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Shared Mobility Relies on Smart IoT Connectivity

by Benoit Tournier, Director of Marketing, Transportation
IoT
For more than one hundred years, the automotive business model has been both stable and simple: OEMs manufacture cars, and consumers buy cars. Even alternative models—renting and leasing—were minor variations on this theme relying on consumer ownership. But the rise of car sharing and automation, powered by connected technology, is changing this long-standing model. Ownership, it seems, is increasingly optional.

In a more urban world, people are realizing that owning a vehicle is increasingly painful: looking for a parking place, losing more time in traffic congestion to find the right place, spending more money to finance it, and paying the rising taxes related to fuel consumption and carbon footprint…for their cars that are parked 95% of the time

This explains why innovative mobility services are being launched to provide access to shared vehicles that let people drive where and when they need to without owning a vehicle. But as car-sharing turns the vehicle ownership model into a vehicle usage model, consistent connectivity becomes essential. Riders must be able to find and book cars that are available to use. 

Connectivity Challenges

The main problem is that cellular networks are not always ubiquitous, and depending on the underlying technology (whether 2G, 3G or 4G LTE) and on the mobile operator, their coverage differs. 

The issue is especially complex in urban environments. Cities are filled with “urban canyons” that interfere with radio signals, impacting the network coverage, which can vary depending on carrier. Areas like parking garages often pose additional connectivity issues. This kind of unreliability is damaging for sharing service providers whose customers need the ability to hail a vehicle anytime, anywhere. The vehicles could lose business just by being parked on the wrong place—if the vehicle cannot “talk” to its IoT platform, then the customer cannot know that it’s nearby and available for use. This might require the car sharing service providers to employ a mobile workforce to manually locate, unlock, and move cars to connected and “bookable” locations.

What’s needed is a better connectivity technology, one with a single SIM that can detect all available networks and seamlessly select and attach to the best carrier for any location. If one signal is lost in transit, a multi-network Smart SIM would jump to the next network automatically. This capability would drastically simplify IoT deployments for transportation initiatives where mission-critical communications are required.

Overcoming IoT Problems with Sierra Wireless

Companies are already working with just such a solution. Consider French startup YUGO, entering the scooter-sharing market in Barcelona. The Spanish city is the second largest market for scooter transportation in Europe, and in it YUGO saw a business opportunity.

By using embedded IoT modules, the company was able to overcome the connectivity and reliability issues that affect vehicle-sharing services. They offer electric scooters that are connected, identified, located, reserved, and activated via a smartphone application. 

YUGO chose Sierra Wireless’ Smart SIM to connect their scooters to ensure true multi-operator connectivity and maximize the network’s coverage. The vehicles’ SIMs are not restricted to one network and can instead select the best signal for any given time and place, allowing them to synchronize scooters and IoT platform and move freely throughout the city.

This “always on” capability is not only vital to the customer experience for vehicle-sharing service providers, but it can also prevent theft and allow operators to check up on vehicles in real time. A company could, for example, keep track of its shared work vehicles’ locations while dynamically monitoring mileage, tire pressure, and other diagnostics. 
 
Future IoT and Transportation Sharing Innovations

Businesses in the sharing economy can leverage this technology to further streamline the customer experience across other industries. Consider Logistics, with firms like uShip, which pairs up vehicles with open space and consumers who need to move large objects. It’s an innovative opportunity that could be further refined by the IoT. Sensors in these trucks could be used to scan the exact dimensions of available space and this data could be instantly matched with customer’s parcel delivery specifications.

Providing additional possibilities is INVERS AlwaysOn, a solution that allows users to open their cars remotely, enabled by the Sierra Wireless Smart SIM in the vehicle. In a recent comparison, the technology was faster and more reliable than other OEMs’ solutions, and it’s available to any car maker. 

Technologies like the Smart SIM will disrupt the transportation market, enabling innovative mobility services by providing resilient connectivity through multiple networks. Devices and vehicles can find a connection with a Smart SIM even when inside of a building or on the lowest level of a parking garage, and companies have cost-effective access to more operators, ensuring that customers can connect quickly and simply.

For transportation-sharing to flourish, the underlying technology must already be in place, otherwise public sentiment won’t encourage widespread adoption of these services and the true promise of the sharing economy will be delayed. Sierra Wireless is a leader in innovative IoT applications for both startups and established businesses in the transportation industry. Start with Sierra to learn how we can help you become IoT-ready, or read more about our solutions.