New from POC: medical info chips built into helmets and a lid for foul weather
POC is yet another brand that had planned to exhibit at the annual Sea Otter Classic trade show that was originally scheduled for later this month. That unfortunately isn’t happening now, so to fill the gaping tech news void left behind, we went ahead and put together our own virtual event, which we’ve playfully dubbed… Pond Beaver 2020! We’ve gathered up a mountain of information and images of new gear to come this season, and we’ll be rolling it out to you in a satisfyingly steady stream over the next few weeks.
Fully covered Ventral Tempus helmet designed to protect against cold and rain
POC was planning to reveal its new Ventral Tempus helmet at this year’s Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix under the riders of the EF team. The Ventral Tempus is basically the same as the existing Ventral Air (with some slight modifications, according to POC), but up top, the clear polycarbonate shell is left solid and covers the vents entirely. This leaves the rider’s head warmer and drier than it would be otherwise, and presumably, there’s perhaps some sort of aerodynamic benefit, too.
Deeper interior channels and gaps at the forward and rearmost edges of the helmet still allow for some airflow, however, to prevent overheating.
This idea is hardly new, of course, and many of you are likely wondering how this is different from the Lazer Aeroshell snap-on cover that the Belgian company has offered for years.
Short answer: it’s not. Well, sort of.
UCI regulations don’t allow for removable helmet covers, and Aeroshells used by Lazer-sponsored riders at major events like the cobbled classics and the Grand Tours are actually permanently glued in place. Similarly, POC’s Ventral Tempus shell isn’t removable, either, and even POC admits that this is a rather niche model as compared to fully vented helmets that can more readily be used in a wider range of conditions.
Nevertheless, riders who regularly have to tolerate less-than-ideal conditions for weeks or months at a time might find the Ventral Tempus interesting, and POC still plans to release the new helmet to the public in August.
Retail pricing is to be confirmed.
Ventral Air SPIN NFC embeds rider medical info in a fancy wireless chip
POC is apparently getting some good mileage on that Ventral Air design in another way, too.
First previewed at last year’s Eurobike show — though only actually available much more recently — the Ventral Air SPIN NFC is functionally and aesthetically identical to the standard Ventral Air, but adds an embedded NFC (Near Field Communication) Medical ID chip that stores your critical information, such as your name, emergency contacts, blood type, insurance details, allergies, and so on. First responders can then retrieve in the event you’re found unconscious at the scene of a crash. The NFC chip adds virtually zero weight to the helmet, and requires no power to operate.
NFC readers are already built into most smartphones (Apple uses NFC technology for contactless Apple Pay transitions, for example), but POC collaborated with fellow Swedish company twICEme for a way to easily upload and organize that information. Specifically, twICEme supposedly provided guidance on exactly what information would be most pertinent to medical personnel, and how it should be organized.
Although the twICEme app is required to upload information to the chip, POC says the app isn’t needed to read the information. In fact, POC claims it can be retrieved using almost any recent Android or iOS smartphone.
This sort of technology sounds pretty neat, but there are plenty of questions surrounding how useful this is in the real world.
For example, while POC says the chip can be read by most smartphones, it wasn’t entirely obvious to me how to get my iPhone 8 to pull the information without the twICEme app. Likewise, it’s unclear how familiar first responders and medical personnel are with this sort of technology to begin with.
There are also questions regarding information security. After all, if it’s supposedly so easy to pull information off of the chip when necessary, what’s to keep someone from extracting personal information from it when you don’t actually want them to?
Damian Phillips, POC’s head of global PR and communications, acknowledged that NFC isn’t as widely known or used currently as it could be (though it’s already supposedly being used by alpine rescue teams, and was added to POC’s mountain bike helmets last year). However, Phillips also put forth the notion that POC has always been a safety-driven brand, and while there are issues with the NFC concept, new technologies like this almost always emerge in relative obscurity before they become more commonplace.
“We brought the idea out at Eurobike and got a lot of overwhelmingly positive feedback there, mainly just because it was a good idea,” Phillips said. “When we talked to the people at twICEme, what they came back and said was that until it’s in a product being used by real people, it’s still just a concept. That’s what’s important; we’ve made that shift and made it a reality, so now we need to support it. Our responsibility is to make as many improvements we can in terms of helmet safety. We have to start somewhere.”
In other words, while something as simple as a Road ID bracelet (or something similar that can just be read by the naked eye) would probably make more practical sense for most people right now, POC’s NFC idea might still take hold sooner than later — and if you’re in the market for a new lid, anyway, it seems like it couldn’t hurt, no?
The Ventral Air SPIN NFC is available now. Retail price is US$275 (international pricing is to be confirmed).