Getting the world moving: how can IoT help rethink mobility?
For many years the Internet of Things (IoT) has been spoken about with much promise. Yet, despite achieving buzzword status, there is a sense amongst many that its value is yet to be fully realised. This is true to a certain extent – while the potential economic value of the IoT has been clear for a while, capturing it has proved challenging. But it would be a mistake to dismiss the IoT as hyperbole. It is the heartbeat of digital transformation.
One area in particular where the sense of a brighter digital future is most palpable is mobility. And by mobility, I mean everything from the transportation of goods across borders, to the scaling of new and merging micro-mobility solutions in “smarter” cities.
As we enter a new year, it provides an opportune moment to reflect on the areas where IoT-driven innovation has become most vibrant, some of the challenges that remain, and what the future holds for getting the world moving.
Making your “smart” city experience that little bit smarter
If you’ve spent any time in a city centre over the past few years you can’t have missed the huge surge in popularity of micro-mobility solutions, whether that’s bikes, e-bikes or e-scooters.
With an increased focus on developing smart and sustainable cities globally, the industry that offers an affordable and accessible transport option looks set to grow at pace. Yet, it also faces challenges. As fleets grow there’s an ever-increasing need for asset tracking, new safety challenges and the issue of diminishing vehicle life span.
From a technology standpoint, cellular IoT connectivity has become integral to micro-mobility companies looking to address key barriers and optimise operations. For example, it’s allowed operators to leverage onboard and remote diagnostics for predictive maintenance to ensure maximum fleet availability while increasing the lifespan of their assets.
It’s no secret that IoT delivers a wealth of data, and this extends beyond diagnostics. It arms companies with the information needed to implement new strategies such as dynamic pricing.
Equipped with the benefits of automated asset tracking, operators can implement pricing strategies based, for example, on the availability of and demand for vehicles in a geographical area. It also allows for a more even redistribution of vehicles across cities.
Yet, the benefits of data collection could extend beyond this too. Micro-mobility companies could contribute to the improvement of city planning and optimisation of public transport by gathering information on traffic patterns and commuter trends, providing all privacy regulations are adhered to.
Connecting cars to the cloud
IoT use cases are extending across the whole range of mobility sectors, and the automotive industry is no different. Today, car workshops and dealerships process a large amount of information via traditional methods such as email or printouts.
Yet there is an opportunity for disruption here, and companies such as Connected Cars are leveraging IoT connectivity to transform customer relationships by moving to digital.
To gather data, cars will have to be equipped with a device to transmit diagnostics. Whilst some modern vehicles may come equipped from the factory with this capability, these devices can also be retrofitted to older models.
Once this capability is in place there’s a wealth of complex data to harvest and leverage. For example, mechanics could order spare parts in advance when data indicates that a critical issue may arise soon, and the right mechanic for the task will be notified. This enables workshops or dealerships to proactively react to issues their customers may face and keeps drivers on the road.
Due to their very nature, cars will often transit between geographies which provides a connectivity challenge. This has remained a stubborn barrier for IoT despite advances in hardware and cloud, with today’s approaches relying on a patchwork between different operators. Traditionally, it’s meant that businesses have struggled to gain interoperability across international borders.
Yet, thanks to new approaches to IoT allowing flexibility between networks, it’s now possible to jump seamlessly across borders whilst still uploading data to the cloud. This development could see IoT use cases across mobility sectors grow exponentially in the next few years.
As the connected vehicle market matures, there’s potential for other a range of other benefits too aside from a digital connection between vehicle and workshop or customer and mechanic. For example, better traffic data could reduce congestion, whilst passengers themselves could be armed with real-time information about their vehicle’s health.
Transporting goods globally
The global logistics market is hugely complex. In 2021 alone, 10.99 billion tons of seaborne cargo were loaded. Take logistics giant Maersk as another example, this is a company which moves 12 million containers every single year to every corner of the globe.
In this complicated environment, companies are leveraging IoT to ensure their assets remain visible, secure and efficient – not only for themselves but also for their customers, who expect full transparency on the location and condition of their goods no matter where they are in the world.
This provides a challenge that mirrors that of the connected cars market – the need for a continuous connection to the cloud despite changes in geography – and the same advances in network agnostic approaches have the potential to deliver huge gains here too.
The deep insights that IoT can offer won’t add value if they’re not available consistently. IoT devices also must comply with GSMA standards, and without roaming restrictions, the ability to test this globally at any moment provides logistics businesses with increased security.
A new era for mobility
Mobility industries – whether focussed on enabling the movement of people or goods – are fundamental to our society. With urban population and smart city planning rising, connected vehicles – whether that means e-scooters or cars – will continue to roll out across the world, delivering benefits across the entire value chain.
As we’ve seen, much progress has been made, but it’s important to close by acknowledging that we still have a long way to go across the board when it comes to IoT. From challenges relating to interoperability, to renewed concerns around cybersecurity and privacy, there are broader challenges facing the IoT industry that extend beyond just making a difference in mobility. And it is only by addressing these challenges will we continue to see some of the transformations that we’ve already begun to see in helping our world become more mobile.