Japanese mobile service provider Docomo announced an update to their bike sharing scheme at the recent Wireless Japan exhibition.

Earlier in the year the company teamed up with Japanese company Pedal for a trial service whereby the public could locate the nearest rental area for the bikes and rent them, unlocking the bikes through codes sent to their handsets. However the new system is a lot more integrated with FeliCa capabilities and makes use of Android smartphones.

The bikes are stored in specially designed bike parks hooked up to the “Inter Street” machines. Users touch their FeliCa enabled phones to the sensor pad on the machines and register their phone number and mail address. A confirmation mail is then automatically sent to the phone which users then touch to the locking mechanism. The lock automatically unlocks and the cyclist can then take the bike, and the time is registered by the service and on the users phone. Those without FeliCa phones can use either a credit card or another emoney payment system.

The bikes have a holder for the Android phones mounted on the handle bars to make use of a specially designed app for the service. The app gives the user map information, highlights local attractions and shops, suggests routes and uses GPS to track where and how far the cyclists pedal. It can also display health information such as how many calories burned during the cycle and the route taken. Once finished with the bikes can be left at any of the other bike stations around the area, meaning that one way trips are also possible. Users are then charged automatically via emoney from their registered phones based on how long they have used the bikes for.

The health and wellness market is a growing sector globally now and tying in smartphone capabilities for a more enhanced experience is becoming more common. Tied in with a social service such as foursquare or twitter, users could possibly compete with others for example for the most distance cycled. It would also be interesting to offer promotions for shops or restaurants that are on recommended roots which pop up in real time on the phone as they are cycled past.