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Old 10-02-2012, 03:51 PM   #1
slartidbartfast OP
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Concept for the ideal communication system?

What configuration do you think would make an ideal motorcycle communications system?

I have been looking for a long time and have yet to find anything that really seems to do it all in an elegant and convenient package.

Systems like the handlebar-mounted J&M look pretty nice but don't integrate many other devices well, still rely on wires to the helmet, and their price is shocking.

Some of the more sophisticated helmet-mounted systems do ok but you lose the ability to connect wired devices easily. I have the Sena SMH-10 and I love it but it has many limitations. At some point, I may add their SR-10 gadget, which allows the addition of wired devices and a PTT button. This combination is "getting there" and with a sophisticated BT GPS you might almost have all desired features but the overall capabilities are still relying on these multiple devices playing nicely with each other. Also, you still need to use the headset buttons for some things, which precludes having a really slimline helmet unit.

In my opinion, the ideal system would be mounted on the bike and would be a hub for all other devices, wired or BT, including at least two headsets, GPS, one or more two-way radio systems, radar-detector, music player and phone, etc. It would provide a control interface for all these other devices (including the headset) via a touch-screen or via a display screen and handlebar-mounted thumb joystick or something similar.

This super-hub would be very configurable, with the user able to set priority for each device (a feature that should be implemented in the SR10 and SMH10 IMO), mix or conference multiple, selected audio streams, answer/place calls, etc. The headset would be a dumb device, simply connected to the hub (although a smart headset could be used as well, of course).

The optimal design would be able to be separated into a connection hub and a controller, so someone with a lot of on-bike electronics could run the wiring out of sight to the hidden hub, rather than into a handlebar-mounted device that needed to be frequently removed for security. I suppose the handlebar unit could also be a GPS system, which would enable undocking of a single device and route-planning away from the bike.

Finally, the whole set-up would have to be waterproof and priced comparably to a decent waterproof GPS (which are ridiculously overpriced IMO, taking advantage of the specialized motorcycle market).

Any thoughts/additions/subtractions? Maybe someone knows of a system that comes closer to this ideal than the SMH10/SR-10 combination? Maybe someone associated with one of the manufacturers will read this and get some ideas or be able to comment on possible future developments.
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Old 10-02-2012, 07:08 PM   #2
Centauro
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I think all that you say is cool... but I think that all those things in some conditions could complicate the ride... It's just my opinion ;-)
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Old 10-02-2012, 07:38 PM   #3
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I've done a lot of research on the matter. There really seems to be no perfect communication system for motorcycles yet. The helmet bluetooth devices I've used have been cumbersome at best, bordering on unreliable. I've yet to experience helmet speakers that I can hear.

Wiring inline amps, and splitters and all that seems annoying. I came really close to autocom, but the US distributors seem shady and the technology isnt demonstrated well on their site. I find it's efficacy vs price to be suspect to say the least.

Then there's the matter of what happens when you get your shit set up the way you want it? Who are you going to talk to? Another rider? Com gear is expensive so getting everyone on the same page is annoying.

I've slimmed my com gear down to a cellphone and stuff to use it at speed. I figured that wireless isn't important because sooner or later your're going to have to charge things anyways, and it wont be wireless then.

My gear consists of: throat mic unit, phone control pressure switch, shortened 3.5mm ear buds.

The throat mic is clear enough to get Siri to understand me probably 70% of the time, and other entities the majority of the time. The phone control switch allows me to pause/play music, issue siri commands, end/take calls, and fast forward songs.

Some times, instead of hooking up to the iphone, i hook up to the garmin 665, and I can listen to audio books, gps directions, and xm radio.
I haven't been able to unify these system yet. Bluetooth between the phone + garmin, and then using the headset with the garmin hasnt worked 100% yet.

I would also eventually like radar detection in there, but right now I'm keeping it simple. Just phone or garmin usage.

