Bike-sharing services

Bike-sharing data could to be used to improve urban transport planning and cut congestion, leading firms tell tech conference

Co-founders of market leaders Mobike and Ofo say their systems are generating multiple terabytes of data daily

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 June, 2017, 7:23pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 June, 2017, 10:43pm

Bike-sharing start-ups are now generating multiple terabytes of data every day from the millions of daily riders in China and abroad.

And the data can be used in multiple scenarios, from not only contributing to the efficient running of their own businesses, but much wider economic benefits such as helping cities with urban planning.

That’s according to top executives from market leaders Mobike and Ofo, who were speaking at this week’s TechCrunch Shenzhen conference.

Mobike’s co-founder and chief technology officer Joe Xia told TechCrunch that the company’s bike-sharing data could easily be used to help local authorities with better public transport planning.

Currently, Xia said that in Beijing’s central business district, for instance, hundreds of users cycle to public transport hubs after work to take a bus home.

However, with the proliferation of bicycle sharing, companies such as his could work with local authorities to “decentralise” central public transport hubs, locating several hubs outside the city centre which can still be easily reached by cycling. This would help alleviate issues with public transport or congestion, he said.

Since March this year, Ofo has partnered with Alibaba-backed Ant Financial in its Sesame Credit credit-scoring system which scores Alipay users based on a complex algorithm that takes into account everything from shopping habits to whether they pay their bills on time.

Alipay users in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hangzhou with a Sesame Credit score of at least 650 can rent Ofo bicycles without putting down the initial deposit of 199 yuan (US$29.20) to use the service, according to Austin Zhang, co-founder of Ofo.

“Tying in a trust system together with economy-sharing helps us provide a better experience to users, and at the same time help to ensure that users use our service appropriately,” said Zhang.

A user’s Sesame Credit score would be negatively impacted if they vandalised or used the service inappropriately while renting the bicycle deposit-free.

About 30 per cent of orders in the three cities are now from users who do not pay a deposit, Zhang said.

Ofo’s data on rider usage patterns can also help business owners make business decisions, he added. For example, Ofo’s data can reveal routes or areas that are frequently used by riders, and shopowners can use that data to pick store locations that maximise customer traffic.

Mobike, which raised US$600 million in funding last week, uses its data to incentivise users to ride bicycles to areas where demand is expected to be high.

For example, many Mobike users ride to the subway station closest to them to get to work in the mornings. This results in a large number of bicycles parked in one area.

To help redistribute the bikes, Mobike may label a number as “bonus bicycles” with a red packet attached to them.

To claim the red packet, which contains between 1 yuan to 100 yuan, users simply cycle on the bonus bikes for over ten minutes.

Mobike’s aim is to move bicycles to areas with higher traffic, and the most efficient way is to use data and mobilise users to do it for them, instead of expending valuable resources to redistribute the bicycles.