screen, which is running a pin-sharp 800×480 resolution. The system is also Navigation ready – so you can add an optional TomTom satnav module and external GPS antenna for fast, accurate route planning. Passengers are also able to control the system with the Control App. For all this space-aged functionality expect to pay a not unreasonable £270.

Top 5 Car Related Gadgets

ScanTool

What do you do if your car is a bit, well …old? You can buy the latest fancy gadget and totally keep up with the Jones’s next door without having to fork out on an the expense of a new car. Take a look at the following top apps and devices available so that you can modernise your motor even if the chassis might be falling apart.

OBD-II Scan Tool

An OBD-11 scan tool will do what the typical modern mechanic does when he links his scanner to the car’s onboard computer in order to find out what ailments the car has. Of course knowing whether the oil pressure is too low or there is a possible leak in the head gasket is great but it’s another kettle of fish entirely to actually fix the problem.

Simply purchase an OBD-II adapter online and connect it with an OBD-II accommodating car, which is most modern vehicles and you can then use an app such as the Torque Pro, to learn about the state of your car’s health, without the fear that you’re getting ripped off by a mechanic.

scantool.net

Smartphone Integration

If a car has smartphone integration – think certain Toyota models and the Pandora in the US – the information from the driver’s smartphone appears automatically on the dashboard’s LCD screen. The information can be controlled via the car’s instrument panel and some commands are even voice-activated. Sounds a little bit like Night Rider and David Haselhoff!

There are kits available, which will allow you to control your smartphone’s music selection through your car’s audio system and you can even watch videos on the LCD screen.

iCarBlackBox

Motor insurance claims can be drawn-out and indecisive affairs, especially if the ‘other guy’ is wavering the truth about an accident that you were involved in. With the iCarBlackBox you can record such vital information for your insurer’s perusal. Mount your smartphone on the windscreen of your car and when loaded with the iCarBlackBox it will record braking, speed and indicator use, etc. It can even play back the whole accident on video and prove who did what and when.

Could prove an intuitive investment for just 69 pence!

iCarBlackBox

Confused.com Parking app

How many times have we been driving round a city trying to locate a place to park? Such a dilemma recently happened to me in Brighton, where due to an inability to find a car park, I drove around for the best part of an hour and then copped for a £80 parking ticket as I ended up parking illegally.

Confused.com Parking app eradicates such dilemmas. Simply download this app and find the most convenient and least expensive places to park within a city – A potent money – and stress – saving tool indeed.

Parking app

Viper Smartstart GPS

A real James Bond car gadget, the Viber Smartstart does much more than simply directing you to a parking spot. An alarm goes off when you reach certain pre-programmed zones and likewise if you go faster than you should. You can control many of your car’s functions from miles away via your smartphone, such as turn the radio on or open a window.

You can even start your car up in winter from the comfort your eleventh floor apartment and by the time you appear out of the lift the car is warmed up nicely and ready to go! You can even find out if you left a door unlocked. Although these smart little tricks will require an ongoing subscription. There is a basic non-subscription model for a little over half the price as the subscription package, but it only works within the Bluetooth range.

Smartstart

Wahoo RFLKT: Second Screening on Two Wheels

Wahoo-RLFKT

I’m an avid cyclist, so I’m constantly on the look out for great tech that can make my life better. We even published a handy guide. So I was delighted to get my hands on the RFLKT iPhone bike computer – a cycling computer that harnesses the power of your smartphone (provided your smartphone is an iPhone).

Slightly larger than a regular cycling computer (the case reminded me of a mini-DV), the Wahoo RFLKT is incredibly easy to set up as you just hit a button and it pairs with most cycling apps on your phone. It’s also very easy to install – either in an ostentatious fashion on your handlebars or in a discreet gentlemanly manner on your stem (using rubber bands!). Both are quick and effortless but if you live in an crime ridden city you’ll need to carry the metal removal key around with you. It’s hard to casually remove RFLKT without the key which should deter the casual thief, so gauge the motivation levels of your local larcenists as you park.

