Team bikes research proposal a. P. A. 6th Bikeshare Intended Keyless Encrypted Smartlock Research Proposal

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A.P.A. 6th

Bikeshare Intended Keyless Encrypted Smartlock

Research Proposal


Honors Gemstone Program

University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Dr. Frank J. Coale

Dr. Kristan Skendall

Mentor: Dr. Robert W. Newcomb

December 13, 2013

Luke Boegner

Peter Cho

Nick Fleming

Tyler Gilman

Eric (Teng) Huang

Kyle King

Joshua Lafond

Nathaniel Kruder

Tim McLaughlin

Issac Noh

William Poh

Evan Qi

Emily Ruppel

Libby Wei

I pledge on my honor that I have not given or received any unauthorized assistance on this assignment.”
Table of Contents















Team BIKES seeks to create a proof-of-concept “stationless” bikeshare on the University of Maryland campus by exploring the necessary steps to promote the bikeshare’s success from the social and technical perspectives.  To provide security for the bicycles while giving bikeshare users the freedom to lock the bicycles on any existing bicycle rack, part of the team will design and produce an electronic “smartlock25”.  The development of the design will focus on improved theft prevention, ease of implementation and ease of use.  Additionally, another part of the team will carry out surveys of students on the University of Maryland campus to discern the most critical factors in marketing a stationless bikeshare to students.

Keywords: stationless, bikeshare, smartlock, college campus

Exploration into Research and Development of a Smartlock Intended Stationless Bikeshare

As global industrialization and urbanization continues, lack of convenient transportation for the individual remains an issue – becoming even more complicated when considering the environmental costs of transportation.  A recent solution to the problem has been the implementations of bikeshares in metropolises, dating back to 1965 (Shaheen et. al, 2010).  The bikeshares that have emerged to serve the urban population typically operate using systems of bicycle stations dispersed across the metropolitan area in question; users can rent and return bicycles from any of these stations (Capital, 2013).  A major drawback of these bikeshares is that the user’s travel options are limited to areas near the designated stations.  Although in most settings this constraint is not overly detrimental to the success of the bikeshare, this becomes an important factor when attempting to implement a bikeshare on a college campus.

In the United States, bikeshares are relatively new institutions but a growing body of research indicates that bikeshares are successful in increasing community awareness of bicyclists, increasing bicycle usage, and by extension, reducing carbon emissions (Toole Design). Though bikeshares originally emerged in densely populated cities in the past decade, bikeshares have emerged in small towns, suburban areas and university campuses. The existing body of research concerning bikeshares on university campuses is rather limited, but the University of California-Irvine’s experience implementing Zotwheels, a university supported bikeshare, serves to illustrate the difficulties presented by implementing the current bikeshare model on a college campus.

Zotwheels serves the UCI’s campus of fifteen hundred acres and approximately thirty thousand students. As reported by the University of California’s parking authority, Zotwheels has helped UCI to meet emissions reduction targets, and is a major part of the parking authority’s long term environmental vision for the university (Harris). The administrators of Zotwheels estimate that in the future, the bikeshare has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over thirty metric tons per year (Harris). Presently, Zotwheels has twenty-five bicycles in operation and has generated up to forty-nine rentals per day (Fleming). While Zotwheels has had a positive effect on the University of California-Irvine campus, it has come at a tremendous cost. The initial budget for the project was over a quarter of a million dollars, and almost two hundred thousand dollars of this cost is attributed to the bicycle stations (Fleming). This results in an initial cost per bicycle of over ten thousand dollars and calls into question the worth of the endeavour. By discarding the conventional bikeshare model in favor of a stationaless bike sharing system, ridership could be increased and overhead costs would be decreased while still preserving the benefits of the bikeshare.

