What Does the Future of Mobility Look Like?
By Hamid Akbari, Chairman at Velocia, CEO at Blanc Labs
You may not be aware of how drastically your life is about to change, but we are all, in fact, at the brink of a mobility revolution. Those of us working within the industry are no longer anticipating this change — we’re creating it. For years, we have been developing technology that will propel us towards a future abuzz with the activity of electric cars, connected cars, autonomous vehicles, and on-demand mobility services; a world where we no longer drive the vehicle, but the vehicle will drive us from “point A” to “point B” efficiently. This future is coming quicker than most expect, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us to build the necessary infrastructure for these changes. At Blanc Labs, we have always been at the forefront of innovative technology, especially in the field of mobility. Our most recent innovation incorporates blockchain technology to accommodate for the mobility landscape of today and tomorrow. This article offers a look into the mobility industry from an insider’s perspective, the innovative tech we’re in the midst of launching, and the significance of these innovations for us all.
There may have been a time when you imagined car ownership as an inevitable part of your future. But not many need to own a vehicle when there are more convenient alternatives. Thanks to apps like Uber, Lyft, and Didi, you would have many of the upsides of car ownership (like convenience and efficiency) without the baggage of insurance, parking fees, and maintenance to say the least. We have also already seen success with our own innovation, Nekso, an e-street hailing app launched in 2016. Through Nekso, we helped empower taxi drivers of Latin America and offered passengers a seamless experience. Today, people are increasingly relying on “Mobility as a Service” or MaaS as their mobility solution. The convenience of MaaS and long-term superior economics contributed to the decline of car ownership among younger demographics.
Although the options for mobility are varied and growing, there is still a large innovation gap. Automotive OEMs are struggling to meet the needs of people today for efficient, cost-effective, environmentally-friendly transit options, while apps like Uber and Lyft disrupt the market held by taxi drivers and OEMs. Once autonomous vehicles and electric vehicles hit the market, MaaS operators such as Uber and Lyft, as well as automotive OEMs will face new challenges, such as coordinating fleets of driverless vehicles, and managing the user experience during each trip.
As it stands today, mobility solutions are siloed. Let’s say you commute to work by subway, take a bike or scooter for the last mile of your trip from the subway station to your office, order lunch with UberEats, and take a Lyft home. All of these services require their own unique user profiles and apps. Moreover, they do not communicate well with one another. All these options are not presented to users in an easy and effective manner. This is what the current mobility landscape looks like and is aptly called “closed.”
An open ecosystem on the other hand is much more versatile in its offerings and potential. In the example of mobility, the open ecosystem will allow a user to access every mobility option from one access point — i.e., a single user profile across all mobility apps. In an open ecosystem, you will be able to select between public transit, bike-sharing, scooter-sharing, ride-sharing, e-hailing, car rental, and grocery/food delivery services from one point. You can get an integrated end-to-end service across various mobility verticals, for example if Uber offers you one mobility service and Nekso another, all booked and processed through one user interface.
In anticipation for our transition from a closed ecosystem in mobility to an open ecosystem, we developed and are in the process of launching Velocia (https://velocia.io/). Velocia is an open loyalty network for urban mobility. Through Velocia, ultimately, you will be able to use one hub to organize all your trips. The integrated mobility aspect of Velocia addresses users’ need to get around in the city in the most efficient manner. The open loyalty aspect of Velocia incentivizes these mobility choices. And Velocia incorporates blockchain technology to achieve this goal.
Users today are passively exchanging valuable data in the form of personal information to a number of companies daily. In order to access most smartphone-based services, a user must give up their data in exchange for the corporation’s product or service. Once a user provides that data, it is locked by the large centralized corporations in a silo. Users have no control over their data, and only the new owners of this data are able to leverage it for financial gain. In other words, your data creates significant economic value that will be captured exclusively by a centralized business. But it certainly doesn’t have to be that way.
Blockchain is powered by decentralization. With blockchain, users own their data, can share it securely with whomever they choose, and be rewarded with financial incentives to do so. With Velocia, a user will sign-in once and will be rewarded if they choose to share their information with other companies. Each user has the option to give information, but they can also retain or retract the information thanks to blockchain protocols.
