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by Matt de Neef
December 10, 2013
There wouldn’t be too many cyclists that set off on a ride thinking they’re going to crash. But the reality is that spills sometimes do occur and if you happen to be riding alone, out in the wilderness or both, having a crash could be far more serious than it might otherwise have been. It’s with this in mind that the ICEdot crash sensor was designed.
The ICEdot Crash Sensor comes in a stylish yellow cylinder which contains little more than the sensor itself, a helmet-mounting bracket and cable ties, a USB recharging cable and a sheet of stickers with your unique ICEdot pin (more on that in a moment).
Our first move was to download the user guide from the ICEdot website to work out how to set the device up as there are little to no instructions in the box.
The folks at ICEdot recommend you attach the crash sensor bracket to the top rear of the helmet either by using the adhesive backing on the unit itself and/or with the cable ties supplied.
While the helmet in the user guide has the perfect spot for the ICEdot, the helmet we used for testing — the Kabuto MS-2 — had no obvious location for the sensor to sit comfortably and symmetrically. Attempts to position it directly at the back were thwarted by a ridge in the centre rear of the helmet, which saw the cable ties (and therefore the bracket) slip to one side.
Once the bracket is firmly fastened to the helmet, the sensor clips in easily and snuggly.
Before you can use the ICEdot Crash Sensor you have to sign up for an ICEdot account. This might sound like a bit of a chore — another online profile to create?! — but in this case it’s well worth the five minutes it will take you. You get a complimentary one-year ICEdot membership when you buy the crash sensor and it costs US$10 per year to renew.
You first head to the ICEdot website and activate the pin that came with the unit, thereby pairing the unit with the profile you’re about to create. And then you build your profile adding information such as your date of birth, any allergies, any medication you might be on, details of your primary care provider, your insurance carrier, your insurance policy number and so on. You can also select from a range of pre-existing medical conditions you might suffer from.
With those details entered you add emergency contacts to your account, choosing whether they’ll receive a text message, phone call or email in the case of you crashing. The emergency contacts have to accept your invitation in order to be included as an emergency contact.
While building your profile you also create a custom text message which first responders can access in the case of finding you unconscious or unable to speak. The stickers mentioned earlier feature a phone number and your ICEdot pin.
The folks at ICEdot recommend you attach these stickers to your driver’s license or other identification so that a first responder can follow the instructions. Quite simply, they text your ICEdot pin to the contact number listed and they instantly receive the custom text message you added to your profile.
With your profile set up the next step is to download the ICEdot smartphone app. The app is currently only available for iOS on the iPhone 4S and later but an Android version is apparently coming soon.
Once you’ve downloaded the app you connect your phone and the ICEdot using Bluetooth, giving the ICEdot a “gentle shake” to wake it up if you can’t see it in the list of nearby devices. ICEdot recommends you charge the crash sensor for four hours before pairing it with your smartphone.
Once the crash sensor and your phone are paired you simply select your ICEdot account in the app and hit “Go”. The ICEdot can obviously be used for cycling, but it’s also been designed for use by skiers.
With the app set up and monitoring activity from the ICEdot, you’re free to head out for your ride. In the case of an accident, your phone will sound an alarm (you are prompted to turn the volume right up when starting an activity) and a countdown will begin. The countdown can be 2 minutes, 90 seconds, 1 minute, 45 seconds, 30 seconds or 15 seconds and if you don’t deactivate the alarm by the time the countdown runs out, your emergency contacts will be notified by whichever method you selected.
The SMS emergency messages we tested included links to a Google Map with the location of the incident, with coordinates detected by the smartphone paired to the crash sensor.
We tested the ICEdot Crash Sensor as per the instructions on the ICEdot website: “Hold it in your hand and try snapping your wrist, the rebound and rotation of a strong snap are often strong enough forces to trigger the sensor.”
We also attached the ICEdot to the helmet and dropped it from a range of heights, on to the top of the helmet, to see how responsive the unit was. The alarm was set off when we dropped the helmet from roughly 60cm and 30cm off the ground, but not from 20cm or lower.
Using the wrist-snap technique to test the accuracy of the unit we tested the ICEdot Crash Sensor three times: once inside, and twice outside with a clear view of sky overhead (for the smartphone to pick up a GPS signal).
The SMS that was sent out in the case of the indoor test reported the “incident” as occurring roughly 4km away — not particularly helpful in case of an emergency. This was a slightly strange result given that the smartphone in use was able to detect our location fine in a separate app.
The two outdoor tests showed a great deal more accuracy, putting the “incident” within 100m of where it had occurred on each occasion. This sort of accuracy is probably fine in just about all cases.
While there’s little doubt the ICEdot does a lot of things right, there are a number of shortcomings that stop this from being a must-buy.
Most obvious is the need to pair the crash sensor with a smartphone in order to send out alerts to your emergency contacts. For many of us, the best cycling is to be found in areas where phone reception can be sketchy if not entirely absent. If you crash and don’t have phone signal, your emergency contacts simply won’t get the message that you’ve gone down. There’s also the issue of phone battery life.
While the ICEdot Crash Sensor uses Low Energy Bluetooth to connect to your phone, there’s always a worry that either the crash sensor or your smartphone will run out of battery, particularly if you’re out for an all-day epic.
And then there are the aesthetic concerns. While the unit itself isn’t much bigger (in diameter) than a $1 coin, it is bright yellow and, depending on where you mount it on your helmet, it can stand out like a sore thumb. Whether this is an issue for you really comes down to personal taste.
But all of these issues are relatively minor and having a crash sensor attached to your helmet is almost always going to be better than not having one. And it’s not hard to imagine the next step in the evolution of this technology: crash sensors that are integrated into helmets, rather than as standalone units.
But in the absence of that technology, there’s little doubt that ICEdot Crash Sensor is a great idea for cyclists who ride alone and it will certainly provide peace of mind for loved ones of such cyclists.
The ICEdot crash sensor fits on some helmets better than others.