Like most industries, the micromobility industry faced uncertainty during the Covid-19 pandemic but a comeback is taking hold, says Ben Forgan, co-founder and CEO of Hologram.io. Despite the headwinds, McKinsey notes that “micromobility could reach a consumer-spending potential of $300 billion (€279.81 billion) globally by 2030.”
The move to remote and hybrid work, mixed with rising gas prices in the past several months, may have readied the market for its next growth spurt, priming the industry to focus on innovations in safety, accessibility, and cost-efficiency as the use of AI, computer vision, and sensor technology grows.
While connecting and tracking vehicles used to be challenging because of the coverage limitations of any one mobile carrier, a paradigm shift toward multi-carrier networks is changing what is possible in micromobility. Now, ongoing connection stability and eUICC capabilities that promote easy-to-use fleet deployment and dashboard ownership have helped micromobility providers achieve reliable and extensive connectivity. For the consumer, the power of carrier-agnostic connectivity has made each ride on an e-bike or e-scooter more affordable while lowering individual carbon emissions and decreasing environmental impact amid a global climate crisis.
Below are a few key ways constant connectivity has contributed to micromobility’s surge in adoption.
Ease of deployment
By utilising platforms that provide multi-carrier connectivity via a single SIM card, micromobility companies can deploy their fleets nearly anywhere in the world without having to deploy multiple SIM cards per device or navigate the complex array of mobile network providers in each market they operate. Carrier-agnostic, constant connectivity helps fleets expand into new geographies seamlessly while offering a competitive advantage over other providers who may rely upon single carriers that can’t always guarantee a reliable connection.
Connectivity is important not just over vast geographical areas but within cities, where micromobility projects are likely deployed, as coverage reliability can vary even by neighbourhood. Micromobility companies can also deploy their fleets more rapidly into new markets, thanks partly to services like prototype testing and features of some platforms that automatically optimise SIM cards to activate at the right time. Providers may also offer pilot programs that help companies study the total cost of ownership and project ROI in advance of full rollouts.
The U.S. and other countries are updating outdated transportation infrastructure and focusing on creating smarter cities. There has also been a specific uptick in creating equity policies. Many municipalities in the U.S. require that a percentage of micromobility vehicle fleets be allocated to lower-income neighborhoods and offer steep discounts to riders in these areas. Many rideshare systems receive support from their local governments for providing active transportation alternatives to driving a car. The low cost of e-scooter and e-bike rental has provided dense city centres, lower-income areas, and communities with new transportation options. Commuters can dock or park e-bikes and scooters at charging stations and avoid parking costs and taxi fees.
For micromobility companies, achieving constant connectivity via a multi-carrier approach has immediate fleet management benefits. For one, the days of box trucks burning gasoline while searching every city street for disabled scooters are over. Instead, each vehicle is precisely tracked, and micromobility fleet managers can check on device health remotely to anticipate downtime. This capability results in fuel savings associated with retrieving disabled vehicles and preserves revenue from vehicles’ swift return to service.
Multi-carrier platforms also offer pricing advantages for connectivity for deploying a high volume of low-throughput devices. While some traditional pricing models for cellular connectivity are optimised for high-throughput devices like media servers and autonomous vehicles, IoT micromobility devices have low data usage needs. Multi-carrier IoT connectivity providers create more appropriate pricing models for organisations and often will furnish pay-as-you-go services rather than require minimum data usage fees.
UX innovation and API integration
In the past, misuse made micromobility options a nuisance for cities, where it was common to find a scooter sprawled on a sidewalk or other inconvenient places. Micromobility fleet managers using digital connectivity solutions can get a bird’s eye view of every device in their fleet using dashboards, something that most mobile network operators do not provide to IoT fleet managers. These dashboards offer proactive monitoring and fleet tracking, improving the lifespan of micromobility fleets through easy-to-access diagnostics, location monitoring, data usage, and device usage.
Dashboards can also hone in on specific problem devices that require attention with real-time connection status, location, and an immediate discrepancy notification, all in one place. This type of fleet monitoring also simultaneously combats device theft, vandalism, and vehicle performance issues. For example, Cowboy, a Hologram partner, deploys e-bikes worldwide, taking a technology-first approach by pairing their fleets with consumers via an app that utilises GPS technology and the remote locking of devices. A fleet manager can diagnose and resolve hardware and software issues from thousands of miles away without sending someone locally to repair them, ultimately saving the company time and money.
For start-ups in this space, achieving constant IoT connectivity is particularly helpful to product team members. Instead of troubleshooting most of their day, they can spend more time on innovations and less worrying about administrative or security work. It’s also important to note that micromobility companies can use API connections and integrations with their IoT cellular connectivity platform, ensuring seamless reporting within the enterprise systems they prefer.
In urban environments, micromobility is reducing car usage leading to lower noise, less pollution, and reduced traffic congestion over time. In 2020, car traffic decreased for several months, Yelp to notice that dozens of cities created car-free zones that attracted more human activity areas perfect for e-scooters and e-bikes.
As a commuting alternative, many cities, governments, and major rideshare providers like Uber and Lyft aim to tackle the world’s carbon emissions problems through micromobility. Because production costs are low for micromobility vehicles, many can be purchased as shared assets or owned by individuals outright.
Earlier this year, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker unveiled plans during April’s Zero Emission Vehicle Commission meeting to develop a financial incentive program encouraging the state’s residents who commute or work delivery to purchase private electric pedal-assist bicycles through 2025. The New York City and Chicago metro areas are also following suit by launching large micromobility pilot programs, evaluating the feasibility of expanding this mode of transportation within their cities.
IoT cellular connectivity platforms enable this expansion era for the micromobility industry, leading providers to quickly bounce back from COVID-19 shutdowns by offering reliability, transparency, and flexibility. With advances in connectivity options that assist in deployment, fleets are easier to place anywhere providers want them to be, while still maintaining a low cost of ownership. With real-time dashboards, managers can be more proactive and mitigate issues before they arise and provide live reporting metrics from anywhere in the world.
For individual consumers, affordability, combined with a desire to reduce their environmental impact, has provided enough incentive to jumpstart the demand for micromobility solutions. To achieve industry goals around micromobility access and eventually, ubiquity, the most future-proof providers prioritise constant connectivity by using a single eSIM to access multi-network cellular coverage.
The author is Ben Forgan, co-founder and CEO of Hologram.io.