Yeah, the ideal system would allow: Smart (music playing) ( GPS input/output, Phone Input/Output plus usb charging, Radar Detector Input plus possible smart control output, a GOOD mic, the ability to use helmet speakers (and amp them) OR use ear buds, two-way radio input/output charging,kitchen sink, aux/music input and/or understand that phones also can emit music.. I think autocom claims it does most of these things.
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Snarky screwed with this post 10-02-2012 at 07:45 PM
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Old 10-02-2012, 07:57 PM   #4
slartidbartfast OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Centauro View Post
I think all that you say is cool... but I think that all those things in some conditions could complicate the ride... It's just my opinion ;-)
Sure! I was resistant to the idea myself for a long time - Then I got a GPS (which I use a lot) and after a while thought that on long rides I would use its bluetooth capability to listen to its instructions and play some music. I did that for a while using a BT receiver and in-ear headphones but it was not ideal. Then I took a European tour with a group of friends and bought a BT headset for bike-to-bike comms but found the range was limited, connecting to more than a couple of people at once (while possible) was fraught with difficulties, and the intercom over-rides the GPS instructions which I would like to be the other way around.

I would like to hook up a two-way radio and possibly radar detector but those both require a wired connection and I don't want wires to the helmet. My BT GPS is not waterproof and the waterproof one I have does not do BT sound, only wired. Also if I connect my phone to use for music, then I can't play music from the GPS instead without changing the pairings. My phone and GPS don't work well together so I can't relay the phone through the GPS.

None of these issues seem like they would be terribly difficult to overcome in the right device and while I agree that festooning the bike with electronics can be distracting and sometimes even detract from the pleasure of riding, there are some circumstances where I'd like to be able to do it all. Having one device to link and control all the others would (hopefully) limit the complication.
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Old 10-02-2012, 08:34 PM   #5
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I am happy with my Autocom

This is my fourth year with an Autocom set up and so far I am happy with it.

I use a Zumo gps that is hardwired to the Autocom, and the Autocom unit is hardwired to my helmet speakers and microphone. Zumo is connected with Bluetooth to the Autocom dongle as well as my iphone. The BT dongle lets me hold two way conversation on the phone (the dongle acts as an iphone headset).

I listen to MP3s and satellite radio off the Zumo and can make and receive calls while I am riding (doesn't happen often but it is handy for quick calls home since Zumo downloads the phonebook from the iphone).

Since I always ride alone, never have had a need for bike to bike communication.

My one issue with BT helmet systems is the battery life, on long trips I spend 12-16 hours a day on the bike and don't want to stop to recharge the headset (I think newer units allow you to recharge while you ride but that defeats the purpose of a wireless headset).

I can't imagine riding all day without XM radio (or MP3s). It is great during the NFL season
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Old 10-02-2012, 09:51 PM   #6
slartidbartfast OP
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Understand your list of needs is different and I forgot about satellite radio as a possible additional input. I too looked at the Autocom but it is still a rather awkward solution (IMO) with the biggest drawback being the cable to the helmet (something that you and many others are willing to put up with.) Unless the bluetooth dongle allow you to connect a wireless headset or is it just for attaching BT sources?

Incidentally, the newer BT helmet systems will probably meet your 12-16 hour requirement. I have ridden 8 hours or more using constant 2-way communication on my SMH-10 (higher battery drain than just listening) without problem and around 12 hours just listening to music/gps with the unit still reporting 3/4 charge at the end of the day (it's probably not a linear measurement but also still obviously had quite a bit remaining)
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January 2010 New Zealand South Island ride
Summer 2009 UK to Alps ride
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Old 10-03-2012, 02:44 AM   #7
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Here is how I dealt with it.

I have
Sena SR10 "bluetooth hub" with PTT button it comes with. Button attached to clutch lever.
PMR walkie-talkie radio (can be replaced with any other radio) plugged to SR10 with cable
Samsung Galaxy S2 phone with navigation software plugged to SR10 with cable (this is only because of Android shortcomings with pairing non-stereo output via Bluetooth)
That leaves still 1 free wired port on Sena SR10 for something else if I want.
Charger plugged to Triumph Tiger 800 stock power outlet next to ignition key.

All this sits in small magnetic tank bag. Very small.

