Smart Mobility


Cellular connectivity is the critical component in Smart Mobility

says Frank Stoecker of EMnify

Smart mobility is a fundamental building block within smart city infrastructures. It delivers sustainable transportation for citizens, improving air quality and reducing commuting times. Yet without connectivity and rapid, secure, reliable methods of data transmission, the user experience suffers and wider opportunities cannot be harnessed.

The concept of smart cities is nothing new. In Europe, research, trials and testing began as early as the late 1980s and into the 1990s, culminating in information and communications initiatives, sustainable public spaces, sustainable working environments and the implementation of grid energy solutions before the turn of the millennium. Geographical information systems (GIS) were also being deployed to capture city data and analyse the relationships between streets, buildings, traffic, citizens and plant life. From Copenhagen to Kyoto, Geneva to Seoul, and Edinburgh to Amsterdam, smart city initiatives were beginning to make their presence felt. Yet despite decades of innovation and deployment, smart cities and the realisation of smart city ideals remained in their infancy. Activities were siloed and projects struggled to gain any meaningful traction. The technology was lagging behind the vision, but things started to change around five years ago. The three principles of smart city success: people, processes and technology (PPT), began to coalesce, paving the way for accelerated change.

Frank Stoecker, CEO and co-founder, EMnify

As a result of this new enablement, driven by technological advancements, the global revenue for smart city technologies, products and services is expected to reach US$129 billion by the end of 2021, rising to more than US$241 billion by 2025.1 This figure includes all revenue generated by offering technologies and products that use information and data technologies to create more value within the public city environment. When smart home initiatives and personal enabling devices are factored in, the scale of the opportunity becomes greatly amplified.

The building blocks of a smart city

Beyond the PPT principles, beyond studying communities, understanding the processes and drivers, and defining objectives to meet citizens' needs, an implementation framework is required. And this needs to be built upon connectivity. Without connectivity and rapid, secure, reliable methods of data transmission, everything else begins to fall away. Without trust in the networks, rollouts will be compromised and projects will be prone to uncertainties. Smart cities can only work if citizens can trust them.

Mobility management involves a range of stakeholders: unlike 20 years ago, when it was just city authorities, the new mobility services are now popping up, prompting the need to work with a range of private partners

That’s why availability, integrity, confidentiality and accountability need to be at the forefront of any network infrastructure, ensuring that all ecosystem partners operate within a coherent and transparent digital environment.

  • Availability ensures actionable, real-time data access, allowing information to be collected, analysed and shared at the speeds necessary for decision-making.

  • Data integrity is paramount to the smooth operation of a smart city. Without accurate and reliable data, decision-making becomes compromised.
  • Confidentiality is a necessary consideration. A subset of the data collected, stored and analysed will directly correspond to citizens’ personal details and actions. This needs to be protected, and sometimes anonymised, to prevent unauthorised access.

  • Accountability ensures that system administrators and users at all levels are held responsible for their actions. Interactions must be recorded and assigned to individual users, with safeguards in place to ensure data traceability and reliability.

Built upon these principles and the guiding framework, the smart city becomes an economically sustainable urban development, bestowing a high standard of living upon its residents. And because the standard of living directly influences the quality of life, citizens can enjoy healthier, more fulfilled lives. From the quality of the air, to the time spent commuting, smart cities galvanise a humanitarian approach to citizens’ welfare.

From the quality of the air, to the time spent commuting, smart cities galvanise a humanitarian approach to citizens’ welfare

The importance of micromobility

There’s a strong case for smart mobility as the central foundation of a truly smart city. Smart mobility, more commonly known as micromobility, describes the use of small, lightweight personal vehicles with top speeds usually below 15mph and no internal combustion engine. Micromobility vehicles include privately owned and communal bicycles, e-bikes, electric scooters and electric pedal assisted (pedelec) bicycles.

With the accelerated adoption of micromobility comes less reliance on cars, mopeds and motorcycles, creating a shortcut to the smart city ideals of improved air quality and reduced commuting times. It unlocks more of the city for more of its inhabitants and undeniably makes cities around the world both smarter and more enjoyable to live in. Although technological advances in batteries and durable, lightweight motors have ushered in a new era of affordable, accessible micromobility, it’s currently illegal to use a privately owned e-scooter on public land in the UK. However, there are a number of e-scooter trials taking place across the UK, including London, where a 12-month trial began in June 2021. This shared approach to micromobility underlines the need for a smart connectivity infrastructure that allows potential users to locate and hire the closest vehicle. Connecting micromobility devices to the Internet of Things (IoT) allows the creation of a smart infrastructure, developing a system of interconnected elements that function within an ecosystem, and this brings the bigger picture into play. The beginnings of an integrated traffic flow management and citizen mobility strategy begin to emerge. But it all relies on connectivity.

When it comes to micromobility, connectivity is king

The two physical components of a micromobility solution are a connected transportation device and a smartphone. The critical invisible component, however, is cellular connectivity. Network coverage, quality and reliability issues can prevent citizens from connecting to scooters and other connected devices. This leads to missed trips, scooter supply issues and a general lack of trust in the reliability of micromobility solutions. For micromobility themes to survive and thrive, there is no substitute for reliable connectivity.

The two physical components of a micromobility solution are a connected transportation device and a smartphone. The critical invisible component, however, is cellular connectivity

Not only is cellular connectivity vital to the end user, it allows operators to orchestrate their fleets more effectively at arm’s length. Being able to collect data points such as origin and destination, alongside the duration and distance of the trip, and vehicle diagnostic data, allows for tracking, availability, charging and predictive maintenance subroutines. Cellular connectivity allows for consistent network coverage, where every used and unused scooter can maintain a constant data connection over several miles. When the right datapoints are collected and analysed, these insights can be used to optimize micromobility device positioning. This allows operators to identify usage hotspots, allowing them to divert and relocate scooters accordingly. Ultimately, this drives usage, improves the user experience and increases revenues. And when shared across a wider group of stakeholders the data can be used to plan and refine a whole range of smart city initiatives.

Opportunities beyond micromobility

Accurate, confidential and accountable micromobility data, captured through a robust and real-time connectivity solution can help to improve transportation across metropolitan areas, even for people who may never use a scooter themselves. But the opportunity is far broader than that. The IoT framework that micromobility relies on for its success can be harnessed and applied to a wide range of beneficial projects. This can improve sustainability and cut costs on a far larger scale. From decreasing traffic congestion and improving air quality, to refining energy distribution and enhancing communal spaces, the connectivity at the heart of micromobility can influence the future direction of the smart city as a whole. Over the longer term, connectivity can be used to reshape the built environment, positively influencing town planning and urban development, energising and innervating the very fabric of the smart city.

Connectivity can be used to reshape the built environment, positively influencing town planning and urban development, energising and innervating the very fabric of the smart city

Cellular IoT connectivity is the right choice for today’s micromobility solutions. It brings together connected transportation devices and smartphones within a purposeful ecosystem. Cellular IoT is also a critical and fundamental building block of the smart city. When harnessed correctly, the data gathered and acted upon has the potential to profoundly improve the quality of life for all citizens, as well as creating tangible economic opportunities.

Frank Stoecker is CEO and co-founder of EMnify

A successful serial entrepreneur and recognized telecoms expert for over 15 years, Frank anticipated early that the new wave of connected services demanded new concepts to simplify connectivity on a global scale. Prior to co-founding EMnify, Frank held leadership positions at MACH and Syniverse.

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