See.Sense gearing up to make Dublin more cyclist-friendly
Northern Ireland start-up to deploy tech to gather data on how cyclists fare in capital
See.Sense’s Dublin project is part of the part of the Smart Dublin initiative backed by the four Dublin local authorities and Enterprise Ireland. Photograph: Tim Ireland/PA Wire
A Northern Ireland technology company with a passion for cycling is gearing up to launch a pioneering project to make Dublin more cyclist-friendly.
The Co Down-based start-up, See.Sense, is planning to deploy its technology to gather information about how cyclists currently fare in the city and on its roads.
The Dublin project is part of the part of the Smart Dublin initiative backed by the four Dublin local authorities and Enterprise Ireland. Back in March it launched a €100,000 Small Business Innovation Research Challenge (SBIR) to find “smart, innovative and low-cost solutions to increase the number of people cycling in Dublin”.
Milton Keynes is also using the firm’s technology to see how it can encourage more people to get on their bikes and create a more cyclist-friendly city.
The new projects help highlight why See.Sense – which initially set out to raise £500,000 in its latest funding campaign but within days overtook its target – is fast becoming an investor favourite.
The venture capital firm TechStart NI, for example, invested £250,000 in the latest financing round, joining 522 other investors who believe See.Sense has more than one bright idea.
The firm came about almost by accident after one of its cofounders, Philip McAleese, had more than one nasty encounter on his cycle-commuting journey while working in Singapore.
McAleese, whose background is in electronic and software engineering, had according to his cofounder and wife, Irene, got so fed up with hearing “Sorry mate I didn’t see you” that he decided to design a product that would help to make his commuter journey safer.
The Newtownards-born entrepreneur, who had previously designed air traffic control simulators and also designed and developed trading systems for several multinational investment banks, devised an “intelligent” bike light.
Once he had developed the light it was numerous requests from work colleagues and cycling friends about where they could also get one, that inspired McAleese to set up the company.
The light, which he named ICON, uses advanced sensor and communication technology normally found in your mobile phone to enable the light to adjust to a cyclist’s specific environment.
In a more dangerous environment for example with either less visibility or near-road junctions and roundabouts the ICON bike light uses the sensor technology to flash faster and brighter which draws immediate attention to the cyclist.
The light features an innovative connected piece of technology which connects to a free app on any smartphone which in turn provides access to a range of features from, for example, GPS-located crash alerts to early theft detection warnings. See.Sense plans to develop this further to offer users the ability to track their bike if it gets stolen.
Today the ICON bike light, which is now manufactured in Northern Ireland, is sold by various leading retailers across the UK and Ireland – including Chain Reaction – and it recently secured a distribution deal with Raleigh.
Irene, who is originally from Australia, says the intelligent bike light is primarily designed to make cycling safer and that is where, she says, its major appeal lies.
“The ICON is designed to enhance cyclist safety – we’ve worked with hundreds of cyclists around the world and we’ve invested heavily in research and development to create a great product. We both gave up corporate careers to do this because we really believe in it.
“But this is also not just a light because by using See.Sense’s ICON technology cyclists can themselves become data collectors – we believe that this can then be used in the future to help cities solve key issues for cyclists such as infrastructure problems and to design more cyclist-friendly cities,” McAleese said.
See.Sense is keen to stress that data collection is not automatically part of the ICON light – it has to be enabled through a special app that only certain groups or trial participants are given access to, like for example in Dublin and Milton Keynes.
The Newtownards start-up plans to use its latest round of financing to recruit more people to join its growing team and to continue to fund the development of its product portfolio.
“We are very ambitious – we aim to be a global company, based in Newtownards,” McAleese says.