News: Steady as she goes
In light hearted mood at a recent local business event.
We’ve been getting a growing number of enquiries asking for an update on how we’re doing. Apologies for the lack of anything for the last 3 or 4 months, but the only thing we can report is steady progress – very boring. So in the absence of any big announcement, we decided to give you a quick glimpse of some of the things we’re working on. We took a few photos of things around us in the Brim Bros labs, and you can see them below.
The further along you get on a development project like the Zone the smaller are the steps you make. At this stage we’re doing refinements in the design, slowly improving many aspects of it, but there are no breakthroughs and unfortunately no big news that we can report to you.
What’s taking all this time?
A lot of our technical work is focused on not just making the Zone accurate and consistent, but on making it manufacturable. We do constant cycles of refinements and tests to the electronics, the firmware, the plastics. We do very boring very repetitive sequences of tests on the force sensors, the motion sensors, the analysis algorithm, the behaviour of the system under various conditions.
We’re essentially trying to squeeze a high quality laboratory instrumentation system into a tiny package and at a cost that is way below usual lab instrumentation costs, so it all takes a lot of careful work. Remember that this is technically more challenging than any existing power meter. The space available in your cleat is a lot smaller than on a crankset or wheel hub. Calculating a power value needs not just force but motion measurement too, but your cleat moves around in many more ways than a wheel hub, a crankset, or even a pedal axle. That all adds to the complexity. We’re really pleased with our technical achievements so far, but now it’s just test test test.
When, how much, and which computer?
The steady stream of encouraging emails and messages we get really means a lot to us. We reply personally to every email we get, but a number of questions come up over and over so it’s worth giving their answers here again. First the big two questions – when and how much. We are still planning a launch at the end of 2012, and we have not yet announced a price. One other question that is coming up more often recently is which bike computers the Zone will work with. The answer is that for displaying total power it will work with any ANT+ compatible bike computer that shows power. That includes devices from Garmin, Bontrager, Timex, Motoactv plus displays from any of the other power meter companies that use ANT+ (actually, at the moment there’s only one power meter on the market that doesn’t use ANT+). The Zone is also compatible with other ANT+ receivers such as the iPhone dongle and apps from Wahoo Fitness, a growing range of phones that include ANT+ built in, and the new heads up display from 4iiii. The Zone transmits left/right balance too, but right now only the Garmin Edge 800 displays it. The Edge 500 is due to get that facility via a firmware update “soon”, and we expect many more display devices to support left/right balance.
We opened the online pre-order system in late January, and the response has been well beyond our expectations. This helps us as we start planning manufacture, and it gets you a place in the line. Thanks to everyone who has placed a pre-order.
A peek behind the door
We recently got new versions of the plastic parts, including the charger unit. The charger connects to a PC via a USB cable. A pair of pods is inserted into the charger to charge their batteries or update their firmware, or to make certain configuration changes.
The two electronic boards, one for the base and one for the pod, have amplifiers, motion sensors, ANT+ radio, battery management, inter-board communications, and test connections. They also have a microprocessor each.
This is one of the test jigs we use to hold the electronic boards and connect to them on the bench. This is how we programme and test our prototype boards and generally bring them to life.
This is a prototype Zone pod being used in a test to collect very detailed data. The pod has an extra development module attached to it so that it can transmit a stream of high speed data to our analysis system.
The detailed high speed data is fed to this PC and provides us with a range of real time displays, as well as recording all the data so that we can replay it and re-examine it later.
The pneumatic test jig used for testing and calibrating our force sensors. When we took this photo it was being used to do some tests with forces at different angles on a pedal and cleat.
The pneumatic test jig incorporates a calibrated force gauge that lets us accurately measure the extremely high forces that the jig can produce.