Team BIKES recognizes that due to the tendency of college students to use bicycles to make relatively short trips, it is very possible that it may take a student longer to return a bicycle to an inconveniently located station and then walk to class than it would have to walk to the class in the first place.  The cost of stations also limits the number of bicycles that can be introduced into the system, thus limiting its functionality. The overall result is that such a bikeshare would likely be unpopular with students, and would never bring about the benefits of bikeshares that occur because of the attention that community excitement for the bikeshare brings about. For instance, bicyclist visibility and local support for an active lifestyle can only increase if residents frequently use and see others using the bikeshare. In order to resolve the limitations caused by the use of bicycle stations to provide security for the bicycles, Team BIKES hopes to create a new stationless bikeshare system to better serve college students.  The team believes that a smartlock integrated into individual bicycles will allow students to rent and return bicycles from any convenient bicycle rack rather than designated station, thus increasing the profile and success of an on campus bikeshare.

Instead of performing studies to simply add to the body of research concerning bikeshares on college campuses, Team BIKES will focus on the backbone of the proposed stationless bikeshare design, the smartlock.  Throughout the course of its research, the team will strive to create the most effective smartlock in terms of the cost of production, power consumption, ease of use, and efficiency. A practical smartlock will establish the foundation for a stationless bikeshare that will benefit from existing bicycle rack-storage infrastructure and eliminate the need to build expensive stations that discourage widespread student use. Therefore, the central purpose of our research is to create a proof-of-concept “stationless” bikeshare on the University of Maryland campus by first building and then implementing a smartlock device.
Literature Review

Current State of Bikeshares

Bikeshare systems can be sorted into three different categories: community sharing, manual, and automatic systems.  Community bicycle shares are financed mainly from public funds and use lent or donated bicycles available to community subscribers.  These systems have the lowest start-up cost and are the best for small communities to encourage tourism and weekend leisurely use (dell’Olio et. al, 2011).

Manual bikeshares have bicycle points near or in tourist buildings, libraries, and other public buildings.  Users must identify themselves to the staff at these buildings and will then receive a bicycle to use for the day.  Many times, these types of bikeshares are free and used to promote bicycle use in towns (dell’Olio et al., 2011).  These systems are better suited for small or medium sized towns where an automatic bikeshare would be cost prohibitive due to low demand.

Automatic systems feature bicycle points throughout a city that are operated by a user’s card or mobile phone rather than a person.  There are annual or weekly service charges or alternatively, pay per 30 minutes, which have penalty charges if the bicycle is returned late.  The most expensive bikeshare systems are in Washington, D.C, Paris, and Barcelona and are operated automatically (dell’Olio et al., 2011).  Automatic systems are better suited for large metropolitan areas and college campuses where the potential user demand is greater.

There is limited research on creating a bikeshare specifically for college campuses, but the existing studies indicated that college communities were generally more accepting of biking and other non-motorized transport (Balsas, 2003). College students were more conscious of the environment and tended to not have access to personal motor vehicles because of cost and limited parking (Balsas, 2003).  Therefore, walking and biking provided green, reliable alternatives that are much more campus friendly.  Extensive pedestrian infrastructure allowed for easy walking across campuses, and roads allowed bikers to travel across campus quickly and safely.  Active biking and strong bicycle law enforcement created a safer, more effective environment for bicycle users on and off campus (Balsas, 2003).

Various cities employ different bikeshare systems depending on the demand, population density, geographical features, and bicycle infrastructure (Cervero & Duncan, 2003).  As a case study, consider the closest bikeshare to College Park: Capital Bikeshare based in Washington, D.C., with service in Alexandria, Virginia, Arlington County, Virginia, and Montgomery County, Maryland.  The sponsored program has 1,650 bicycles and 175 stations servicing 22,000 subscribing members.  Bicycles themselves can be returned to different stations giving patrons the freedom to travel to various destinations with both two-way or one-way travel.  Capital Bikeshare participants also use the bicycles for a variety of reasons.  Fifty-eight percent of respondents who are subscribers said they use Capital Bikeshare for commuting, while 70% said that they use the service for social activities and errand runs (2013 Capital Bikeshare Member Report, 2013).  Capital Bikeshare uses a payment system with three options: pay-per-ride, three-day rental, or a monthly or yearly subscription fee.  The fee for one-time use is $7, a three-day pass is $15 and monthly subscribers pay $25, while yearly subscriptions cost $75.  The first 30 minutes of a paid subscription are free, but any riding time after the 30 minutes is an extra charge.  The bicycles are three speeds, equipted with adjustable seats, and both a front and rear LED12 light, as per bicycle law (“Maryland Department of Transportation: SHA,” n.d.).  Once finished riding, the user returns the bicycle to a designated station.  The stations vary in size and are powered via solar panels (“Frequently Asked”, 2013).

