“Smart” technology: it’s a buzzword that tells you a device is enhanced in some way, usually by connectivity to other devices. Odds are your helmet is dumb: it’s just a helmet. But in an era of smartphones, houses, appliances, cars and even eyeglasses, odds are you want your helmet to do more than just protect your melon from wind, weather, or bouncing off the ground. 

Other companies have indeed brought smart helmets to market, but South Korea’s eCell Electronics, a maker of dash cameras and other technology, saw a market for a quality smart helmet at a reasonable price. The six-year-old company took the unusual step of mounting a Kickstarter campaign to raise both funds and awareness of the helmet, dubbed the PLY.

The problem, says eCell’s PLY division, is that though cameras and audio systems are widely available for mounting on a helmet, some riders want a clean, integrated turnkey solution. We’ve noted riders with so much gear festooned on their lids they look like small Mars rovers. Cameras, even HD-quality ones, are light, compact and inexpensive, as are Bluetooth comm systems, so the time is ripe for an affordable, compact, well-integrated solution.

PLY Helmets

A drop-down visor is essential for a touring helmet if you ask us. The PLY’s chinbar can be disassembled to access the electronics inside.

The helmet, which eCell says has received FCC and CE certification and will start shipping at the end of August, looks like a well-developed product. A 720p, 30 FPS HD camera is mounted in the chinbar, linked to the helmet’s Bluetooth headphone system. A long-life 2,700 mAh battery provides power for up to 15 hours for the audio system alone, and 5.5 hours of video recording time.

The most exciting feature of this new connected lid is the weight…and how it’s distributed. At a claimed 1550 grams (less than 3.5 pounds), the PLY is about the weight of other high-end helmets, helmets lacking the integrated electronics. A GoPro and Sena headset combined can easily add another half pound to your helmet, and the camera, at least, is usually mounted somewhere that will throw off the balance of your pot, possibly causing neck strain and buffeting. With the PLY, the camera is neatly packed into the chinbar, and the removable battery is in the back, promising a nicely balanced package.  

PLY Smart Helmet

This is a pretty feature-packed helmet for the money; buying the stuff separately would probably be more than $500.

All those tightly-packaged gizmos could affect the full-face helmet’s safety, but not in this case, says eCell. The PLY, with a FRP shell, passes both the DOT and ECE safety standards. It’s worth mentioning that affixing stuff to your helmet can affect how it performs in a crash; that’s why it’s not a good idea to glue or screw camera mounts to your helmet. Having everything integrated can lessen the risk of your head being twisted the wrong way when a mount catches on something during a crash, or the helmet impacting in a way the engineers who designed it couldn’t foresee. The helmet also boasts an emergency removal system that looks a lot like the one on an HJC RPHA 70.

Cameras like the GoPro offer better video resolution, but that doesn’t seem to worry eCell. It’s best known for dashcams, which aren’t there to generate lush YouTube videos, but rather to record daily driving. The video automatically records on a loop, on a micro SD card up to 64 GB; that means up to 20 hours of recording time. Image stabilization and a wide-angle lens adjustable for your riding position (cruiser, standard or sportbike, for instance) mean you can trust the video will show every moment of the ride. 

 

Handlebar-mounted controller looks like a frustration-free way of operating the helmet, especially while wearing gloves.

 

Other technology is cutting edge. GPS stamps the video with your speed and location. The Bluetooth has all the standard headset features, but the speakers use noise-canceling technology to allow further placement from the ears. You can use the push-to-talk (PTT) button with an app like Zello to give you walkie-talkie-like connectivity with riding buddies (it’s not compatible with other helmet headset systems).

The smartphone app will allow users to download video and access many other functions.

A smartphone app lets the user track progress on a map and download or view videos without having to remove the SD card, thanks to the unit’s built-in WiFi. There will also be an available handlebar-mounted remote to adjust track, volume, answer calls or operate the camera. Additionally, the helmet can be recharged while operating, and it’s water resistant to the IP-54 standard, so rain shouldn’t be a problem. 

Helmet features include a clear, anti-fog faceshield as well as a drop-down internal sun visor, adjustable top, front and rear vents and available smoke or mirrored visors. The shell comes in two sizes and there are six sizes, XS-XXL. There are four color schemes: white, black, black with decals or white with decals. 

The PLY will start shipping to Kickstarter pledges in August, priced at $499. You can get more info at okply.com.