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Micromobility Is Quickly Becoming a Digital Experience

Artificial intelligence and other technology common to modern transportation systems are finding their way into bikes, scooters and other micromobility devices.

The data-scooping technology common to modern cars is finding its way into smaller, more agile mobility options, creating new opportunities in the space.

Just as artificial intelligence is helping to guide traffic management systems, public transit operations and user interface between people and their vehicles, these technology advancements are being eyed by the companies that make e-bikes, scooters and other micromobility devices.

Mobility is becoming a digital experience, said Alex Gmelin, an engineer who is the chief product officer at Comodule, which makes the technology that allows micromobility to be connected.

"It’s becoming more and more visible that it’s also a digital experience, and riders do expect that. They expect a way of interacting with the product, being able to customize it to their needs," he said.

“It’s not a question if it’s going to be connected, but only when,” he added.

Part of what’s propelling this movement is the proliferation and adoption of e-bikes. Their power supply enables them to function as mobile computers, scooping up data and sending it away to the cloud for computing, not unlike a modern automobile. Bike owners are always concerned about safety and theft prevention, which is why GPS-enabled tracking is quickly becoming a regular feature.

“Sixty percent of e-bike riders look for smart security features,” said Gmelin, during the Micromobility World and Riders Choice Awards virtual summit Jan. 25.

Expect to see more bicycles connected to user apps — not unlike the user apps common to autos — say industry watchers. Software in micromobility can be updated and modernized more easily than the software in cars, said Horace Dediu, co-founder of Micromobility Industries, and partner and chief market strategist at Relay Ventures.

“That’s the big thing that’s happened in the last few years. It’s a giant leap in the rate of change,” said Dediu.

“We, who are these micromobility advocates, we have to be the people who are pushing forward with these ideas. Because we’re going to leapfrog the automotive infrastructure, if you will. And I think we can pull this off,” he added.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.