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Present and future of BicycleCompanion

A project log for BicycleCompanion

A modern, low-power and hackable cycling computer designed for bicycle-touring

Matias N.Matias N. 09/29/2019 at 22:341 Comment

I've realized I didn't ever posted the final assembled version of the BicycleCompanion Mini. I actually built and tested one, and played with the code. However, I eventually lost a bit of interest. Moreover, I saw that the power consumption was higher that what would be useful and that this would require more work that I was not interested in at the time.

In any case, here are some pictures of the assembled board.

As you can see, it has some last-minute fixes. Mostly I forgot about the EEPROM I2C pullps and also the USB D+ pull-up was wrong. Other than that, everything worked perfectly. In particular, the whole circuit which chooses input power from between battery or USB (when available) as input to the regulator worked as expected. The idea for this was to avoid parasitic discharge on the battery while it was actually being charged. I think this is often overlooked in many battery powered devices and it was something I wanted to consider.

What lies ahead

While as I mentioned I originally lost interest in BicycleCompanion MINI (in the current formulation of the idea) I actually recovered interest in working in a variation of the idea, based on my own experience going on bicycle tours. In principle, what I would like to achieve is a bicycle computer / smartwatch that can last for weeks on a battery charge and be useful during bicycle tours / camping trips (in my case, I ideally combine the two). The idea is not to build the typical bicycle computer oriented towards the competitive cyclist interested in calories burned, watts, etc. but to provide the basic information that is needed during a long distance tour: distance traveled, time, temperature and similar information. I still don't want to add GPS and all that since I believe a smartphone is much more reasonable to use for this purpose. I also do not want to add bluetooth or any other connectivity since I believe it is not actually necessary and it fact I do not like to depend on a companion app (I like a device that can act independently). Similarly, I found during camping that I wanted to have the time and set wakeup alarms, which made me depend on my smartphone. This is also something which I do not like since I preserve smartphone battery to the maximum and typically turn it off once I get to the campsite. So, having a simple watch which can wake me with a vibration/sound alarm is also something I would like to have. As a result, the idea is to have a single device perform both roles. While the features I mentioned are the basic ones, I'm also interested in adding some other ones such as a compass, which can help during navigation and also to be aware of the sunset/sunrise direction during camping. Having also pressure and humidity besides temperature is also useful (or at least interesting to me when outdoors). On the software side I can also think of a simple calendar which helps tracking and planning during trips.

Of course to make such a device I need to achieve very low power use in the first place and this is where I'm actually interested in working now. First, I'm in the process of getting a couple of Sharp Memory LCDs to play with, which I believe is the best choice for this. Second, I'm also going to explore the STM32L4 family of MCUs since these are too really low power. Finally, all of this will let me (and actually require for me to) learn about all the intricacies of low power design. All in all, at the moment my idea is for this to be a learning experience and see where it goes. If I start to converge on an idea I may either: a) redefine this project under the new conception or b) create a new project for it. I also may even consider a watch-only (not bicycle computer) in the form of a smartband with a very simplistic alarm/watch function (that's what the second LCD display is for) as an alternative.

In any case, if you're still interested (or have any comments), please continue following this project and feel free to speak up!

Discussions

Matias N. wrote 10/05/2019 at 14:18 point

I'm thinking about adding also a lightning sensor to the BicycleCompanion. Will probably order a breakout to test the AS3935 IC. Could be useful when inside a tent (or even while riding). Nice thing is that outdoors I should not get many interference problems (although I may have to shield the antenna from the rest of the PCB somehow).

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