A smart bicycle helmet that was the brainchild of a Singaporean has won one of the world's most prestigious international design awards.
The sleek gadget, studded with LEDs that automatically light up when a cyclist brakes or activates turn signals through a wireless remote mounted on the handlebar, won in the Transport category of the 2016 edition of Beazley Designs of the Year, an annual competition organised by The Design Museum in London. Winners get a trophy and have their designs exhibited in the museum until Feb 19.
Since starting out three years ago, the designers - Singaporean Eu-wen Ding, 31, and Mr Jeff Chen, 25, from China - have raised more than US$800,000 (S$1.13 million) through crowdfunding website Kickstarter, and engaged a manufacturer to produce the helmets.
About 14,000 so far have been shipped to the United States, Europe and the Asia-Pacific, including a few hundred to Singapore.
Mr Ding and his team could hardly keep up with the demand. Numerous early adopters have commented on the Kickstarter website about order delays, although most who received their helmets were happy.
One of our friends donated her helmet to us. We basically tore it apart, we dug into it and we put electronics inside. There were wires coming out of it... People were stopping me on the streets and asking what it was.
MR DING, co-founder of Lumos.
The idea for it came to Mr Ding while he was studying at Harvard University, after a few near misses on his bicycle. The helmet, christened Lumos, has a built-in accelerometer that detects braking and activates red brake lights accordingly.
It weighs about 440g, has a rechargeable battery that lasts for up to six hours, and meets both US and European safety standards. It costs about US$180.
A year after meeting fellow engineer and Harvard student Jeff Chen in 2013, Mr Ding dropped out of school and co-founded their company Lumos in the US to work on the helmet. It turned out to be a fine pairing, with Mr Ding contributing his business and marketing know-how, while Mr Chen focused on the "hard-core engineering and manufacturing" aspects.
Their first prototype looked very ugly, said Mr Ding. "One of our friends donated her helmet to us. We basically tore it apart, we dug into it and we put electronics inside. There were wires coming out of it... People were stopping me on the streets and asking what it was."
Yet it was through talking to others that Mr Ding realised that there was a real need to improve safety for cyclists. He and Mr Chen pushed on with the project, turning an ugly duckling into a beautiful and useful design that blew the judges away. They are now working on making different sizes of the helmet, and hope to do one for children.
One of the award judges, Mr Marcus Fairs, editor-in-chief of design magazine Dezeen, said: "The Transport category is usually occupied with grand schemes for planes, trains and automobiles, but something as simple as a helmet that helps a cyclist to become more visible and safer is just as important.
"Transport is not only about city-defining projects that are 20 years in the making; it is about the everyday experience of commuters as well."