See.Sense ACE Review – Smart Bike Lights
The original See.Sense ICON was a bit of a KICKSTARTER darling in 2015, so it makes sense that the company should return to the crowdfunding site before developing their latest product, the See.Sense ACE – a smart bike light that the company would like you to consider it is so smart that you’d actually say it’s intelligent!
The See.Sense ACE is the companies fourth generation bike light, and given that cumulatively FIVE YEARS of R&D has been poured into this light by the Northern Ireland team, the ACE includes a plethora of extra features which should ensure it stands out in the very crowded bike LED market. I was lucky enough to pop over to Northern Ireland to get a look at the unit in development, and hear the story behind See.Sense
Broadly See.Sense came about from a desire to improve the safety of riders, whether commuting, road cycling or otherwise. Husband and wife team Philip and Irene McAleese opted to take a gamble to leave the ephemeral corporate world to develop a cycling safety light based of Philip experiences of using 1Kwatt MBT lights in Singapore during the day! Their unique approach to development was a feature list not dictated by personal desires, but on data derived from analysing the driving habits of car drivers and studying the variables identified in a series real-world car/bike accidents. Ways to mitigate these variables seen in road crashes became the product brief for See.Sense lights, the result has been the See.Sense ACE
The See.Sense ACE, is an AI equipped bike light – and yes we ARE talking about real artificial intelligence – which is why the See.Sense app is so important for extracting data from your rides. Off the back of all of this data, the company has been able to develop the revolutionary Smart Cities project. Revolutionary is a statement which is used FAR too often in the tech world. So let me put it this way, I was planning to cover Smart Cities as a paragraph in this review… after a long, and very in-depth chat with Philip McAleese…I was a rather confused and honestly no more impressed. Then he showed me the data and a real-world use case which had been baffling Belfast and was solved using the Smart Cities project. It isn’t often I have my mind blown by a spreadsheet, group of graphs and an overlay on Google Maps. Suffice to safe, a paragraph won’t do justice to Smart Cities, so look out for a full feature in a week or so.
That pretty much covers a swift overview of the background, now let’s crack on with the See.Sense ACE review itself!
See.Sense ACE – Design
As with most companies See.Sense has been on an eco drive of late, and one of the easiest ways that this is demonstrated is in the packing, which has seen an impressive 30% reduction in size since the See.Sense ICON. Now everything is recyclable save for the plastic tab at the top of the box
So, what is in the reduced box? Firstly the front and rear lights. You’d be a little annoyed if not!
Along with the manual, there are also two plastic bags which contain the light mounting gubbins (and possibly another area where packaging could be reduced!)
There is one collection for each light. Inside we can find:
- Micro USB cable
- Belt/backpack clip
- Aero mount
- Rubber grommet
- Universal mount, which can be mounted on bars or seat pods, and remounted at 90deg
But what we really want to do is see the lights, and they are shockingly small when compared to their predecessor
Whilst the packing night have reduced by 30%, the See.Sense ACE is itself and impressive 48% lighter, dropping from 58g without the mount, down to 30g. How this hasn’t been a free diet, average run times are down from 15hrs to 10hrs
See.Sense has stepped away from the trusted CREE LED with the See.Sense ACE. Instead of opting for a custom built Chip on Board design, allowing a series of LEDs to be deployed in a matrix which dominates the face of both lights
The change to a matrix LED arrangement allows several benefits, firstly a wider grouping of the LED’s giving a block of light on the rider rather than a single point.
The lumen power ( 125 front and 150 rear) remains the same as the See.Sense Icon+ with the dual CREE bulbs, but now the company can manipulate the order in which the lights flash. This allows for more varied patterns on the light to simulate driver awareness, as humans are less able to “tune out” and irregular pattern as opposed to a regular flash.
Not the easiest thing to photograph in the world, but you can see how the See.Sense ACE can deploy different portions of the matrix across its program
The other benefit of the matrix is you get excellent visibility from the side. The Garmin Varia Radar tries this with a single LED on each side
The LED matrix combined with the See.Sense ACE lens allows much more radiation of side lighting, 200 deg of side visibility as you can see here
One of the biggest challenges in the development of the See.Sense ACE hardware was the button. The shape and size were set quite easily, but then choosing the material for the button required nearly 20 different variations to get a level of deformity, texture and feedback that everyone in the studio was happy with actually out on the roads.
