24 Jul 2020

The tech that can make or break micromobility

Anyone can make an e-bike or an e-scooter. It takes great hardware to build a compelling micromobility offering that people will want to ride – again and again.


Without reliable real-time knowledge on the whereabouts of each individual e-scooter, e-bike, or e-motorcycle in a fleet, today’s platform-based business model in micromobility would simply fall apart. You’d be hard-pressed to find a single provider that doesn’t depend on satellite-based positioning information. As a result, micromobilty has, in just a few years, become a key market for GNSS receiver manufacturers.

But even though there’s a GNSS receiver in every shared ride, there’s still plenty of room for differentiation. In real-world settings, in particular in dense urban areas, standard GNSS receivers are accurate to 10-15 meters – assuming that they are within direct line of sight of orbiting GNSS satellites. In even more challenging conditions, accuracies can increase to 60 meters, 80 meters, or even more. Luckily, these are rare, and using regular GNSS receivers has been good enough to bring a shared e-mobility service to market. But if the goal is to deliver a smooth and uncomplicated user experience that your customers won’t forget while building a long-term leadership, think again.

Accuracy: important today, indispensable tomorrow

With the abundance of shared e-bikes and e-scooters on the road today, locating the exact one you just reserved or that was flagged for maintenance can be like looking for an apple in a ball pit. Higher positioning accuracy helps customers (and service staff) cut the time it takes to find the bikes they are looking for, translating to less hassle, time saved, and an altogether better experience.

Simply tuning the antenna can deliver significant improvements in a GNSS receiver’s sensitivity and accuracy. Tracking the signals of multiple GNSS constellations on multiple frequency bands can lead to further gains in accuracy. But with the rapid evolution of micromobility solutions, investing in even higher accuracy, for instance with high precision positioning solutions that use GNSS correction data to achieve centimeter-level positioning, could soon become a prerequisite to being able to keep up with new innovative functionalities as they hit the market.

As cities enforce stricter regulation to manage the ballooning number of shared e-two-wheelers, centimeter-level geofencing could gain in importance as a means of enforcing speed limits, keeping rides out of restricted areas, or ensuring that vehicles are only left on designated spots. And as micromobility evolves from being merely a convenient way to get from one place to another to a means of staying fit, high precision positioning could enable superior performance metrics.

Coverage beyond line of sight

Urban environments present a critical challenge. If an e-scooter or an e-bike weaves its way through traffic in a built up metropolitan area, the positioning receiver can be thrown off by GNSS signals bouncing off surrounding buildings, leading to unstable positioning performance with errors in the dozens of meters. Dead-reckoning solutions that combine inertial sensor measurements with satellite-based position offer the most cost-effective way to rein in these multipath errors and even bridge short GNSS outages, and that without the hassle and effort that dual-band GNSS integration would require.

Positioning solutions with integrated 3D inertial sensors, such as our NEO-M8U untethered dead reckoning module , are ideal solutions for uninterrupted positioning, providing continuous vehicle tracking and navigation even under such challenging signal conditions.

Staying ahead in a crowded market

The micromobilty segment is fiercely competitive, and it’s particularly challenging for companies hoping to get rich by simply copycatting others. Fortunately, as we’ve seen, with constant evolution brought by platform innovation, connectivity infrastructure rollouts, and fast-paced hardware development, there is no lack of room for micromobility providers to carve out a niche for themselves to offer a user experience, features, and performance that sets them apart from the competition today and puts them on a solid path to future leadership in innovation.

We’ll be hosting a webinar on August 27, in which we'll look at how u-blox technology can help you design a micromobility solution that sets you apart from competition. Register today for the AM slot, from 10-11 AM CEST, or for the PM slot, from 5-6 PM CEST. We look forward to seeing you there!

Diego Grassi

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

Mathias Vetter

Principal Product Manager, Consumer and Industrial Tracking

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