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How IoT Benefits the Sharing Economy

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How IoT Benefits the Sharing Economy

In creating products with Machine to Machine connectivity (M2M), the Internet of Things and improved tracking devices provide new opportunities for the expansion of the sharing economy.

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So you want to be able to develop a bike-sharing service, or perhaps you have another inventive sharing concept in mind. There is an obvious need to track and maintain the products that you have put into the world, and this is one of the many areas where the Internet of Things and sharing economies go hand-in-hand.

The idea of building a service that allows people to pick up and drop off a product as they please sounds like it would be prone to theft and misuse. However, thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine to Machine (M2M) connectivity, many of these challenges can be met head-on and are becoming a thing of the past. IoT is in the foreground of getting your devices, whatever they may be, connected so that you can focus on the other aspects of your business.

From Cars and Bikes to Umbrellas

The benefits of IoT and M2M connectivity are plentiful when it comes to the sharing economy. Portable items that can be reused by the community have become very popular over the last few years and have become a key element in the drive towards smart cities. With bike sharing services appearing in cities all over the world, the success of Citi Bike in New York, Bycyklen in Copenhagen, and Ofo and Mobike in China has shown that there is enough demand to propel sharing services. However, keeping these devices connected, trackable, and secure has proved one of the main challenges that need to be addressed.

Location Tracking

Having a connected device means always knowing where your device is, no matter who is currently renting or borrowing it. This can be especially important for shared cars and bikes, which are, by design, mobile. The ability to pinpoint the location of your devices is twofold. First, it allows the customer to precisely locate it, and, secondly, it allows the owner to know where their customer is taking it or leaving it. The Chinese bike share company Mobik has collaborated with Gemalto, in order to provide a wireless connection to their fleet of bikes. This allows their bikes to be tracked directly, without the need to use the customer's smartphone as a tracking device, as their competitor Ofo does.

Theft Prevention

Alongside being able to track the location of a device, there is the obvious benefit of helping to prevent the theft and misuse of your device. By simply knowing the location of your devices, the problem of users ‘walking away’ is drastically lowered. As previously mentioned, Mobike and Ofo have pursued different methods for tracking their bikes, and by embedding an IoT SIM in their bike. Mobike has made their bike more secure and trackable, whereas Ofo’s system actually allows the previous user to simply remember the combination lock code and take the bike without paying.

Additionally, embedded connectivity allows for the device to be found and retrieved, if it has been tampered with or abused in some way. On the other hand, the umbrella sharing startup Sharing E Umbrella suffered from the theft of its devices due to their inability to track and log the location and users of its umbrellas. The founders modeled their design after popular bike-share models, however, without any effective way to track their umbrellas and prevent them from being stolen, they all eventually disappeared.

Analyzing Use Patterns

Even if determining the exact location is not the main aim of the sharing concept you’ve developed, understanding the usage patterns of your devices can provide invaluable insight into how your customers are using your service. By analyzing use patterns, you can better prepare for expansion into new markets and services, or to simply keep up to date on the frequency and usage duration of your typical user. All-in-all, being able to better analyze your use cases down to the individual device level is an extremely powerful level of insight to help guide your business development goals.

Digi-Key’s IoT Component Selector is your one-stop-shop for the IoT

iot ,bike-sharing ,m2m ,citi bike ,mobike ,bycyklen ,sharing economy

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