There is one flaw with the button being off set, however, the unit tips to the side when pressing the button when mounted
Flipping the unit over there is the See.Sense ACE branding, along with a rubber flap covering the USB port. To my mind, this is a significant improvement of the cumbersome rubber insert and MASSIVELY recessed charge portYou’ll have also noticed on the back sticker the Bluetooth and ANT+ logo, along with ANT+ signal code for use when pairing to your Garmin
On each side of the See.Sense ACE are three indents into which the arms of the mounting clip
As for the mount, as mentioned earlier, it is comprised of two pieces, a rubber piece which sits against your bike and the clip which hold the See.Sense ACE
There are four groves on the inside of the clip into which a rubber band slots, allowing you to orientate the clip, so the light sits either horizontally or vertically
The three slots on the side of the light allow for asymmetrical mounts well
See.Sense ACE – Specification
- Device weight – 35g grams
- Battery: 3200mAh and USB-C 2hr fast charge
- Charging can also be done on the fly, and if dash cam mode, the battery door open alarm is disengaged
- Battery Duration: 10hrs using intelligent flash
- Communication: Bluetooth, ANT+
- Water resistance: IPX 67 – 30m for 60mins
- Dimensions: 59.50×32.50×22.50
- Visibility: 200 deg
- Light: 125 Lumen Rear, 150 Lumen
- Other bits:
- Theft and Crash Alert
- Brake Light Function
See.Sense ACE – Manual
There is not currently a downloadable PDF of the See.Sense ACE manual, but a link to the FAQ page is here
See.Sense ACE – Using the ACE
Once you have charged your lights, you need to install the See.Sense app – currently the app has not been updated on the Google Play store, but is available for iOS here
OK – we are talking about a bike light here, so let’s tackle that aspect first – if the unit can’t throw out the photons well enough, all the smarts in the world are not going to save a poor light
Thankfully the See.Sense has absolutely nailed things with their new matrix LED design. Previously the See.Sense ICON CREE LEDs could reasonably be described as ferociously focused; the ACE matrix means the light is more uniformly spread across the surface of the unit. The result here is that the Icon actually looks less bright then ACE, as ACE looks bigger. Perception is as important as lumen count when it comes to safety lights
This has an unexpected benefit of providing the rider with the same 150 lumens while delivering a less piercing light to the traffic on the road. A win for all!
Initially, you might comment that you would prefer to have a nice concentrated light beam. However, that is not the purpose of the See.Sense ACE. This is a safely light in the purest sense of the word. Normally “safety light” is used to describe simple accessory lights, normally of low lumen output. The See.Sense ACE is designed to give a high diffuse light field to ensure maximum visibility OF the rider, rather than TO the ride.
Pulling into a side road, you can see how the light covers a wide area, but at the same time, even on the highest setting, I’m not sure I’d want to opt for the See.Sense ACE to light my way down a cycle-path over a focused beam unit
ANT+ Smart Light
When you park up your bike the See.Sense ACE goes to sleep after three mins with no movement detected, and will power up again when you collect your bike – this is more about saving your battery life if you forget to switch the light off. The See.Sense ACE has another trick up its sleeve when it comes to activation, as the unit is working with the smart light ANT+ protocol. The ANT+ connection allows the See.Sense ACE to auto power-up when you switch on your Garmin, and similarly power the light down when you switch off your Garmin. This may seem relatively trivial, but it’s just a small step in making the connected bike a touch easier to live with!
In order to activate this feature, it should be as simple as pairing the units as you would for any sensor on your Garmin head unit. In theory
I say in theory as neither front or rear See.Sense ACE units would pair to a Garmin Edge 1030, or a Garmin Fenix 5 Plus both of which are compatible devices. Even manually, I was unable to make a connection. Hopefully, this will be addressed in a firmware update
I’ve always found the “charging/charged lights” found on most electronics to be a touch useless. You know that you have some juice, but not anything more than that. Yes, various products, like the Cycliq Fly12 Ce have smart phone apps which allow you to check the battery life – but in reality, these are a pain in the neck for a quick glance of something like this.