NZI helmet with NZI Basic BT headset integrated - single pairing device. Nothing sticks out from helmet.

How it works...
Kinda obvious. Wanna talk on radio - use PTT button. Wanna take phone calls - it works kinda automatically. Wanna use GPS - it is on all the time talking to SR10 hub that BT connected to helmet.

Negative - only one.
SR10 cannot pass stereo sound (music) via BT. Does not bother me - I never listen to music when driving.
System is flexible - when I ride on my own I simply pair phone to helmet via BT. Then I can have stereo music, GPS, phone and no radio.
So, all that really would improve on this is same principle device as Sena SR10 but with Stereo-via-BT support.
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Old 10-03-2012, 02:49 AM   #8
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The adventure rider salute seems to work quite well in most cases
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Old 10-03-2012, 03:27 AM   #9
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The ideal situation would be when you do not communicate electronically AT ALL on your bike, since it distracts your attention and increases your chances to become involved in any accident considerably, as research over and over proves.

That said, there is that risk but there is also daily practicality. Hmmm. Quite different animals I guess .

I have also thought about this the past two years. Nothing on the market comes close to what I think is optimal.

As far as I am concerned, there is no need for tons of different devices on the bike. Better concentrate features that can be concentrated into one, rugged, device. For instance: there seems no need to have separate amplifiers for GPS, music and communication devices. Is there?

I would like to see the GPS as the basis of our "new device". Is has a screen, preferably wide- and touch- screen. On this you can see all of your setting and operations. It has one "overview" window that normally pops up and gives you something important of all of your basic functions. There are buttons on it for GPS, Music, Phone and Comms. A click on one of those will get you in the sub-screen for that function, which shows you all specific functions and features.
This base unit is of course watertight, submersible even to a few meters, and it has a Bluetooth connection to your helmet. It can support multiple Bluetooth connections up to let's say 4. I mean: 4 riders can communicate with each other and here the GPS instructions at the same time. Phone functions are coupled to the specific phone the rider carries with him, with Bluetooth again.

Nothing needs to be done at the helmet device in terms of operation. More volume, other station search, whatever, all is done at the head-unit, OR with voice control because the head-unit also allows complete voice control of most of its major functions.

The head-unit is flexible, for example you can determine your own device priority setting. Just by giving it the unique priority figure: 1,2,3,4 or 5. The system takes care of everything else. The system is battery powered and can either be connected to a 12v cigarette lighter plug or hardwired to the bike. It has an electronic fuse circuit on board so it does not rely on hardware fuses. Resetting it will be enough to restart the device.

If a call comes in, through caller ID the caller will become visible on the screen so you can decide whether to take the call or not. If not, the system can take a message and play it for you at your convenience. It has callback functions at one voice command or one touch on the button. It logs calls and callers and their numbers so you can look at the log at any time convenient to you.

The GPS is a device that can handle road and offroad functionality. It has extra clearness for operation in the sunlight or night panel at choice. It can swallow most common maps. It has all of the common features, like presets / favourites, Speed alarms, Lane Assistance and such.

The stereo can play SDCards for which it has a built-in reader. It can receive FM Radio for which you can attach a separate antenna if you like to improve reception.

The head-unit can be locked onto the bike or taken of if you park the bike somewhere.
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Old 10-03-2012, 04:01 AM   #10
bluesman
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I think that presence of wide-screen "communication center" would seriously impact riding safety. It will work on riding 200 km of straight road, but there you hardly need GPS etc.
As for answering phone calls - my system allows it but I never ever ever pick up. I think it is too dangerous.
Basically what I am saying - I think there must be limit of what you can and cannot do when riding, e.g. going over it impacts safety and riding style. I've seen my friend on GSA1200 in front of me drifting from lane to lane while sticking fingers into touch screen of his supercool CB/MP3 Player/GPS thingy (wired to helmet). Right in the middle of busy 4-lane circle around Malaga in Spain. It was scary. And he is not novice by far.
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Old 10-03-2012, 05:48 AM   #11
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I hear you bluesman, and it would be foolish to deny that. Look at what I wrote in the first paragraph.
However, I also specified it would be voice-controlled which makes things easier.
Furthermore, such a center could also improve road safety, as it can warn for several things ranging from serious drop of temperature (road-feeze) or accidents happened in front of you, to traffic-jam and other things.

