10 Jul 2020

IoT on wheels: Micromobility's connected two-wheelers

All two-wheelers are equal, but some are more equal than others.

u-blox positioning and wireless communication solutions benefit e-bikes

What do e-scooters, e-bikes, e-mopeds, and e-motorcycles all have in common? Obviously, they are all two-wheelers. They are all battery powered, as the “e-“ prefix suggests. They are gaining traction in cities around the world in shared micromobility schemes and, increasingly, also for private use. And less visible to the naked eye, they are all IoT devices on wheels. They typically feature a satellite-based positioning receiver, a cellular modem for cloud connectivity, and a short range Bluetooth or Wi-Fi link for local tasks, such as access control and configuration by the user, and service and repair operations by the operator.

Not only that; they are also are part of a booming market. We all know that micromobility has had its hiccups: the Chinese shared bike market famously imploded in 2018, and this year’s Covid-19 pandemic prompted many cities to temporarily freeze their micromobility programs. But as cities reopen and these restrictions are lifted, micromobility will likely grow its user base as urban residents wary of contracting the virus opt to commute individually on two-wheelers rather than in crowded subways and buses.[1] US sales for e-bikes are expected to grow by 30 percent next year, while UK demand for e-mopeds has tripled year on year.[2]

If you’ve ever used an e-scooter and an e-bike, you’ll understand that they serve different needs. E-scooters are best suited to cover short, urban, distances. E-bikes are perfect for longer and faster commutes. E-mopeds increase the range even more. And high-end e-motorcycles offer premium performance with enhanced comfort and safety. This diversity of transportation modes is key in the popularity of the overall solution.

Backend complexity – frontend simplicity

Behind the scenes, micromobility solutions are complex. They connect a diversity of stakeholders – government agencies, traffic authorities, product manufacturers, and platform operators – across a fragmented value chain and force them to work together to develop innovative ways to make transportation safer, cleaner, more efficient, and more fun.

The apparent simplicity they present to end-users, who will only change their habits if the new service comes with lower burdens than existing ones, has been essential to their success. All the functionality that riders access primarily via a smartphone application – from social interactions and activity tracking to vehicle configuration and support – contributes to the “stickiness” of any given service provider’s offering.

Standing out in a competitive market

In just a few years, the micromobility market has become crowded, with new players, both local and global, entering the market every month, setting up shop, and pitching their solutions to a growing customer base. All of them cover the same baseline value proposition – renting out their fleet of shared vehicles for a fee. To stand out and gain market share, solution providers need to be innovative to find new ways to differentiate their offering and their operations. Here, hardware can make a huge difference, with global navigation satellite system (GNSS) receivers but one of many examples.

GNSS receivers are essential enablers of the shared micromobily’s unique value proposition. Without them, users would never find their rides, and service provides would have no means of tracking their fleet. But beyond this basic functionality, there is plenty of room for added value. Geo-fencing is increasingly being adopted to enforce an operational perimeter within which the vehicles are allowed to operate, in addition to enforcing speed limits, and excluding restricted areas for riding and parking.

This performance is limited by the accuracy of the positioning solution, which, depending on the technologies used, can vary from tens of meters to tens of centimeters. This is particularly important in urban environments, where high building density and deep urban canyons can degrade performance even more dramatically, impacting the quality of the service and riders’ user experience. Under such challenging conditions, investing in a reliable and accurate positioning solution can translate directly to a superior user experience and increased customer loyalty. 

u-blox: a one-stop-shop for micromobility solutions

With two decades of global leadership in GNSS solutions for the automotive market, an extensive wireless technology offering, and a growing number of customers in the micromobility segment, u-blox is an ideal partner for micromobility solutions.

Contact us to find out more about how our broad portfolio of GNSS-based positioning solutions, cellular communication modules, and short range (Bluetooth and Wi-Fi) modules, as well as our recently launched data management, positioning, and security services combine to enable a micromobility service offering that streamlines development, deployment, and maintenance while offering best-in-class customer experience.

Watch this space for more insights on how to enhance the positioning accuracy of your fleet, on emerging technologies in micromobility segment, and on new service-enabled paradigms that will help step up your game from development through to the operational phase of your mobility service platform. We’ll share our vision about what you can do to bring your solutions to market in record time.

Diego Grassi

Senior Manager Application Marketing, Industrial Market Development, u-blox

Stephen Kaufmann

Area Sales Manager Northern Germany and Benelux

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