See.Sense has come up with a great little idea using the LED matrix – the top five LED’s will shine green to tell you how much juice you’ve got. A full house of five charged LED’s will equate to about 10 hrs of AI flashing… that sounds a little odd, but you know what I mean!
Everything discussed so far has largely focused on the hardware side of the See.Sense ACE, so let’s dig into the app, and see how smart their AI really is!
The first part of the app, unsurprisingly requires you to pair your lights with your phone. From there you are able to toggle the power to the lights and control the flashing settings.
If you wanted, you could entirely leave thing be, and just leave the See.Sense ACE to it’s automatic AI functionality. But what is actually going on even with the passive AI?
Most car accidents are not actually malicious, the “Sorry mate I didn’t see you” is literally true. This is due to how the human eye works; you are only really “seeing” when your eyes are not moving and looking directly at something. Try it now – look from your screen, quickly turning your head so that you can see the far side of the room. You only really register in the “stop” positions, initially looking at the screen, and then when your eyes finally rest on the far side of the room. Everything in between isn’t really registered in normal situations.
So here is another facet of how humans work, we de-emphasise regularity and are drawn to an alert over irregularity, so a flashing bike light, between the points of vision, will register more strongly if the flash pattern is irregular. Using the existing data in the See.Sense ACE, the microprocessor can analyse 16million inputs a minute from the onboard sensors to calculate the location of a bike, it’s likely position on the road from the pattern of vibration, ambient light or presence of car headlights. Additionally, the unit will also detect you are slowing and will trigger as a brake light warning drivers
This information is then used to determine what is going to be the optimal flash pattern for the attention of a driver in front or behind the cyclist.
By registering with the app, you get increased functionality of the See.Sense ACE
The anti-theft mode was first seen in the See.Sense ICON again. When activated via the app, any movement of the bike will trigger an alert on your phone – when you and your smart phone have moved more than 3 meters away from the device
(I may have been trying to initially test and activate the theft function standing to the bike with my phone in my pocket doh!)
The range of the alert is approximately 100m depending on what is surrounding you. I would, for example, want to trust the Theft Alert alone to leave my bike and go into the supermarket. However, I’m certainly happy to have the feature like an alarm that someone is interfering with my bike, when paused at a cafe/cake stop!
Thankfully you can also position a safe zone around your home, where if the lights get moved they don’t trigger an alarm. You are also able to set up additional privacy zones, such as at work in the office for example (or perhaps not depending on how much you trust you, colleagues!)
Given that the accelerometer is able to determine the road surface you are riding on, I don’t think is really taxes the system to look out for sudden changes in velocity suggesting you may have had a mishap. The app will then trigger an alert on your phone to a nominated contact in the See.Sense app.
See.Sense insights and AL LEARNING
In order to use the Theft and Crash alerts, you need to sign up to sharing “Cycling Insights”. This is where the real smart sauce comes into the See.Sense ACE, the unit can record data about what the road conditions of your ride were like, what your behaviour was like, wear pattern on the road. All very clever stuff
I can’t believe I’m going to say this – but read the terms and conditions here. They are written in plain English, explaining what data is being recorded, but crucially what it will be used for – going into the smart cities project
I’m certainly interested to see how this evolves in future, as based on data collected from the See.Sense app from other See.Sense users, adaptations to the firmware and AI system will be produced, and then disseminated out to existing See.Sense users were enhancing the device further.
See.Sense ACE – Conclusion
If you looked at the original See.Sense Icon and thought this is brilliant, but thought “I want even less interaction with the app, and even more automation”, then this is very much the bike light for you.
Let’s not forget, this is essentially a commuter light. Even with the very respectable 125 lumens on the front, this is a light designed to be seen, not to see with. A fact which is born out with the broad LED matrix design, rather than a focused lens.
I’ve been exceptionally impressed with the AI on the See.Sense ACE. Initially, I felt it seemed slightly gimmicky, but after being shown the long-term use cases via Smart Cities, and how AI updates will come down to existing ACE owners, I’m very interested to see how the software inside this light develops.
A superb blend of engineering, human behavioural science and proper AI – if you are looking for bike lights for this autumn, get a front and rear See.Sense ACE you won’t be disappointed.
As I couldn’t get the ANT+ system to work, I’m going to give 4/5 TG Stars, but also the Recommended badge too!