We can say or think all we want of electronic equipment, and there really ARE dangers that come with it. But so does motorriding without them. If you do not want any danger, then better stay in bed, although on second thought that is were most people die so it is not safe there either :-)

It just is fact, that most people do not want to do without electronic devices on board. So instead of keep saying it is not safe, better make them as safe as possible, and try to give it functions that enhance safety at the same time.

Widescreen will not make it any more less safe then what we have now. Fiddling around with one hand at the side of your helmet whilst driving and because you do not the hack know what you are doing takes a lot more of your attention then when a widescreen would be at the place of your tachometer or similar and give you the info at a glance. We do not consider tachometers unsafe either.
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Old 10-03-2012, 06:26 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bluesman View Post
Here is how I dealt with it.

I have
Sena SR10 "bluetooth hub" with PTT button it comes with. Button attached to clutch lever.
PMR walkie-talkie radio (can be replaced with any other radio) plugged to SR10 with cable
Samsung Galaxy S2 phone with navigation software plugged to SR10 with cable (this is only because of Android shortcomings with pairing non-stereo output via Bluetooth)
That leaves still 1 free wired port on Sena SR10 for something else if I want.
Charger plugged to Triumph Tiger 800 stock power outlet next to ignition key.

All this sits in small magnetic tank bag. Very small.

NZI helmet with NZI Basic BT headset integrated - single pairing device. Nothing sticks out from helmet.

How it works...
Kinda obvious. Wanna talk on radio - use PTT button. Wanna take phone calls - it works kinda automatically. Wanna use GPS - it is on all the time talking to SR10 hub that BT connected to helmet.

Negative - only one.
SR10 cannot pass stereo sound (music) via BT. Does not bother me - I never listen to music when driving.
System is flexible - when I ride on my own I simply pair phone to helmet via BT. Then I can have stereo music, GPS, phone and no radio.
So, all that really would improve on this is same principle device as Sena SR10 but with Stereo-via-BT support.
The biggest problem with the way the BT headsets like the SM 10, F5, and G9 work is they aren't seamless between devices like the wired units. You have to SWITCH between communicator to music to phone and you miss the first half the voice prompts from the GPS. I'm assuming using the SR10 hub you don't see these kinds of problems?
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Old 10-03-2012, 06:33 AM   #13
bluesman
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That's correct. SR10 managing it - do not ask my how, but when GPS talking I can still talk on PMR and hear PMR...and strangely enough it seems to be OK, you can hear both well.
But.
My phone with GPS not linked by BT, but by wire to Sena. I do not know what happens, if I link phone to SR10 by BT and something else via BT and then from Sena to helmet via BT.
If I link phone to SR10 via BT, radio to Sena via cable and Sena to helmet via BT it works same way.
But from what I understood you can link more than 1 device via BT to Sena.
Reason I connect phone (with GPS softwares on it) to Sena with cable is this: with Android when you link something BT-equipped but not supporting A2DP phone does not output audio to that link. And GPS software output is "audio" always. E.g. when phone paired to SR10 via BT I cannot hear GPS or music or any "media audio".
This is not just with SR10, it is bug in Android that been driving people crazy for long time. All Samsungs seem to suffer from it, do not know about HTC etc.
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Old 10-03-2012, 07:28 AM   #14
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Sounds like you are talking about an Autocom system.

Mine integrates Zumo 660, iPod, FRS\GMRS and intercom for passenger and also can use the Zumo for Telephone communications if needs be.

Apart from an (optional) PT for the FRS/GMRS and the single cable to the helmet no part of the system is exposed. Since it uses a cable and is powered by the bike there are no concerns about charging the battery for the system.

..Tom
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Old 10-03-2012, 08:33 AM   #15
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Or the Starcom, or the J&M, or the IMC etc. Plenty of wired systems out there that do all that as well.
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