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Voi Scooters and the IoT

The Stockholm-based scooter startup is launching their newest scooter in the UK and it is loaded with interesting features.

Voi, the Swedish micro-mobility startup, appears to be in a very strong position in the European micro-mobility market despite the disruption of Covid-19. Its new model of scooter, dubbed the Voiager 4, include Covid measures, incremental improvements of hardware, and impressive steps forward with connectivity. All of which should add value in this highly competitive space.

Voi CEO Fredrik Hjelm points out that the new scooter “is the culmination of years of R&D”. That R&D has produced a slew of new sensors and connections, making the Voiager 4 both highly connected and able to gather a significant amount of data. What sensors does this new ride from Voi sport? Interestingly, they have kitted it out with sensors for measuring a range of particulate matter of varying sizes, “We’re most interested in measuring particles – such as those from car exhaust – that are harmful to humans and cause persistent health problems, such as respiratory issues, and heart disease”.

In addition to this the scooters will capture levels of noise and offer highly accurate positioning and device speed. Considering potential fears surrounding Covid they have also installed antimicrobial handlebars that they say will minimize the transmission of the virus. Longevity of the e-scooters has also been prioritised. Voi claims (and have apparently had third party validation) their newfangled scooters will have a 5+ year lifespan, which is highly significant for both costs and environmental impact.

This is a lot of new tech, and it will require some significant computing power. Instead of expensive hardware for onboard processing, Voi have developed an inhouse IoT solution that brings together all the data gathered by the sensors. The company has already mentioned that in line with their “mission to create more livable cities” some of the data collected, such as pollution, will be made available to cities. This may potentially open new revenue streams for the startup and may lead to interesting applications for third parties as well that might make use of this rich data.

Personal comment

Voi seems to be betting big on their new scooter. The IoT capability is perhaps the most interesting feature. By connecting the scooters in this way, they should be able to gain valuable data without the expense of onboard computing power. It also provides a means for addressing one of the most common complaints about micro-mobility scooters: the way they clutter sidewalks and city spaces. By using Bluetooth communicating with iBeacons they may be able to ensure the scooters are parked where they should be. This ability might make Voi a significant player in the increasingly important arena of curb management. With an increasing number of vehicles, from small micro-mobility solutions to traditional busses and soon autonomous vehicles, the demand for space on the curb is heating up. With built-in IoT capability Voi has positioned itself well to take part in potential solutions.

Further potential for this connected e-scooter could be more seamless movement between various forms of public transport. The announcement mentions that Voiager 4 will have NFC, which means that devices like London’s Oyster card will work to pay for trips. Together with the IoT capabilities it may be possible to integrate route planning and single ticket features as well. That certainly would be a step toward making cities more livable!

Measuring pollution is no doubt a good thing – but there is a potential dark side. The sensors are gathering noise, pollution, and light levels, but what else? How is the collected data providing for a better scooter service? With the recent pushback against tech companies mining data for profit in ever more creative (and at times unscrupulous ways) Voi will hopefully be transparent in how they are handling all the data coming their way.

Written by Joshua Bronson,
RISE Mobility & Systems (Människa-autonomi)

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