Is mobility technology becoming a commodity?

Updated: May 10, 2019



Sharemrkt and ioMob hosted a shared mobility meetup in Barcelona last week. Quite impressive insights from the diverse turnout of mobility providers, platforms, enabling services, researchers, experts, and senior city transportation leadership from Barcelona and Sant Cugat.


One of the discussion themes has stuck with me all weekend…


Taxi, car and scooter rental alternatives, shared on-demand bikes, and even shared boats have completely changed the mobility landscape in the last 5 years. First movers took advantage of large market shares, but were also burdened with convincing early customers, the front line of city regulation reform, and establishing the technology and infrastructure foundation.


With the wheels greased, more and more players are entering a pretty saturated market. Now blockchain is on the scene and enabling innovative startups to decentralize shared mobility. This breaks down the barrier of entry to new shared mobility providers while making the packed market more accessible to customers.


This begs the question, is mobility technology becoming a commodity?

How do companies evolve their core differentiation to retain market share in a more open, collaborative, easy to enter and operate marketplace?


It seems it comes down to being at the right place, at the right time, with the right service (true everywhere, right?!)


Tom Llewellyn from Shareable, shared an example from their book, Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons, where many Oakland resident’s regular daily commute to San Francisco is lining up at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge to hitchhike across. And, many drivers regularly pick up because more passengers reduces their toll.


Marcela Lachowski from Sharemrkt, shared a story of rickshaw drivers that line up in front of the underground Barcelona nightclubs for late night passengers when the streets are too narrow and hidden for taxis.


Neither example requires any technology. They do require right time, right place, right service.

Boyd Cohen shared his vision of an ioMob use case (ioMob is a blockchain enabled decentralized shared mobility platform under development). In his scenario, he needs a ride because he can’t make the bike trip in the rain to the Sant Cugat train station to travel into Barcelona. If IoMob was functioning he could discover alternative ways to get to the train — like a carpool service he has never heard of alerting him to a neighbor with a free seat. Or perhaps, in this use case, he notices a taxi alternative available on his street. This could be the only car in the driver’s one-car fleet, but if he’s the closest, he’s the best choice.

By embracing the sharing economy more thoroughly mobility operators have the opportunity to gain efficiencies and impact by participating in an open network and share access to the ecosystem’s insights.


Shared mobility is certainly an exciting space. It’s one the rest of the sharing economy markets should keep an eye on.


My take aways:

1. We should continue to build our technology muscles… with the caveat that we don’t hang on too tightly to proprietary tech that we miss collaborative and open innovation.

2. We should frequently ask ourselves, “if technology became a commodity, what would my core market differentiation be”. Identify the non-IT “it factor” and invest in it.