Some college campuses have already installed bikeshares.  For example, Washington State University in Pullman installed a $140,000 automated bikeshare system where students swipe their ID to unlock a bicycle from a station (Linder, 2010).  Using the pre-existing infrastructure of student swipes, on which students already rely for everything from housing to food, the bikeshare was tailored to student life.

The Velib bikeshare system in Paris is the largest in the world, but is plagued with high levels of theft and vandalism (Maynard, 2013).  Velib bicycles lock on the side of the frame; consequently, they are not anchored when locked and can be stolen or tossed in the river.  Some bicycles have even been shipped off to northern Africa to sell the parts on the black market (Kazis, 2010).  Other bikeshare systems have different, more reliable locking mechanisms that reduce theft, making bicycle replacement costs negligible.  For example, during the first two years of operation, Capital Bikeshare has only lost five out of 1,100 bicycles (Kazis, 2010).  Capital Bikeshare uses several tactics that lead to their low rate of bicycle theft.  The aesthetics of their bicycles are not especially desirable and they are most clearly from Capital Bikeshare.  The parts in these bicycles are also specially made and unique to these bicycles; they require special tools to disassemble, which discourages thieves from taking apart the bicycles to sell individual parts (DeMaio & Gifford, 2004).  The potential demand for any bikeshare system will decrease if the locking mechanism is not reliable (dell’Olio et al., 2011).  Therefore, it is very important to potential users that provided bicycles have reliable locking systems and to the university to keep replacement costs at a minimum.

More important than the safety of the bicycles themselves, is the safety of the riders.  If there are safety concerns about riding bicycles on campus, students who do not already bicycle on campus will not be inclined to use the bikeshare system (DeMaio & Gifford, 2004).  Current research showed a number of factors played into the safety of bikers.  Two researchers from Virginia Tech studied bicycle-only lanes within the focus of Washington, D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare.  The study examined various factors that would increase the bikeshare use and number of subscriptions.  The researchers concluded that docking stations near bicycle-only lanes were more frequently used (Buck & Buehler, 2011).  Another study correlated an increase in bicycle commuters with an increase in the number of miles of bicycle lanes.  According to the research, American cities tend to have multi-use paths for bikers, pedestrians, and skaters to share.  In contrast, European cities have lanes designated as bicycle-only because of a higher volume of bikers than American cities, (Buehler & Pucher, 2011), which could be one factor in the success of bikeshare programs in Europe.

Although infrastructure can help promote cycling use in general, helmet use is more of an issue for bikeshare programs than private use.  People who use bikeshare systems are much less likely to wear helmets.  A study done in Washington, D.C. observed 2,297 bikers, 1,410 daily commuters and 887 casual riders.  Of these, 10.1% and 12.7% used Capital Bikeshare, respectively.  Daily commuters using Capital Bikeshare were 20% as likely to wear a helmet as those using private bicycles.  Casual riders using the share had 10% odds of wearing a helmet than people using private bicycles (Anderko, 2012).

Contradictory to most assumptions, cycling advocacy groups say that making helmets mandatory could actually make cycling more dangerous by deterring potential bikers.  For example, a study in Australia indicated that provincial helmet laws discouraged many would-be riders from using bikeshare programs in Melbourne and Brisbane (Farrell, 2011).  Advocates claim that having more bikers on the streets will create a safer environment, even more so than the use of helmets (Jacobsen, 2003).  Furthermore, current bikeshare programs are not providing helmets with the bicycles because of health concerns and due to the fact that helmets must be fitted for each individual rider to be effective.

