'Invisible' bike helmets integrate motion sensors to expand air-bag-like shell

May 29, 2012 // By Julien Happich
Motion sensors and microcontrollers from STMicroelectronics form the brain and senses of the airbag bicycle helmet invented by Hövding, a Swedish design house.

The combination of innovative design and state-of-the-art electronics has produced market-unique safety equipment for cyclists in a novel form factor. International studies show that bicycle helmets reduce injuries by at least 60%. Four in 10 people who die in cycling accidents would have survived had they been wearing a helmet. Despite these alarming statistics, the vast majority of cyclists do not wear helmets for different reasons: they find them bulky, impractical to carry around, or unflattering to wear.

The Hövding gear addresses both the safety and practical aspects of bicycle helmets. Unlike traditional skull shells, the ‘invisible‘helmet is a collar worn around the neck with an airbag folded inside. In an accident, ST’s motion sensors pick up the abnormal movements of a cyclist and send a signal to the airbag, which inflates in a tenth of a second to form a hood that surrounds and protects nearly all of the cyclist’s head and neck, while leaving the field of vision open.

The integrated sensors in the collar detect both linear and angular motion in all three dimensions and recognize complex movements of the user with outstanding precision and speed. To determine an accident condition, the sensor system uses sophisticated algorithms defined from a database of specific movement patterns recorded during hundreds of simulated-accident and normal cycling situations. The electronics in the Hövding helmet are managed by an STM32 microcontroller that makes sure everything functions reliably and on a minimal energy budget. The Hövding helmets conform to EU safety regulations (CE-marked).

For further information on the Hövding helmets at www.hovding.com