Pedal power helping to drive Internet innovation
Wang Weizhi started researching smart technology for exercise bikes two years ago after quitting his job as an engineer for ZTE Corp, a leading information and technology company in Shenzhen.
He signed up for a one-year “maker” course at the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology, which is affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Working with a 15-strong team, Wang developed a hightech package which could be incorporated into exercise bikes. The Runrunfast brand was born and it rolled off the production line last year after being built by a company in Zhejiang province.
“We thought it would be a good idea to produce a bike allowing people to surf the Web or chat to friends while exercising,” Wang, 30, said.
“We made it so they can play online games or even check their fitness levels while working out.”
The Runrunfast exercise bike costs between 2,000 yuan ($322) and 3,000 yuan.
Before a single machine was sold, Wang promoted his invention on e-commerce platforms and the orders started to trickle in. So far, he has sold 800 Runrunfast exercise bikes.
“My teammates and I are planning to start our own business, producing smart exercise bikes and developing other related sports devices,” Wang said. “Some traditional bike manufacturers are keen to produce large orders of our products. They see a potential market out there.”
Yet unlikeWang, most of his colleagues at the institute are students with no working experience, according to Bi Yalei, director assistance of the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology.
“They have the time to come up with innovative ideas as they are waiting to find jobs,” Bi said.
“Makers” receive free tuition for a year at CAS if they can come up with innovative projects or outstanding ideas.
“We are not teaching them about science and technology, but helping them with the process of producing innovative products,” Bi said.
Yet coming up with a great idea is just part of the challenge facing “makers”. The next step is to start their own businesses and get their products manufactured.
“Makers coming to the institute have innovative ideas. But it is not easy for them to turn their ideas into real products,” Bi said
Even so, the rise of the “maker” culture will help transform traditional industries, according to Hao Jingping, director of the Maker Institute under the CAS. “Integrating these innovative technologies into traditional manufacturing will help upgrade industries,” Hao said.