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Common Tread

Bell and 360fly team up on smart helmet

Jan 05, 2016

Bell and 360fly have announced a collaboration to make smart helmets for motorcycling, bicycling and snow sports.

The new Bell Star and Moto 9 Flex, which are not yet available, will be the motorcycle helmets to get the 360fly treatment, according to a news release issued today. The helmets will have an integrated 360fly camera, which can shoot 360-degree panoramic video or conventional video. But that's just the beginning of the features.

The camera has built-in wifi and Bluetooth connectivity, so you can easily share the videos you shoot. The Bell helmets will also be equipped with a GPS sensor, so you can tag locations, and a barometer-altimeter. The camera can also be detached from the helmet and used separately.

The one obvious downside is the juice needed to power all this. The projected battery life is two hours. Plan the video portions of your ride accordingly.

Bell Star with 360fly camera
The Bell Star with integrated 360fly camera. Bell photo.

What makes this collaboration newsworthy, in my opinion, is not just a promise of another slick integration of video. Bell is promising several other new features in the future that would really make this a true "smart helmet."  Some of those involve making it easier to edit video or even stream it live from your ride, but what I think is more significant is what the news release referred to as Collision Avoidance Alert. The helmet would alert the rider to obstacles not in the field of vision. We already have this on many high-end (or even moderate) cars today. Motorcyclists need to avoid collisions even more than car drivers. Done well, this could be a lot more important than a new way to make videos of your ride.

One other thought: Is this the final nail for Skully? I realize these are different products, but there's a limited market for expensive, high-tech helmets. Skully had all the momentum, with its successful fundraising through pre-sales of its helmets. Since then, all they've done is move back the deadlines for delivering product to consumers and then miss those deadlines anyway. You didn't need an MBA to know that if Skully didn't seize its first-mover advantage, established helmet-makers were going to come out with competing products. While these Bell helmets have a different set of features and also aren't available for sale yet (and we'll have to wait even longer for the promised added features), you know they will lure away a portion of the finite number of consumers willing to pay big money for a high-tech helmet.