John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
The Bluetooth device also sends alerts to other people near the presumed bicycle thief.
Here's a nifty crime-prevention device with a hidden benefit: The instant somebody moves your bike it starts blowing up your phone, making you look intriguingly mysterious as you scramble out the door like Batman.
The Cricket is a Bluetooth-enabled discus roughly an inch across that fixes to the underside of your seat with a zip tie. An internal motion sensor detects when the bike is being jostled – presumably by somebody with bad intentions, although a rider locking their bike next to yours or a strong gust of wind could also set it off. It then pings your Apple device (no Android compatibility yet) with a chirp, so you can go kick the thief's butt, or get your own butt kicked, depending on how it plays out. You could also call the police, of course, and hope they get there quick.
That's Stage 1 of the device's anti-theft programming. Stage 2 engages once a criminal actually makes off with your bike. The Cricket then turns into a remote beacon, sending alerts to other people with the app when the thief cruises past them. If enough people embrace this technology, you could conceivably track your ride through town (although as pointed out earlier, what to do next could be a problem). You could also hope that one of the Cricket owners who sees the stolen bike has military training and a vigilante streak, and smash the thief on his blind side with a flying tackle.
The Cricket was designed by Israeli tinkerer Yariv Bash, who on another side project is trying to launch an unmanned mission to the moon. The device will retail for $39, assuming it meets its funding goals on Indiegogo. Some benefits that stand out: The battery lasts for years, and if you're worried about somebody ganking your anti-gank system there's the option of having it embedded in a U-lock. (Urban Velo suggests future models could be "disguised as a stem cap or a handlebar plug.) One big negative: Its range is a mere 150 feet, so forget it if you're doing something like locking up at school and walking across campus.
The alarm's makers have anticipated that shortcoming, though. "The Cricket works best at close, over the shoulder distances," they say. "People will touch your bike by mistake from time to time, so it is best to use the Cricket when taking a look at your bikes is as easy as looking over your shoulder." Fair enough. Have a look-see: