When you think of wearable technology for runners, you’ll perhaps immediately think of exercise trackers. Over the last few years, that type of device has become incredibly popular, prompting the creation of products like the FitBit intended to track your movements all-day, every day. To a certain extent, the market for sporting wearables has become rather oversaturated with devices that only offer the most minimal of innovations over this tracking functionality, but there’s beginning to be something of a shift in the sort of products being developed. Like the Smash device for tennis, as featured on the site the other day, a new piece of kit by LumaGlo called the Beacon seeks to focus on an individual type of athlete and carve out their own niche as the solution to a particular problem.
There are plenty of would-be runners who live in an urban area and find that it negatively affects their ability to get out and run. One of the great things about running for fitness is that fact that you can do it anywhere, but if you live in the city, that can be dangerous—especially during the dark evenings of the winter months. Some of the alternatives can get very expensive; you could buy a treadmill for use inside your house or join a gym, but both have put a financial strain on you that rather undercuts one of the major advantages of going running over other methods of exercise.
By far the most common way of dealing with visibility problems when out running late at night is the use of reflective clothing—but even this isn’t a perfect solution. You’ll want to pay a decent amount for good reflective clothing to make sure it’s fit for the job, but even then it’s not completely reliable and it can sometimes interfere with your sports kit. Reflective lights can also be used, but they tend to suffer from being overpowered by car headlights or street lamps, and can end up being rather ineffective in the end. The team at LumaGlo had spent years using reflective clothing and lights whilst cycling or running at night, and had been consistently disappointed with the results. It occurred to them that there had to be a better way—and that’s what prompted them to start work on the product that would eventually become the Beacon.
The device take the form of a string of wearable LEDs that you can drape over your person in a variety of different ways. The bright lights have been specifically designed and calibrated to make sure that you are completely visible, no matter when and where you are heading out to exercise. However, this isn’t just a simple sash of lights—Bluetooth connectivity allows you to take full control of the Beacon both to personalize it and unlock its potential for a wide range of functions. Using its companion phone app, you can use an in-depth colour picker to customize the exact hue of light that your Beacon puts out. Every individual LED on the device can be separately customized, meaning that you can create some rather unique patterns if you tinker with the settings for a while.
However, it’s not just superficial customization that you have access to once your link the Beacon to your smart device. If you’re wanting to run for a certain length of time, then you can set a timer on your phone and your Beacon will begin to flash in a particular colour once that time has elapsed. You can also set up this functionality to work with any of the other features of your phone, allowing the sash to notify you if your smartphone receives a text, an email, a phone call or any other type of notification. There’s a great capacity for this to be extended upon in the future, and that’s something that the team at LumaGlo are very serious about fostering—simply make sure to keep your Beacon smartphone app updated and you can be sure that all the latest innovations developed for the tech are sent straight to your device without you having to lift a finger.
As well as runners, the Beacon looks set to be a very useful product for cyclist and motorbike riders. As you can imagine, it works very well alongside the sort of lights and safety equipment that are recommended for use on a bike—but specific functionality for these users has been developed as well. A highly accurate accelerometer built in to the Beacon allows you to use the device as a high-tech brake light. Whenever it detects you slowing down, the Beacon will illuminate to alert drivers and pedestrians around you as to what you are doing. The lights will flash red as you slow to a stop, then return to whichever colour you had selected as you begin to travel around at your normal speed once more. This is a great example of how wearable technology can be used in ways that you might not think of, rather than simply retreading the same old ground that other devices have already covered.
LumaGlo suggest that, in the research that they carried out ahead of developing the Beacon, they discovered that a pedestrian or a cyclist is killed every two minutes, and the most dangerous time for them to be out on the roads is between 4pm and 8pm—just as it’s beginning to get dark. The Beacon is something that could very well help to cut these numbers down, providing an affordable way for people to ensure their own safety whilst out on the roads. LumaGlo are currently in the early stages of a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, and it releasing a limited number of Beacon units at a reduced early bird rate. You can order your Beacon now at a price of $69 USD—a significant saving on the $85 USD it will cost at retail. Three different waist sizes are available, as well as a dog collar and a full body sash that are both priced separately, but also offer savings when compared to retail rates.