• Welcome to NoJack!

    by Scott

    Hello and welcome to our blog! My name is Scott, and I’m one of the founding members of NoJack Smart Bike Alarm. You can think of me as a Willy Wonka-type character because I will be guiding you through the wonderful world of San Francisco’s cycling and hacker/maker cultures while making up fun little songs every time I off a kid. So come along for the “ride” (haha! pun definitely intendohgodpleasekillmenow) as we build out a hardware project from idea to execution.

    But who is this “we” I keep referring to? You’ve already met me, Scott, your super-friendly, fun-loving guide / sicko thrill-killer. Team NoJack also consists of Ash, a plucky world-traveling British gentleman with extensive experience in programming who spends his nights stopping crime, as well as Rithy, a young hardware expert who works on renewable energy projects during the day and spends his nights causing crime.

    So just what is our idea? We’ll be building a motion-triggered bike alarm that can communicate via Bluetooth with your smartphone. We call it the NoJack Smart Bike Alarm, and here’s how it works: When you park your bike the NoJack app on your phone will arm the alarm unit automatically when you step far enough away from your bike. Once armed, the alarm’s onboard accelerometer will detect any motion or jostling that the bike undergoes. Normal motion associated with the bike being shifted around will be ignored, but motion indicative of a bike-jacking will trigger the alarm to begin shrieking at 100 ear-splitting decibels of pure rage, scaring away any potential thieves and making sure that your bike is still waiting for you when you get back. This is just the basic idea, and we’ll be fleshing it out and discussing it in more detail in future posts.

    You’re probably thinking something like, “Shut up already and take my money for your awesome idea!” But here’s the thing; we’re still working on building the NoJack. After seeing friends and family get their bikes stolen, and seeing that no satisfactory high tech solutions existed to the problem, we decided to build one ourselves. Now you’re probably thinking, “You must be brilliant with hardware to hack something like that together, and also you sound sexy as hell from your writing style.”

    But you’d only be right about the second half.

    You see, we knew we had a great idea and the determination to build it, we just didn’t have the expertise right from the beginning. But it’s been a learning process as we continue to figure out the hardware, software, and design challenges inherent in a project like this. We’ve all soldered our fingers to circuit boards at some point, and Ash has set himself on fire more times than I care to count, but we’re getting there. Thus far we’ve been steadily making progress as we learn the technologies and integrate them into a functional design to make the most sophisticated smart bike alarm on the market.

    So why make a blog for a bike alarm that doesn’t exist yet? Well, the reason we started this blog is to give people a glimpse into our process from the conception through to the execution of a hardware project. Our hope is that, if everything goes well, this can serve as both a record and resource for people who are interested in tackling similar projects but aren’t sure of what kind of support and resources are at their disposal. And if things go poorly? Well then hopefully this will serve as a cautionary example for others as they speed past the charred wreckage of our smoldering corpses on their way to their own success in building out a project.

    We plan to provide information on the hacker/maker spaces that are available to share expertise, knowledge, and resources, as well as the vibrant culture that exists here for fostering such projects. We’ll also talk about the learning curve we are going through on this project and how we solve various problems along the way, whether they be hardware, design, or other issues that arise. We’ll also be discussing some of the online resources available for design, prototyping, manufacturing, and so on. Ultimately, once we have a working prototype we plan to throw it up on Kickstarter to crowd-source funds to further refine the prototype and then manufacture and commercialize NoJack, so we’ll get into that area as well.

    This is in some ways a blog that is local and specific to San Francisco, which acts as a hotbed of hacker activity as well as one of the country’s premiere bike scenes. But while some of the resources and information on this blog will be specific to the city we live in, we hope it will also be informative and useful for people with similar interests and inclinations in other cities as we strive to present universal information that anyone can learn from and make the most of. So don’t worry, if you’re not in the area there will be plenty of buttery goodness on online tools and resources that aren’t location-specific.

    So won’t you join me as we embark on this wonderful journey of discovery and exploration together? Come along as we … hang on … You know what? Let’s get started next time. Ash just set himself on fire again and I better put him out.

    To be continued … image