At its core, apps and platforms that prioritize and optimize user experience like Velocia will be considered an “enabler technology” when integrated into the market. Enabler technologies are innovative by nature and drive user culture. Velocia will connect you with “mobility stakeholders,” which are entities that care about the way you move in and around a city. Through Velocia, mobility stakeholders like a local government may offer incentives for particular mobility choices. For example, if the local government wants to promote green transit, they may decide to reward you on the app for taking a green vehicle or using a bike-share. With the capabilities of Velocia, you will be making your choices much differently.
More on Blockchain and the Mobility Ecosystem
The potential of blockchain for shaping the future of mobility is vast and I believe blockchain will be among the key enabling technologies for emerging mobility ecosystems. For the most in-depth discussions on blockchain and mobility, attend a panel at one of these upcoming tech conferences where the world’s leading experts in mobility tech gather to discuss the future. Here are two of the prominent conferences in November that I will speak at:
The New Mobility: Opportunities and Challenges, November 17, 2018
Sanjo Kaikan Building, U. of Tokyo
· Program on Vehicle and Mobility Innovation (PVMI),
· Mack Institute of Innovation Management, Wharton School, U. Pennsylvania
· Manufacturing Management Research Center (MMRC), University of Tokyo
· London Business School, Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship
Platform Economy Summit
Peter Altmaier, Germany’s Minister of Economic Affairs and inaugural speaker for the Platform Economy Summit, and Andrus Ansip, the Vice-President of the European Commission are among the 70+ expert speakers joining the summit from around the world. Executives from companies such as Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, Siemens Mobility, Volkswagen, and Porsche will also participate.
I will focus on new mobility services beyond ride-sharing, the role of enabling technologies such as AI and blockchain, the innovation gaps between major incumbents such as automotive OEMs and pure digital-players such as Uber and Nekso, and the evolution of mobility platforms from closed monopolies to open ecosystems.
Link to my panel here: https://finance.knect365.com/platform-economy-summit/speakers/hamid-akbari
About Hamid Akbari
Hamid Akbari is the Chairman of Velocia (a blockchain-based, open network for urban mobility app) and CEO of Blanc Labs (a global innovation lab headquartered in Canada). He has also co-founded Nekso (a smartphone platform in Latin America that enables taxi companies, registered drivers, and passengers to communicate in order to complete rides safely and conveniently). Hamid is also a professor of Strategy at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.
Hamid is a serial entrepreneur, investor, thought leader, and mentor whose expertise includes platforms and emerging ecosystems. He is a mentor in global startup accelerators such as TechStars and Founder Institute. Hamid has been named one of the future superstars by leading global institutions such as the Academy of International Business. He has been featured in various media outlets, such as the Wall Street Journal.
About Blanc Labs
Blanc Labs is a Toronto-headquartered global innovation consulting firm that builds the next generation of digital solutions. We help enterprises rapidly bring ideas to life and digitally transform their businesses. We combine our subject matter expertise with creative and deep technical capabilities to offer end-to-end digital innovation. Blanc Labs’ roots are in technology entrepreneurship and matured enterprise consulting. Our expertise in building successful digital products and ventures empowers our clients to innovate and develop new sources of value for their customers.
Velocia is an open loyalty network for urban mobility and transportation, relying in part on blockchain to power its functionality. Velocia brings together all mobility participants so users,mobility service providers, and other mobility stakeholders can interact directly and seamlessly. Each day, individuals make decisions about how they commute in and around cities. With Velocia, individuals earn rewards for those mobility decisions, and redeem them for mobility-related services.
Our open loyalty network puts data at its core. Users in this open ecosystem will accumulate mobility data across all modes of transportation. As a blockchain based platform, we believe in democratization and decentralization of data. As such, users on Velocia become the owners of their multi-modal mobility data — they will choose how, when and with whom to share their personal data; and receive financial rewards for doing so. For mobility service providers and other stakeholders, Velocia enables the access to multi-modal mobility data allowing them to learn more about their customers and target them better in the future.