SEE.SENSE ICON Lights Review
SEE.SENSE ICON Lights Review
Review of the SEE.SENSE ICON Front and Rear Set
The SEE.SENSE ICON lights are intelligent and connected cycle lights. The future of cycle lights. Built in sensors adjust flash pattern and speed to your changing environment. The lights communicate and can be controlled by your phone via an app.
I’ve been sitting on this review for a while because I’ve seen lots of other reviewers get in early and review the lights before all of the mentioned features were active. It’s got to a stage now, on Version 28 of the firmware, that most of the features are now live and working so I can test it properly. The SEE.SENSE creators of the ICON lights have very sensibly chosen to activate features little by little, testing and improving the function of each one before activating the next one.
SEE.SENSE recommend that you use these as a ‘be seen’ light and add a brighter, dedicated light if you need ‘to see’. My local council decided a few years ago that to save money they would switch most of the street lights off at night. When I commute to work at 4am this means that a good mile or so of my journey is on almost completely unlit roads. I had the old faithful light just in case, but the ICON set to constant mode didn’t fare too badly. I’m not sure I’d want to rely on it for long, for off-road, or badly made roads, but that’s not what it’s for. In a pinch you would be able to manage with even the lowly standard 320 lumen front light if all of a sudden you went down a bit of unlit road, or the street-lights went off for some reason. The lights are visible around 270 degrees and very visible even in daylight. The twin Cree LEDs have special Lexan lenses to make the most of them.
I have a set of the standard lights, they are 190 lumens at the back and 320 lumens at the front. The ICON+ are 250 lumens and 420 lumens respectively. The ones I have are bright enough that you wouldn’t want to look at them for too long and on flash they are blinding.
Smart lights. The main selling point of these lights is the smart factor. The app is now available on Android and is out of Apple’s TestFlight programme, and into the Apple store. I’m still on the TestFlight version because the newest release is the most interesting one yet and it’s not made it on to the full version yet. With the app you can;
Turn the lights on and off.
Select a flashing mode, or constant mode.
Turn the brightness up or down to conserve battery life.
Turn the anti theft feature on.
Turn the crash alert on and store the emergency number to be notified.
Update the firmware, and see the current version number on each light.
Check battery level.
Of course, the lights don’t need to be connected to a phone to use them, but you lose the extra features and can only choose from either constant or whichever flash mode you last selected. They simply turn on and off with the rubber button on the front of each unit. Or if you let the lights turn off by themselves, then simply moving your bike will turn them on. It takes 3 minutes of inactivity for the lights to go into sleep mode, and then a small movement will turn them on again. It sounds like a gimmick but I assure you it will increase your status at the local coffee shop when you casually grab your bike and your lights turn on as if by magic.
Theft Alert. Whilst you’re at the coffee shop, you can set the theft alert. When I first got the lights the theft alert only worked when your phone was on and the app was open. If you closed the app or the phone went into standby it no longer sent you an alarm when triggered. Firmware 27 changed all that. Now the theft alert works in the background. You may need to allow this on your phone depending on your security settings. A lock is still recommended, but this gives you additional peace of mind. I leave mine on at work because although my bike is locked up in a locked room, I know certain colleagues can’t keep their hands off other people’s stuff and the warning buzzer lets me know that my gear cables are being stretched, or my seat may have greasy finger prints on it.
Although there’s no mention of it, my testing has revealed that after the theft alert being activated, the light doesn’t turn on from the button on the unit until after you have deactivated the theft alert slider on the app.
The crash warning is a little harder to test. It’s not easy to activate for obvious reasons, but you can find details of how to test it on the SEE.SENSE website. When activated you get a message ready to send to your emergency number. All you have to do is confirm and the message will be sent. I imagine in time, there may be a number of options for you to press depending on the severity of your fall. The last firmware added a longitude/ latitude fix on your current position to the emergency SMS.
Intelligent Sensing. The most noticeable benefit of being so smart is the ability of these lights to change the flash rate and brightness to react to dangerous situations. They react to roundabouts, road junctions and oncoming car headlights by constantly measuring acceleration and orientation up to 800 times a second. An onboard microcontroller operates at 8 million instructions per second to analyse data and decide on a flashing brightness and pattern based on a decision matrix which identifies certain scenarios and is the subject of a fourteen page patent application. See the video.
The lights have up to a 15 hour runtime depending on flash settings and take 5 hours to charge. Charging is by USB. The ports are found under the rubber mounts attached to the back of the light. Please take note that the front light has a different shaped mount to the rear one. There is an aero mount and a flat mount available from the SEE.SENSE online shop. The mounts are part of the IP67 certified weather sealing. These lights have coped very well with the rain so far.
As well as all of the above, the ICON lights are collecting data to help designers plan safer cycling routes. See the video. The onboard sensors can collect data on items such as road surface, crashes, near-misses, light levels, temperature levels and routes taken. This anonymised data can be uploaded to the cloud and shared with councils to provide information on how cyclists use roads and where to make improvements.
The basics are good. The silicone bands that attach the lights feel secure and grippy. The USB cables are good quality, as are the lights themselves. You can feel the quality in these lights. You can also buy different colour straps and shrouds in the SEE.SENSE online shop.
I really like the ICON lights. I’m not a massive geek, I still use an iphone 4s. These lights can be as techy or simple as you want them to be. The features are useful to me and the type of riding I do. I’m not a big fan of flashing lights and I mostly use them on a pulse mode which has one of the LEDs on constant, and the other flashes depending on the speed and situation. I have been using the various flash modes in daylight and I do believe that cars notice me more, and give me a bit more room. There is a flash mode which is ideal for day time and not too likely to induce fits in passersby. I like the fact that the lights slow down the flash rate once you’ve stopped, it’s small things like that which help us get along with other road users. They don’t want to be blinded by your high intensity flashing strobe.
I’m also very impressed by the support for the lights. I originally joined the Kickstarter for the ICON lights after seeing good reviews on the original SEE.SENSE lights. The product I took out of the box has been developed through firmware updates with great efficiency. Pretty much every time I think of an improvement that can be made, there’s an update to fix that. This means that the lights are future proof. I like the idea that my lights can be serviced and upgraded if necessary. The ICON lights are expensive for a set of commuter lights, and that is what they are best at, commuting.
Most serious commuters seem to have lights around £40-60 and the ICON set are £119.99. It may take a while for others to see past the gimmicky aspect of the lights and notice the quality and the usability of the various features for lots of different types of cycling. These lights have a complete one year warranty and after that, for just £25 you can send them off to be stripped, tested and rebuilt to be as new. As far as I can see from the website you could even use this service facility if you accidentally damage your lights. To me, that means that as long as they aren’t stolen, these are the last lights I’ll ever need to buy.