Escalated by human activity, high pollution levels are now seen as a fundamental global health concern one in 10 human deaths worldwide were attributed to air pollution exposure in 2016. And nowhere is this issue more critical than in our cities.
Pressured by environmental concerns, the value of eco-friendly, inner-city travel initiatives has never been greater. Bike-sharing schemes, in particular, have exploded in popularity amongst commuters, tourists and general city dwellers as a result of this. However, with the restrictions of specific drop-off and collection points, some would-be users consider such schemes a time-consuming and inconvenient option – turning people away from what should be a valuable asset for urban travellers.
Identifying the limitations of bike-sharing schemes with dedicated docking stations, Mobike was launched in Shanghai in 2016, with a unique and innovative business model. Using Vodafone’s connected technology, Mobike is the world’s first dock-less bike-sharing company, eradicating the inflexibility associated with docking stations, and bringing consumers into the next generation of bike sharing.
Using its smartphone app, Mobike users locate the nearest available smart-bike – each is fitted with a solar-powered GPS system – and unlock the bike through its QR-code based locking system. Once their journey is complete, users then have the unique ability to freely leave and lock the bike at their destination, wherever that may be, to be used by the next cyclist. Mobike’s alternative bike-share scheme gives people total freedom of movement throughout the city at a highly affordable cost.
Each Mobike is embedded with a Vodafone Global IoT SIM, enabling it to connect to Vodafone’s Global IoT Network, allowing the exact location of each bike to be made accessible in real-time. If bikes have been parked in unauthorised locations, Mobike uses the bike’s connectivity to produce automated alerts within its own network. However, instead of sending staff out to retrieve the off-grid bikes, Mobike has introduced a cash reward to incentivise users to collect them – marked with a ‘red package’ icon in the in-app map. As a fraction of what the operational cost would be to retrieve the bike, the cash incentive increases the operational efficiency of the service, and means that it can run as a self-managing system.
The network capabilities of Mobike’s smart-bike fleet also enable the service to ensure that every bike is in full working order. If there is an issue with any of the bike’s smart-bike features, then the bike is automatically taken offline in real-time for servicing, thanks to built-in sensors and diagnostic monitoring features. The GPS capabilities then provide the maintenance team with a map showing the fastest and most direct route to the bike, enhancing efficiency for the maintenance team. The scheme’s innovative use of connected technology has resulted in maintenance requirements to be significantly lower than traditional bike-shares. In other models, the average ratio of bike to staff is 50:1, whereas with Mobike this ratio is 3,000:1.
First launched in Shanghai in April 2016, Mobike has now expanded its service to over 60 cities across China. The scheme has reinvigorated bicycle use in the country more than doubling in the cities in which it has been introduced – and changed the lives of Mobike users by enabling a healthier and more active approach to their daily routines, whilst also reducing environmental pollution caused by motorised transportation. Mobikers in China have already travelled more than 2.5 billion kilometres, equivalent to taking 170,000 cars off its roads for one year, or saving 29 million tonnes of oil.
Mobike’s environmental ambitions are the true driving force behind the project. The scheme works alongside city councils and local governments to ensure that it can help address the issues that are present in many transport networks. By improving connectivity between the bike-sharing network and public transport options, the hope is that a more efficient and environmentally friendly city transportation network will be created. This will then solve many of the issues relating to congestion and pollution in urban areas, and ultimately enhance the health and lifestyles of citizens.
With Mobike proved as a popular and efficient bike share alternative in China, the main focus is now on international expansion. Launching in March 2017, Mobike’s implementation within Singapore marked its first step towards growth in additional markets. Since then the service has expanded to locations across Europe, North America and Oceania. Enabled by Vodafone’s Global IoT SIM and the global reach of its secure network, Mobike has been able to swiftly rollout its service worldwide, without having to negotiate with regional providers.
Speaking on Mobike’s growing influence, Vodafone Group’s CEO, Vittorio Colao, said, “Mobike is redefining, again, what we already thought was a new model, the bike-sharing service. Further still, Mobike is also redefining how car-sharing services operate, and forcing taxi drivers to rethink how they work.”
By challenging the perceived limitations of “transport as-a-service”, Mobike is helping others to understand what the transport of the future will look like. And in helping re-establish bike-sharing as a popular mode of urban travel, Mobike is beginning to bring about positive environmental change in a world that desperately needs it.
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