Blink and you might miss a major shift in the business of Smart Mobility. From bike sharing to Mobility as a Service and everything in between, the business of Smart Mobility takes many different forms and provides business opportunities for everyone from a small entrepreneur to the large car manufacturers. This article will accurately lay out the future of Smart Mobility and predict the winners and losers over the next 5 years, allowing everyone to sleep easy tonight. (And if you believe that, I also have a bridge to sell you.)
From bike share to scooters to car sharing: where are we today?
Arguably the start of shared mobility can be traced back to the Netherlands in the 1960's. Throughout the years, advancements in technology and congestion in urban environments has led to a more sophisticated model of bike sharing. In the last 10 years bike sharing has seen a rapid expansion of companies entering the market.
According to data from the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), in 2019 alone people took 136 million trips. In fact, when you add in scooter trips, a third of a billion trips were taken on shared bikes and scooters over the past decade.
While bike sharing has had a great run over the last decade, the explosion in popularity of scooter sharing and the increasing number of operators have been the bright shiny object that has everyone's attention.
NACTO reported that from 2018 to 2019, scooter ridership increased from 38.5 million to 88.5 million, a growth rate of more than 100%. Geographically, scooter companies continued expansion in 2019 to over 109 cities.
Car sharing has been a roller coaster ride of sorts with early entrants including Car2Go, BMW ReachNow, Lime Pods, Bolloré's Electric BlueCar program, and General Motors' Maven had some early success but largely these players have exited the market in favor of more sustainable businesses. It remains to be seen if car sharing will gain the popularity that scooter and bike sharing enjoy and if operators will figure out a sustainable model that meets the needs of today’s urban commuter.
Bolloré’s Blue Systems: the road to smart mobility
Bolloré pioneered electric car sharing with the launch of Autolib in 2011, enjoying huge growth and popularity. Bollore Group, largely known for its logistics business and LMP battery technology, saw the opportunity to help cities solve a mobility need while introducing zero emission electric cars: the Bluecar.
Launching 100% EV carsharing businesses became an important goal of using LMP battery technology to help reduce emissions in dense urban environments and bring equity to previously underserved communities. Launches in Lyon, Turin, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Singapore followed. Utilizing a proprietary software solution to monitor its global fleet of cars resulted in the natural evolution and launch of Bollore's Blue Systems Smart Mobility Division in 2014, led by CEO Christophe Arnaud. "It was a natural evolution for us to launch this business as we already had the expertise and technology to monitor a global fleet of cars" says Christophe Arnaud. By 2015 Blue Systems had already launched its software platform in France and the UK. Arnaud explains that in France, "Blue Systems integrated parking meters and provided digital permitting and digital fine payment systems allowing cities across France to better monitor parking meters, permitting, and violations on one single platform." In England, Blue Systems' Platform was used to monitor a network of EV charging stations and partnered with multiple Boroughs and car sharing companies to provide real time information on the EV charging infrastructure.
Blue Systems' Smart Mobility Platform today
The launch and popularity of scooters in North America and Europe created some challenges for cities who sought to ensure the public right of way was protected and that scooter companies operated in a safe and equitable manner in line with the overall mobility and transportation mission of cities. Enter Blue Systems. With a long history as a mobility operator and a proven software platform, Arnaud and an experienced team based in the U.S. and Europe began to meet with cities to discuss scooters and emerging mobility operators. In collaboration with several cities, Blue Systems developed and enhanced its Smart Mobility Platform to enable cities to monitor and manage not only scooters but all forms of mobility within dense urban environments. Today Blue Systems' Platform is used by cities including Los Angeles, San Jose, Lyon, Paris, London, and several other cities to be launched in 2021. "We have just scratched the surface in the U.S. and Europe, and we expect 2021 to be a very busy year as we explore new ways to help cities manage their mobility programs. Our team in the U.S. is working with emerging technology providers to provide cities with even better tools to help analyze the impact of mobility operators" said Arnaud when asked about future technology.
Blue Systems' MaaS offering
Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is the holy grail for cities grappling with the best way to integrate mobility operators under one platform that can provide a seamless experience for users. MaaS integrates multiple forms of transportation into a single mobility service or platform which can be accessed on-demand. This type of platform would not only integrate all forms of transit but also provide a single payment option for users to access the different mobility operators on the platform. This is the Holy Grail. Leveraging its expertise in mobility, data aggregation, data analytics, and IoT integration, Blue Systems has now launched its MaaS business. Blue Systems is already in discussions with several cities who understand the complexity of MaaS and the need to offer a seamless service to users. When asked about its ability to compete in this market, Arnaud explained that "Blue Systems is uniquely positioned and qualified to offer a comprehensive portfolio of products to help cities deal with the complex issues of mobility management and MaaS. As operators we were pioneers in the field of EV carsharing, our Smart Mobility Platform is in use by some of the biggest cities in the world, and our collaborations with other technology providers give us a unique advantage to help cities with today's challenges." In fact, through strategic partnerships Blue Systems can deliver a white label MaaS application for end users. At its core, it is a powerful data aggregation tool that collects both shared and open-source data from mobility operators including private operators and mass transit. Arnaud added that "data security is a high priority and our MaaS offering makes it possible to collect data in a way that protects privacy of end users while adhering to the most stringent data security principles. Ownership of data always remains with the mobility operators, transit authorities and cities."
What’s Next for Blue Systems
When asked what is next for Blue Systems, Arnaud laughed and said “well, we definitely have to hire more people!”