IoT Aids Scooter Sharing for Cities, Companies

Premier Wireless Solutions is teaming with Internet of Things sensor and connectivity company CalAmp to provide a cellular-based solution to detect where motorized scooters are located as they are operated or parked, and to enable individuals to find, pay for and unlock the scooters via an app.
Published: October 30, 2018

Premier Wireless Solutions (PWS) is partnering with telematics and Internet of Things (IoT) company CalAmp, located in Irvine, Calif., to provide an IoT-enabled vehicle-sharing service to cities and service providers. The two California-based companies are making their solution for motorized scooter management available to micro-mobility providers that are launching electric scooter-sharing services across the United States.

Electric scooter sharing is part of a micro-mobility transportation trend that has spread across urban areas throughout the United States in recent years. The scooters are designed to get commuters the last mile to their home or office, from their public transit station or stop.

PWS provides a cloud-based solution to enable the sharing of vehicles, including the capturing and sharing of scooter-utilization data and the displaying of real-time location data on the company’s commuter app. CalAmp, meanwhile, provides the telematics technology with sensors and connectivity required to identify vehicle locations and to drive operational efficiencies and optimize asset use.

With such data, a person can locate a nearby available scooter, then pay to access it, while the city or scooter provider can view usage history, the locations of assets, battery status and other information about their fleet. “The PWS platform enables them to have real-time communication and location information for each scooter through the CalAmp device,” explains Dave Rattay, Premier Wireless Solutions’ regional sales manager.

Scooter sharing can be challenging for cities or companies that have a large fleet of assets spread throughout a city. Identifying where each asset is located tends to be a manual process if no IoT-based solution is in place. Some solutions rely on the GPS data of a user’s cell phone to determine where a scooter being used is located, but this process provides a poor user experience, Rattay says, since it degrades the phone’s battery.

Moreover, if a vehicle has been left at the side of the road, its location cannot be automatically detected without an app user’s phone present. That causes service providers or municipalities to lose communication with a scooter as soon as a customer ends his or her ride. With the CalAmp telematics technology, however, PWS’s solution provides real-time data regarding each scooter’s exact location, without needing to leverage a consumer’s smartphone.

Since the early 1980s, CalAmp has sold solutions that capture data about vehicles and assets aimed at improving safety and efficiency in the fleet, construction and industrial markets. CalAmp’s LMU-2630 fleet-tracking device comes with a cellular connection, as well as GPS functionality, to identify a vehicle’s location. The device can enable features such as user authentication, impact detection and geo-zoning. It uses CalAmp’s PULS device-management software to update the device behavior for specific deployment attributes. In that way, explains Kinana Hussain, CalAmp’s VP of product-line management, the device continues to forward data indicating where a vehicle is being operated or has been left, even if it is not within range of a user’s phone.

Justin Schmid

However, the company has the flexibility to offer its technology to other markets as well, and through several distinct channels. “Our go-to-market model is quite unique,” says Justin Schmid, CalAmp’s general manager of LoJack international operations (CalAmp owns LoJack, a provider of stolen vehicle recovery systems). “We [CalAmp] work with integrators, as well as being integrators ourselves,” Schmid says. In the case of scooter-sharing solutions, PWS acts as the integrator, using CalAmp’s telematics technology. “We provide our devices so that PWS can integrate it into its own solution.”

Earlier this year, PWS began working with CalAmp to develop a scooter-management system with a specific scooter manufacturing customer, which the companies have declined to name. The telematics device is mounted on the scooter and can be linked to the vehicle’s battery via an input-output connection. It comes with a unique ID number that is linked to the specific vehicle, as well as a cellular transmitter to both receive and send data wirelessly.

The service provider can use this wireless transmission to view where its vehicles are located in real time, and to ascertain whether they are in use, locked or unlocked, and whether they are connected to charging stations. That information makes it easier to find and relocate scooters around a city, while enabling the firm to detect which scooters require a battery charge. Commuters, meanwhile, can access location data via the company’s downloadable customer-facing app. An individual seeking a scooter can access the app, which will detect the location of that user’s phone and provide a map of the closest unused scooters.

After proceeding to the closest available scooter, the user can utilize his or her phone to pay for its use, and the app can employ the phone’s cellular connection to unlock the vehicle, based on its unique ID. The individual can then operate the vehicle and leave it in an unobtrusive location—or, if required by the city, he or she can lock it in a parking space or battery-charging terminal. The system automatically detects that that the scooter is no longer in use and thus locks its ignition.

CalAmp’s Programmable Event Generator (PEG) software issues an alert based on sensor data. For instance, an alert can be triggered if a vehicle is left without a connection to a charger, if a scooter is found to be located in an unauthorized area (such as beyond a city’s limits) or if an impact has been detected.

Kinana Hussain

For PWS, each deployment must be uniquely developed for the city’s requirements. “Our customers all have their own thoughts on how to deploy,” Rattay says. Some target the broad public share market in cities, he explains, while others are focused on schools or large corporations as perks or conveniences for their own employees. Because each deployment is unique, Hussain notes, it is important that the solution be flexible. With PEG, he adds, “They can customize at the edge with the intelligence they need.”

Thus far, Rattay reports, one customer has deployed the PWS and CalAmp solution for scooters in large numbers, while several others are currently in development. “Our value is in simplifying the deployment and management of vast numbers of assets,” he states, “allowing them to give the public easy, low-cost access to green transportation in congested areas.”

CalAmp and Premier Wireless Solutions expect to have more customers using the technology across the United States, and are now in discussions with multiple companies and municipalities. “The micro-mobility concept is on the rise,” Schmid says. “It’s really about the maturation of the industry itself.”