Improving life quality and urban mobility in smart cities with IoT services
It’s time for a big change
Cities are challenged. The pandemic, the upward trend for online shopping, increasing digital lifestyles and the climate crisis are carving out a new normal for city life. Climate and pollution are top of mind, both from the perspective of individuals (i.e. personal carbon footprint and the health impact of pollution) and from public and private organizations who are increasingly under pressure to meet net-zero targets - especially given the agreements at COP26. At the same time, people have high expectations regarding a rich, convenient, and secure city life. A recent study from Ericsson ConsumerLab on the Future Urban Reality reveals that two in five city inhabitants think they will change how they commute. But the study also shows that expectations are often opposing each other. For example, while 23% of city commuters expect to walk – or take the bike – more in the future, 13% expect to do it less. Similar opposing expectations can be found for public transport and private car use.
What does this tell us?
It’s clearly a time of uncertainty, where urban dwellers are rethinking how they are transporting themselves. And times of uncertainties are times of opportunities. Now is the time for city administrators to embrace new, emerging urban mobility concepts, such as the 15-minute city. It is based on the idea that city dwellers can access their essential living needs within roughly a quarter of an hour by walking, biking, taking public transport, or using a shared micromobility service.
The disruptive role of micromobility
New urban mobility concepts will need to take a systemic approach and embrace many different transport means ranging from public to private. But a few cornerstones should be considered: electrification, digitalization, shared vehicles, and micromobility. Digitalization of urban transport is pivotal for new urban mobility, enabling a broad spectrum of use cases ranging from a seamless travel experience across public and private travel to managing transport assets and ensuring transport safety.
Shared micromobility services leveraging e-bikes or e-scooters are the foundation of 15-minute city concepts. You have for sure seen e-bikes and e-scooters popping up in many cities now, and you may already have tried them for short rides or are even using them regularly. Although very convenient, these services have challenges, ranging from careless parking or vandalism to how to help both riders and pedestrians keep safe.
Challenges are opportunities to improve. For example, careless parking can be addressed through incentives and geofencing. In addition, rider feedback loops, situational restrictions of scooter capabilities (e.g. speed limits in certain areas), computer vision technology can help to increase safety, and adding sound may alert pedestrians of approaching scooters. Technology can enable a lot of things, but the key is the ability to understand challenges quickly and respond with fast problem-solving.
Shared micromobility is still a young industry, and there are many lessons to be learned and new innovative solutions to be developed. The critical success factor in disruptive industries is agility and speed, and these two often requires IoT. Data-driven operations help micromobility services providers understand and respond fast by offering enhancements related to electric vehicles and the enabling digital services described above.
Creating a brand new ecosystem with IoT
A growing range of IoT sensors installed on e-scooters enable operational use cases such as location tracking and monitoring the wear and tear of scooter parts. But delivering a seamless commuting experience across several transport means or sustainably improving travel safety requires cooperation with city administration, public transport companies, application specialists, academia and others. By leveraging aggregated and correlated data generated by e-scooters and other sources, city administrations will better understand how people move about and when. In fact, it’s all about co-value-creation, and co-value-creation requires digital platforms and API based data sharing.
And if e-scooters are evolving towards powerful "sensor ecosystems on wheels", why not add more sensors for purposes beyond pure transport? For example, air quality and noise sensors can collect real-time environmental data giving city administrations insights into actual environmental conditions in their cities. The Ericsson ConsumerLab report “10 Hot Consumer Trends 2030” has revealed that consumers expect to be surrounded by all sorts of assistant bots by 2030. "Guardian angels" may help to detect unforeseen hazards, "sustainability bots" may guide consumers on how to apply a sustainable lifestyle, "Explainers" may help in daily decision making, and there may be many other connected, intelligent machines in our everyday life. If we expect data flow networks to merge, what role will e-scooters play in such a vision?
The business value of IoT use cases
Back to earth: Shared micromobility service providers such as Voi do, of course, have to run a successful daily business, generating revenues and minimizing costs. Therefore, Ericsson conducted a business case study together with Voi to quantify some of the business benefits of data-driven scooter operations enabled by cellular IoT connectivity. The study showed that the largest contribution to the overall economic benefit for Voi comes from an expanded lifespan of e-scooters. In addition, improved service logistics is another crucial factor, and IoT enabled dynamic pricing is also a relevant value creator. A detailed analysis can be found in the Connected Micromobility Report.
The key enabler: managed IoT connectivity
Discussing IoT use cases as the ones mentioned above is always fun. Still, there needs to be an engine behind it, ensuring that they can be implemented and operated in a cost-efficient and highly scalable manner. And a crucial component of such an engine is managed cellular IoT connectivity. Voi cannot manage its connected scooters worldwide without having full visibility and control of the entire fleet. Here is where Arkessa is a crucial partner and provider of global cellular IoT connectivity. Arkessa leverages the Ericsson IoT Accelerator platform to provide managed services that span the scooter fleet's entire lifecycle. As a result, it enables Voi to deploy their fleets to multiple countries/regions globally in a seamless fashion and reduces operational costs.
Innovation is needed more than ever to address the challenges of our time. But all innovation comes with challenges and drawbacks; this is not different for the micromobility segment. The key to success is the capability to be agile and respond to drawbacks and learnings quickly. Building the business based on a digital business model enabled by managed cellular IoT connectivity is not a guarantee but definitely an excellent foundation for success.
- Learn more by reading the full report Connected Micromobility. A case study demonstrating cellular IoT business value to the transport industry
- Try the Micromobility Value Calculator to figure out the annual value of cellular IoT for micromobility companies
- Read more about the shared challenges for micromobility operators
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