Jacket 360 is a startup working on innovative bicycle safety technology at the LTU Collaboratory. The company was founded by Nick Theoret (CEO), Cody Middleton (CTO) and Brandon Chidester (CMO).
When Nick Theoret was in high school, he got into an accident where he hit a pedestrian cyclist with his car. Ever since that day, he has never stopped thinking of ways he could’ve prevented the accident.
The reality is that every year, 740 cycling fatalities happen and 48,000 cyclists get injured. With recent experience working in the automotive industry, making sensors for cars, Nick realized that there is nothing being done for cyclists and motorcyclists in terms of evolving safety technology.
He wanted to change this, and so did Cody Middleton and Brandon Chidester. Together, they had a dream to create a sensor technology that could save the lives of cyclists by using computer vision.
So, they started working on an invention called Jacket 360—a name inspired by the idea of being able to have 360-degree awareness when riding on the road. Originally, the product was intended to be designed as a jacket, but the startup quickly discovered a better solution.
Jacket 360 is a wearable blind spot detection system that alerts riders to things they can’t see. The system uses a comfortable armband device that connects with a machine vision camera (on the back of your phone) to look for objects and runs algorithms in order to identify cars and other hazards on the road. The armband device vibrates to alert the cyclist when a potential threat is approaching and its LED lights will go from blue to amber.
While other companies have established similar technology, Jacket360 stands out by being the first wearable bicycle safety device that allows users to move the camera in the space while also detecting objects. The device is also completely rechargeable.
However, Jacket360 needs to become something people actually want to buy, so Nick and Cody started conducting customer interviews.
Equipped with a demo video of their product, the team talked to 30 local cyclists and 12 local motorcyclists to find out more about their frustration with safety and blind spots when riding, if they were interested in a product like Jacket360, how much they would be willing to pay and where they prefer to shop for gear. They also talked to local shop owners to figure out what they required to stock new items in their shop in terms of appeal, margin and OEM credibility.
Working with the LTU Collaboratory has connected Jacket360 with incredible resources and potential partnerships in Southeast Michigan. Using a 3D printer in the lab, they are iterating prototypes to make their design smaller, lighter and more breathable. They are also exploring different ways to wear the device—on handlebars, bike seats and bike helmets. In terms of materials, CTO Cody Middleton says “everything is off-the-shelf components, we are using them in new ways with a new algorithm.”
With a growing trend in cycling across the US, Jacket360 is more relevant than ever. The best defense from collision isn’t protective gear, but an ability to anticipate your environment and Jacket360 hopes to make an impact with their innovation.
CEO, Nick Theoret says, “Now is the time to be an entrepreneur! If you have an idea, make the jump, go to the workshops, ask the tough questions and turn your concept into a reality. With the LTU Collboratory network, there is no reason not to.”
Learn more about Jacket360 at wearjacket360.com