Want to Stay Ahead of the Curve? InnovateSat, 09/01/2018 - 10:39
As the public continues to develop a taste for new mobility options, taking advantage of the city’s infrastructure and harnessing new technologies is key to have an edge in an increasingly competitive market, says Andres Omaña, Director of SmartBike. As the division of Clear Channel that supplies bicycles and manages Mexico City’s shared-bycicle system, SmartBike faces the challenge of new competitors arriving to town. According to Omaña, these players offer a similar pricing level to Mexico City’s shared-bicycle system, so SmartBike bets on area coverage and technological advancements to deliver a service level that sets the service apart from other players. “We have 480 docking stations covering 38km2,” he says. “Competitors complement Mexico City’s mobility offering but they lack our backbone and infrastructure.”
SmartBike covers a greater area than any other shared-bicycle company present in Mexico City, which has constituted one of its key strengths. Moreover, Omaña says new competitors’ lack of docking infrastructure, although a source of flexibility, can present problems for users. “Since our competitors’ bicycles can be more easily stolen, the available vehicle park for users is reduced,” he says. SmartBike has also helped Mexico City’s shared-bicycle system distinguish itself through the introduction of new technologies to improve the user experience before and while riding a bike. “We have introduced electric bicycles and 28 charging stations in the city,” says Omaña. SmartBike has harnessed the advantages electric bicycles deliver when cycling long distances or riding uphill. “Our 340 electric bicycles are assisted by an electric engine and reduce users’ effort while also increasing speed,” he says. “These bicycles have a top speed of 20km/h and an autonomy of four hours when fully charged.”
Since these bicycles are also equipped with GPS services, SmartBike can track the route users follow to strategically introduce more electric bicycles and improve rider experience. “We have already determined where and when bicycles are in greatest demand and our goal is to increase our capacity, distribute bicycles more effectively to docking stations and make sure there is place for users to drop their bicycles when their trip is over,” he says.
Omaña’s infrastructure plans are ambitious and are not limited to just adding more bicycles. The company’s end goal is to offer more amenities for its users. “We are interested in evolving toward modular docking and charging stations that offer open Wi-Fi to users and where they can even pay for domestic services such as electric power or gas,” he says.
At the same time, SmartBike has worked on improving the Mexico City’s shared-bicycle system app to make for a more seamless process. Users can find their nearest bicycle station and check whether there are units available. Building on the digitalization trend, the company also introduced new digital ways for people to register as users, reducing registration process times from 45 to only eight minutes. Similarly, the company started offering support via WhatsApp for Business and has increased its digital safety levels for online charging to ensure users are not charged twice for their fees. “Riders can now pay through the digital platform Openpay, which means we can validate transactions on a massive scale, prevent cyberattacks and meet Mexico’s data protection requirements,” says Omaña.
As 2018 was an election year, Omaña says SmartBike looks forward to working with the new Mexico City government that will begin its tenure on Dec. 1, 2018. “As the new administration enters office, we will continue expanding to the south of the city by installing more docking and charging stations for regular and electric bikes,” he says.
SmartBike has several ongoing projects with the current administration that will be re-established when the new government enters office. “These projects require investment from the government and will be on standby until the next administration starts and fulfills its responsibilities with the Mexico City’s shared-bicycle system program,” says Omaña. In the meantime, SmartBike has strived to leave everything in order to ensure a smooth and transparent transition between administrations so Mexico City’s shared-bicycle system expansion plans can be continued. “Our hope is that the next Mexico City administration will expand the existing bike-sharing system,” he says.