From the outset, one of the most talked about benefits of 5G connectivity has been the realization of a truly connected living experience—obviously aside from the vastly improved data speeds and reduced latency. But, as the focus turns to a seamless connected home and connected city experience, perhaps just as much attention should be given to the connected mobility experience.
Of course, driverless cars and buses are a part of the future of mobility and just some of what 5G’s launch will enable. But the first discussion on mobility to take place during the Shift Automotive conference at IFA 2019 took a much more granular approach to the connected commute. Just as something like a digital voice assistant smooths the connected home experience by providing a single source for controlling all of your smart home devices, Body Cohen, Ph.D., CEO and Cofounder of iomob (Internet of Mobility) envisions a world in which the user needs just one open-sourced platform to get to where they want to go.
Part of the struggle with urban mobility, of course, is the cluttered nature of streets. Urban environments, he said, were built to support people, not private vehicles, which is why traffic networks around the world grind to a halt on a daily basis.
Then, in the same breath that Cohen commended the launch of services like on-demand air taxis for being innovative, he offered a slightly different take on the need for them. “We’re going to the skies in our cities because we messed up on the ground,” he said. Instead “why don’t we solve the ground level? Let’s get our act together and solve mobility.”
And that’s where iomob comes in.
The current user experience for urban mobility services—referred to by Cohen as MaaS (Mobility as a Service) or MoD (Mobility on Demand)—is a convenient one, but still not the most efficient. Commuters today make the decision to either take a ride-sharing service like Uber, step onto the subway, ride a bus, or rent from micromobility services like the increasingly popular e-scooters from Lime-S. Those are all great services in their own way, but our phones become the home to dozens of these apps that we have to choose from.
And even while map apps have improved in providing optimized commuting suggestions based on current traffic conditions, the user still is forced to leave that app and complete their commute somewhere else.
For iomob, the pipe dream that they’re working to make a reality is an open marketplace for mobility—one platform where the user can discover any mobility service, get themselves onboarded right through that platform, complete payments, and receive multi-modal routing suggestions. For example, perhaps the best commute into the city on a given day would include taking a bus a few miles, hopping off at a stop right near a bike sharing service. Or, maybe you should grab an Uber to the subway just in time to catch the next train that takes you just a few blocks away from where you need to be.
All of that would be detailed to the user and acted upon from one centralized location.
“Why should I have one app that connects to one scooter company?” Cohen said. Another “likelihood is that one taxi company’s vehicle is 15 min away but there’s another taxi one block away from me,” but you wouldn’t know that without having to go into one app, check the taxi’s status and then closing out of that app and going into another. That’s really not the most user-friendly experience, and that’s exactly what iomob hopes to solve.
And there’s plenty of support around what they’re doing, particularly in the form of the Open Mobility Foundation. OMF is an open-source software foundation that has brought together 16 different municipalities from across the U.S. (and Colombia), alongside various tech and mobility companies, all of whom are working together to prioritize investments in infrastructure and innovation in order to make seamless mobility a reality.
In searching for a bit of research to understand just how stable the future of this MaaS space is, ABI Research’s data show that by 2030, MaaS is projected to be a $1 trillion industry. So, whether it’s iomob or some other all-in-one platform that bridges the gaps between all of these different services and modes of transportation, the need for some organization and clarity in a booming space surely exists.