Kogii lights the way ahead for smart city cyclists

9 Jul 2018504 Views

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From left: Kogii founders Karl Roe, Andrea Pignanelli and Callan Eldon. Image: Nick Bradshaw/Fotonic

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Our Start-up of the Week, Kogii, is developing an innovative and feature-rich smart bike light to improve real-time safety for cyclists.

“Kogii is a smart light that uses integrated sensors to understand what makes a dangerous road dangerous for cyclists,” Kogii co-founder Karl Roe explained.

“There have been many innovations in the cycling industry that improve real-time visibility and safety, but there is very little real-world data that allows us to learn about what makes one road more dangerous than another.”

‘Ultimately, we want Kogii lights in every city where there are cyclists. The technology we have is fully scalable, and we hope one day to have a map where you can visualise all dangerous roads in every city’
– KARL ROE

Kogii aims to change that, by collecting completely anonymous data about a cyclist’s surroundings as they cycle.

The market

“Initially, we’re going to target cyclists, particularly cyclists who are interested in technology,” said Roe. “Any cyclist that is looking to invest in a really good product is a potential customer.

“We plan to expand by conducting a large crowdfunding campaign to really boost the company, and we want to also target governments/councils who will be interested in the data we collect to improve road safety.”

The founders

The founders of Kogii: Karl Roe, Andrea Pignanelli and Callan Eldon. Image: Nick Bradshaw, Fotonic

From left: Karl Roe, Andrea Pignanelli and Callan Eldon. Image: Nick Bradshaw/Fotonic

Karl Roe is a PhD researcher at University College Dublin (UCD) with a master’s degree in computer science.

Andrea Pignanelli is a software engineer at a major tech company in Dublin and also has a master’s degree in computer science from UCD.

Callan Eldon is an electronic and mechanical engineer from Dublin Institute of Technology.

The venture was recently declared overall winner of the 2018 UCD Startup Stars Programme for student entrepreneurs and received a €3,000 cash prize.

This followed a four-week mentoring programme at NovaUCD. The aim of this mentoring programme is to assist the participating students in refining their start-up ideas through a series of structured workshops, including taught content from industry experts, interactive workshops and regular pitching sessions.

The technology

Kogii looks at how the cyclist is moving, along with their external environment. When the data from these two variables is combined, really interesting things about our roads can be learned.

‘Don’t try to sell frills – create something that works, and works well’
– KARL ROE

“We want to look at the cyclist’s surroundings and see how their behaviour/movement changes depending on the environment,” said Roe.

“For example, if we see there are a lot of falls, dramatic swerves and sudden braking in a region where there are many close interactions with cars, we can deduce that area of road is dangerous. We aim to combine this data with locations of reported crashes and fatalities in the past to further verify our analysis and predictions.

“Ultimately, we want Kogii lights in every city where there are cyclists. The technology we have is fully scalable, and we hope one day to have a map where you can visualise all dangerous roads in every city. Even if one accident is prevented, or one life is saved, anywhere in the world, we’ve achieved our ultimate goal.”

Full speed

Roe said that feedback has been superb.

“Things are going well, cyclists and cycling retailers alike really love the idea and the approach we’re taking in building Kogii as a business and as a brand. It’s an exciting concept, and the new data we’re planning on collecting is attractive to cyclists but also to governments, councils and infrastructural engineers.

“We would love to attract investment. We’ve reached a point where we’ve mostly completed the tech aspect of Kogii, but definitely need financial assistance to take off.”

The hard work is paying off and the concept works. Developing it involved cycling around the mountains in the winter when it was -5 degrees Celsius, testing the light out.

“Building the infrastructure to collect the data, the smartphone apps, the database etc all had unique challenges too, but we’ve always worked really hard to push through any obstacles.”

Always be unique

Roe said that the Irish start-up scene is evolving and entrepreneurs need to be coming up with unique ideas to get ahead.

“It’s a very good place to be, especially when you know what investors are looking at you. You definitely need to have something new, quirky or interesting so you stand out. But, at the same time, when we were creating Kogii, we never wanted Kogii to be a gimmick or novelty. It was always designed to be an excellent, functional light. Don’t try to sell frills – create something that works, and works well.”

Roe said that the best advice he has for fellow founders is to be your own harshest critic.

“Kogii has just completed a four-week mentoring programme at NovaUCD as part of the university’s entrepreneurship programme for students. While at NovaUCD, we were able to leverage the centre’s start-up expertise and network to further develop and refine our start-up idea.

“So, I would advise other tech self-starters to see what opportunities there are in their locality to work with incubators and start-up hubs such as NovaUCD.

“In addition, work hard and persevere. To become successful in this area, you can’t take the back seat. Challenge yourself and what you’re doing. Constantly try and poke holes in your concept because if you don’t find them, somebody else will. Better still, any holes you find will lead to direct improvements of your product.

“The last thing is to believe in what you’re doing. We really believe in Kogii as a product and a concept and if we didn’t, we would never have gotten this far,” Roe concluded.

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com