If you like to explore on your way travelling from A to B then the new Beeline could be for you. The Beeline is a smart compass that connects to a smartphone and guides you to your destination — but lets you choose the route.
The Beeline device is a smart navigation unit with silicone case that doubles as a mount. The unit sits snug within the case, which can be stretched around the handlebars and snapped into place to form a mount. Once in place, the Beeline sits much like any other cycling computer unit, but the mounting system is easier to use than some others on the market.
Having something that's easy to pop on and off the bike is a critical feature for urban cyclists because items left on the bike when locked up are likely to disappear within seconds. The device is also fairly compact so would fit in a jacket pocket or easily in a bag, and it comes with a small metal toggle that hooks onto the strap and attaches to your keychain, so you can keep the Beeline together with your keys — although it makes for a fairly chunky keyring.
The device recharges via a micro USB cable, the sort that's ubiquitous in offices and houses around the world, and the creators claim a 30-hour battery life.
Launched on Kickstarter
Beeline started life as a project on crowdfunding website Kickstarter in October 2015. Developed by Mark Jenner and Tom Putnam, they wanted to create what they call a 'fuzzy' navigation device; one that provides general directions rather than a turn-by-turn system.
The project was successfully funded and the first devices started shipping out to Kickstarter backers in Autumn 2016, with Beeline now available to the market in general.
The Beeline comes in a choice of three strap colours: Charcoal Grey, Hot Coal Red and Petrol Blue (pictured). While the predicted final cost of the unit was £60, it in fact retails £99
How does Beeline work?
Beeline works just like a compass, determining the position it's facing using the Earth's magnetic field. The Beeline device links via Bluetooth to an app that runs on your mobile phone, with both Apple and Android operating system versions available — iOS 9 or higher required on the Apple side of things.
Pop your desired destination into the app and the Beeline will detect your direction of travel and your position relative to your direction. To help you reach your destination, the Beeline will display on screen an arrow pointing towards your destination and the number of miles remaining. What you then choose to do with that information is up to you!
For example, if Beeline is showing your destination is off to the left, you can take the first left or if you don't like the look of that route, bypass it and take the next one.
What Beeline won't do is give you turn-by-turn navigation, it doesn't hold a map of the city and it won't take into account things like one way streets or blocked routes. It simply tells you which direction you need to be heading in to get to your destination, and how exactly you get there is up to you.
Because the device links to an app that works using global mapping information, it provides global navigation coverage and so should work in any country.
In addition to the navigation setting, Beeline also offers clock and speedo modes, so you could just measure how fast you fly down hills or use it to keep an eye on the time on your way into work — or as a really large pocket watch.
Our initial thoughts
The simplicity of the device is refreshing and we can see this directional guidance being particular handy in cities where right angles and straight roads are few and far between, London being a prime example. The fact that it doesn't provide turn-by-turn navigation means the rider would still need to be aware of their surroundings to spot routes that are safe, legal and efficient.
This form of guidance is unlikely to make for a quick journey or the most direct route, as it relies on the individual to plan the route, but could be great for anyone who prefers a more exploratory way of traveling from A to B.
For those who want to know, the Beeline device itself weighs in a 28g with the device and strap combined coming in at 61g.
Over the next few weeks I'll be taking the Beeline out for some real-world testing to see if these initial thoughts bear out in action. Watch this space for the full review.