The RFLKT wirelessly receives all app data and ride information from the iPhone via low-power Bluetooth 4.0 technology. My iPhone battery is unreliable to the point where I don’t leave the house without back-up power and want to set the ring tone to “Why Does It Always Drain On Me?” but riding around all day with RFLKT (playing MGMT) didn’t have any significant impact on battery life. The RFLKT runs on a single coin-cell battery which should hold out for a year.

RFLKT reflects your iPhone screen so you can operate your favourite iPhone cycling app, switch between screens, start or stop intervals and even control iPhone functionality such as music playback, while your iPhone remains safely out of sight. There’s even a little light for when you’re riding at night.

I have a perennial problem with apps such as this in that I listen to music through Spotify or the Podcasting app so every time I hit the music playback album iTunes would kick in. That’s a minor gripe. And because I’m spoilt I really wanted this to be a touch screen – I kept swiping at the screen – even though many cyclists wear gloves making this a stupid idea. A clock face would have been nice – but not essential.

The app relies on your iPhone’s GPS for data, making it accurate overall but leading to wild jumps at times – the occasional glance at the screen will make it seem like you’re breaking the speed limit. You can plug RFLKT into Wahoo’s wider eco-system of accessories- they have a heart strap monitor and cadence sensor if you really want to drill down on data. But if you’re a little less hardcore the RFLKT is an excellent entry point into cycling metrics.

The Wahoo RFLKT is priced at £119.99 and is available from the end of June from the Apple store, and www.wahoofitness.com.

Top 5 Cycling Gadgets

Cycling-Gadgets

Cycling has been in the news a lot lately, with the trialling of Dutch-style segregated roundabouts appearing alongside less positive stories about fatal road accidents. However, technology is playing a big part in improving the lives of Britain’s cyclists, and this list of gadgets and apps will assist with everything from safety and maintenance through to fitness and entertainment.

ProNav

1. Safety

Road safety has historically been a major problem for cyclists, and HGVs have been involved in over 50 per cent of cycling deaths since 2010, despite only making up around four per cent of our road traffic. Now, a brand new device called Cycle Alert aims to eliminate the blind spots that can precede collisions with lorries and trucks. This ingenious system sends direct warnings to the drivers of nearby HGVs, alerting them to the presence of any bicycle within two metres. This is achieved by a unit (carried on either the bike or cyclist) communicating with sensors in the lorry cab, immediately triggering a warning alarm and flashing light.

Cost: TBC. Available from nationwide retailers and cyclealert.com later this year.

2. Navigation

Garmin was the first company to launch GPS into the cycling market, and their Edge 510/810 devices incorporate numerous cycle-friendly features. Alongside the usual GPS positioning and speed displays, these compact systems can display gradients, elevations, heart rates and even lap times. Best of all, it’s possible to share the details of your journey in real time with friends and family members, through the Garmin Connect smartphone app. Waterproof, glove-friendly and with a 17-hour battery life, these are among the best GPS devices on the market for cyclists.

Cost: Upwards of £250. Available from Amazon.

Basis-Band

3. Fitness

Cycling is one of the best ways to improve your fitness, but it can be hard to keep tabs on your progress and health. Enter Basis Band, an American device worn on the wrist that acts as a personal cardiologist and fitness instructor. It calculates numerous metrics including heart rate, temperature and galvanic skin response, before distributing this information via cloud technology to a computer program, where users can track everything from calorific output to how long they sleep at night.

Cost: $199. Available from www.mybasis.com

Westone-R4

4. Entertainment

There are countless varieties of portable headphones in the market today, and many people will already have a preferred brand. However, cyclists with deep pockets and no brand loyalties might wish to consider the Westone 4 R-Series of earphones, whose name promises Ultra High-Performance Stereo sound. Sure enough, clever engineering has created impressive ergonomics, while removable cables can be replaced in the event of damage occurring. These in-ear speakers use four-driver systems, based on half a century’s research and innovation, and provide a tolerance of +/- 2dB between earpieces.