Bikeshares also face logistical challenges such as bicycle locations. Capital Bikeshare subscribers encounter inconvenient situations in which the unproportional distribution of bicycles result in some stations being completely empty and some stations being completely full; users cannot find a bicycle at a nearby station when needed, and yet, the nearest station may already be full when user wishes to return the bicycle.  Capital Bikeshare operates six vans that move approximately 1,000 bicycles around each night to fix the problem of disproportionate quantities of bicycles at each station (Chavez, 2013).  With a system that eliminates docking stations, students are free to leave a bicycle at any location.  Returned bicycles would not have to funnel down to one individual location.  Rather students could leave the bicycle almost anywhere on campus.  However, there is still the very likely issue that students will ride downhill from the residence halls, leave the bicycles at the classroom building, and walk back to their residence halls - a common issue identified in other bikeshares.  An example of how current bikeshares combat this problem is demonstrated by the Velib program that offers users a free extra fifteen minutes of bicycle use if they return bicycles to stations located on top of hills (Vogel & Mattfeld, 2011).

Theft Deterrence

Modern bikeshare programs rely on powered docking stations to store bicycles when not in use (Midgley, 2011).  However, these stations are expensive, time consuming, and the power requirements limit where they can be placed (DeMaio, 2009).  Although these stations do keep bikes as secure as possible, their limited placement and mobility hampers the usefulness of these bikeshares.  Because rented bicycles must be borrowed from and returned to these stations, there is always the risk that there will not be a bicycle available for use or the station at your destination is already full.  Both cases cause serious problems for people on a tight schedule, such as commuters who are most likely to use bikeshares consistently, which will result in negative feedback of the systems.

Even successful station-based bikeshares, such as Velib in Paris, have significant issues with bicycle theft.  For example, Velib bicycles are often thrown into the river, or end up on black markets in northern Africa, which compromises the bicycle system and results in an estimated replacement cost as high as $815 per bicycle. Velib introduced around 23,600 bicycles in the two years since its operation, yet 80 percent of them had to be replaced as a result of vandalism or theft, creating a sizable economic burden for the bikeshare. (Erlanger & Baume, 2009; “Theft and vandalism”, 2013).

An alternative to station-based bikeshares is to use smartlocks that allow for a stationless system (Rzepecki, 2009).  Current ideas such as Bitlock and Lock8 may soon be on the market.   Both are wireless bicycle locks with keyless locking and unlocking as well as location tracking.  They offer Bluetooth3 connection, Global Positioning System (GPS) location retrieval with your phone, and backup entry in the event your phone runs out of battery (“Bitlock”, 2013; “Lock8”, 2013).  Lock8 also has an alarm that sounds if its sensors indicate possible theft.  Each lock, however, still comes with its own shortcomings.  Bluetooth is readily hackable with today’s technology, and individual components of bicycles can still be removed and stolen (Kumar, 2013).  Neither lock is currently compatible with a bikeshare system, nor able to show bicycle locations on a website for users to locate available bicycles.  Other locks are built into the frame, which would guarantee that the locks cannot be stolen, but very few integrated locks have GPS and wireless functionality built into them.  

Past and existing bikeshare systems have easily distinguishable bicycles to deter would-be thieves from being able to easily turn a bicycle for a profit.  Clearly marking bicycles to indicate that they belong to a city bikeshare system, the incentive of theft is reduced as it poses a greater risk for those with ill intentions.  Easily distinguishable bicycles are also more convenient to locate when trying to borrow.  In addition, the theft of bicycle parts is a big issue that is affecting current bikeshares.  Screwdrivers, wrenches, and allen keys are commonly used to steal bicycle parts (van Lierop et. al, 2013).  In order to combat this widespread problem, bikeshares, such as Citibike in New York, use parts that require special proprietary tools to disassemble (Allyn, 2013).  To prevent general misuse and theft, some systems use automatic wheel locks and other methods of disabling the bicycle.  GPS tracking allows these bicycles to be recovered or tracked if they are being moved far out of the city (DeMaio, 2009).  