Cost: £389.99. Available from The Headphone Company

5. Maintenance

Every keen cyclist will be able to tell tales of mechanical issues and breakdowns, and many of us struggle with even basic repairs like reattaching a slipped chain. Enter the Bike Repair app, which is downloadable onto any Android or iOS device, and offers step-by-step solutions to common problems encountered by cyclists. With over 80 written features and 64 photo guides, this should be enough to resolve anything short of a double puncture.

Cost: £2.49 from iOS, or £1.93 from Android. Available from The Bike Repair App

Image courtesy of @each1teach1

Garmin nuvi Satnavs: Getting Real Behind the Wheel

Garmin-nuvi-basic

100 years ago Rolls Royce cleaned up at the Alpenfahrt Rally through the Austrian Alps, taking the first three places. Enthusiasts will be celebrating the centenary with another mountain rally, covering 1850 miles and tracing the original 1913 route. Only this time instead of trying to make out details in unwieldy map books they’ll be using Garmin’s latest premium satnav on their journey through the mountains. Garmin invited us to play with the nuvi (and to ride around the streets of London in a vintage Rolls Royce).

There’s a lot more traffic on the streets of London than the Austrian Alps and that’s when Garmin’s free real time traffic alerts come in handy. The Digital Traffic service is subscription free thanks to updates via a built in DAB technology which does not require an internet connection. Digital Traffic is available on the new Garmin nuvi Advanced and Premium series. The virtual route marker changes to red to highlight traffic congestion up ahead.

Rolls-Royce

Garmin have also made it easier to follow directions with the introduction of ‘Real Directions’. So, instead of “turn left in 200 metres”, you’ll now get “turn left at the church” or “turn left at the traffic light”. The system is updated four times a year in case churches and traffic lights move or disappear.

Garmin-nuvi-Premium

The premium model has a 5 inch screen, Digital Traffic capability, lifetime maps and Bluetooth connectivity. With an aluminium casing and a convenient magnetic mount it’s priced at £299.99.

You can still get a 5 inch screen on the advanced model for £149.99, but you’ll have to do without lifetime maps and Bluetooth and settle for a plastic casing. If you’re happy with a smaller 4.3 inch screen you can pay £139.99 and still get the Digital Traffic navigation features. There’s also an ‘essential’ model which excludes Digital Traffic.

For more info head to www.garmin.co.uk

Carrot Car Insurance: Driving Costs Down for Kids

Carrot-Car-Insurance

First timer drivers face a Herculean task when it comes to getting insured on their first car. At the moment the Bank of Mum and Dad is the easiest way to get a son or daughter insured on a reasonable car without paying a fortune on insurance premiums – but this also means Mum and Dad’s well earned no claims can also be on the line.

But there is another way: Carrot Insurance; and the clue is in the name. Carrot Insurance utilises a unique carrot-and-stick model whereby young drivers are rewarded by safe driving with monthly cash rewards reducing the overall cost of insurance depending on how safe their driving has been every 3 months.

Using a telematics unit – the i-box – Carrot has created a bespoke driver feedback platform that offers total transparency and a genuine opportunity for the customers to feel fully engaged in the process of driving safety.

The i-box is supplied and fitted to your car at no additional cost by a member of Carrot’s expert mobile installations team, making sure the box is installed within two weeks of your policy start date. And as soon as it’s done and the i-box is activated, the Carrot send customers an exclusive Carrot Card prepaid MasterCard, which is loaded with a £20 welcome bonus – and the card is then used by Carrot to pay cash rewards to drivers depending on your quarterly driver score.

Carrot-Insurance-Laptop

Drivers using the system have access to their Driving Style score via an online dashboard, meaning you can see the impact on every journey has on the overall scoring and value of cash rewards you can earn. Carrot has also implemented a social media focus, meaning users can post their Driving Style scores across on Facebook and see how they compare with their friends and family.

The way the score is a worked out is by monitoring driving style such as acceleration, braking, swerving, and the number, and length of journeys, made. This information is then compiled into three categories – speed, smoothness and usage – those are then combined to an overall Driving Style score, from which quarterly rewards are calculated, with customers being able to earn up to a maximum of 15% off their annual premium via cash rewards.

“We’re finding that the combination of lower premiums, generous Driving Style cash rewards, refer-a-friend rewards and further cashback from our retail partners offers something really refreshing and genuinely appealing to young drivers.”

Ed Rochfort, Carrot Insurance

At the outset, policyholders choose their annual mileage – between 3,000 and 7,000 to start with – but can buy Top-Up miles should they need more. This enables them to pay only for the miles they need, helping them get on to the road much more affordably in the first place.

A £20 welcome bonus is paid to every customer that receives a Carrot Card at the inception of his or her policy and is paid subsequently as a reward for having their i-box installed and activated. If the policyholder improves on their Driving Style starting score, cash rewards are paid on to a Carrot prepaid MasterCard card at the end of each quarter.

The Carrot Card enables the holder to earn cashback when used at a network of high street retailers, including Topshop, Debenhams, House of Fraser, Halfords and Zizzi – making their cash rewards go even further.

A £40 cash reward is also paid to the customer for each friend that goes on to buy a policy as a result of Carrot’s unique Facebook App

Connected Car: Glympse Partners with BMW and Mini for Location Sharing

Glympse-BMW

BMW hasn’t pushed it smartphone app integration as much as its competitors like Ford or GM, but at last week’s New York motor show the German car manufacturer announced new partnerships with Glympse, Rhapsody, TuneIn and Audible.

Each app, as you’d expect shows up on the LCD in BMW models equipped with the app integration feature, in a style similar to other car applications, such as navigation or the hands-free phone system.

Owners of BMW Apps-ready cars just have to connect their smartphone to the car’s dashboard system to start using the new apps.

With Glympse integration, drivers of BMW’s and Mini’s will be able to broadcast their location to friends and family via Facebook and Twitter, along with their email and calendar contacts.

The system, which uses the drivers’ smartphone, is a great companion for first time drivers where love-ones might be worried about their safety and current location. The system will automatically track their position, when they’re expected to arrive and even whether they’re stuck in traffic.
Anyone receiving a Glympse update can view the sender’s location on a real-time map through a web browser, with no need to have the dedicated mobile app installed on their smartphone, tablet or computer, which makes the system really easy to use for the end user.

Gympse-interface

“With this partnership, we are excited to expand our roster of apps within the BMW Group Application Integration Program. Our drivers will be able to share where they are on the road safely, simply and with a touch of a button.”

Rhapsody, an Internet-based music service, has also announced a new partnership with BMW. Drivers will get a similar feature set to what shows up on the current smartphone app, including playlist access and the ability to download music. The app also shows album art for currently playing tracks, which is a nice touch.

BMW also announced integration of Audible, a leading provider of audio books, and will let drivers choose a recorded book and play it over the car’s stereo. The interface lets drivers change the playback speed and skip back 30 seconds at the push of a button. Because the car integrates with the app on a phone, it starts playing from the most recent stop point.

Audible book recordings integrate with Amazon’s Whispersync, so if a driver owns a book on Kindle and Audible, the last Audible book starts at the last stopping point of the Kindle version, and vice versa.

And finally TuneIn, a leading provider of internet radio, announced that BMW drivers will be able to listen to radio stations streaming over the Internet from anywhere in the world, using their phone’s mobile broadband connection.

The only problem we can see with any of these apps is: they’re only as good as the 3G networks they’re running on, which in the UK is flakey. But fast-forward 18 months, and once 4G has fully rolled out across the country, and these services will likely be competing with traditional radio for your attention for years to come.