One of the biggest challenges when attempting to deal with the more user-friendly stationless bikeshare is determining the safest and most effective lock type.  Bicycle theft criminals are rarely caught, so prevention is key, especially with an expensive bikeshare system (Johnson et al., 2008).  There are many common techniques for breaking bicycle locks, so a combination of different types of locks, or an extra-strengthened type of lock will be needed to ensure that the bicycles in a stationless system are still secured and accessible (van Lierop et. al, 2013).

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)

Radio Frequency Identification23 (RFID) is a method of wireless communication via exchange of radio frequency between the responder and tag, discussed in further information below.  Given its history and current use, RFID technology seems to be the best method for electronic user identification in the proposed smartlock.  The team has identified the major use of the RFID technology in the context of a smartlock.  The RFID reader22 integrated into the lock will have access to sensitive user information. Since the smartlock will be a standalone device, it will have limited power, which must be efficiently allocated among different electrical parts.  Taking these factors into consideration, the team decided to focus RFID research on security and power consumption.  Accordingly, the following literature review of RFID technology focus on its history and development, different security methods, and power consumption.

History. Although the technology itself has been around since its development by military in the 1950’s, RFID technology is just now emerging as mainstream (Landt, 2005).  As more and more people are relying on technology to hold personal information through advanced phones or tablets, RFID technology provides the best method of data identification, capture, control, and other wireless communication forms between devices in close proximity of each other  (Want, 2006).  RFID systems are a favored method of identification due to its small size, low costs, high data memory capacity, and fast communication time.  The technology consists of two components: the active reader1 and the passive transponder20, which communicate via radio frequency.  The two components can either be selectively controlled as with Bluetooth, or automatically triggered whenever the two are in proximity.  The reader sends radio frequency with encryption and minimal power to trigger a response from the passive transponder (Hagl & Aslanidis, 2009).

The technology was first introduced to the public in the 1960’s in the form of Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) systems that monitored theft in stores by attaching transponders onto items that were removed once the item was purchased, or else the transponder located at the doors would alarm when the readers were brought in proximity.  EAS systems are still largely in use today from department stores to large supermarkets (Want, 2006).  Decades later, in the 1980’s RFID technology made its biggest improvements by noticeably cutting down its size and power consumption.  Since then the technology has progressed further, continuing to decrease in size and improve in efficiency.  Recently, added security in forms of encryptions and complex algorithms has further augmented the usefulness of RFID technology (Landt, 2005).

In the 1990’s the RFID technology flourished and many different RFID systems were designed to optimize efficiency for specific tasks.  As more and more RFID systems were introduced to the public, RFID systems were often designed to serve a specific purpose.  When creating new RFID systems, essential parameters that should be considered are: communication range5, frequency, communication speed6, system reliability33, system cost32, design complexity7, system coexistence31, and government regulations (Hagl & Aslanidis, 2009).  When creating any RFID system, these parameters must be considered for the system to be officially recognized as an RFID technology; however, the level of importance among the parameters are left for the designers to assign and evaluate to create a system that best serves the designers’ interests.

The technology continued to evolve and grow in the 2000’s, as always, becoming smaller and cheaper.  RFID was propelled to the forefront of the technological spotlight thanks to the “smartphone revolution” by allowing consumers to conveniently provide digital identification using their smartphones and other easily accessible RFID enabled hand-held devices (Want, 2006). This recent spike in public interests in RFID sparked the replacement of many security systems with RFID enabled locking mechanism, including certain safes, car locks, and even house doors (Park et al., 2009).  In today’s fast-paced technology dependent society, the potential for RFID technology seems limitless as a result of decades of continuous research and improvement.  Because RFID is continuously growing in importance and use, it is vital to consider the security of such a method of communication.

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