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the new connected charging point: Mobilize PowerBox 

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the new connected charging point: Mobilize PowerBox

As a specialist in services that promote ever more carbon-free mobility, Mobilize is innovating, thanks to cutting-edge technological partners, to offer a charging point for electric vehicles with the highest level of connectivity: the Mobilize PowerBox.

  • connectivity
  • electric vehicle
  • energy transition

★ ☆ ☆
a charging station for every use

Mobilize PowerBox is a charging solution that adapts to all electrical installations, whether single-phase or three-phase. It can be installed indoors or outdoors, on a wall or on a stand.  

Safe to use, the Mobilize PowerBox integrates into the electrical ecosystem of the place where it is installed. Its dynamic energy management modulates the charging power according to the power available, thus avoiding tripping the system. 

The Mobilize PowerBox terminal operates on alternating current (AC). Depending on the electrical installation and the vehicle’s charging capacity, it can deliver charging power of up to 22 kW. Mobilize PowerBox is compatible with all electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles fitted with a type 2 socket. 

To meet the different needs of both private and business customers, Mobilize PowerBox is available in four versions: 

  • The UNO version is a simple, secure home recharging solution.
  • The UNO PLUS version is designed for infrastructures installed in businesses or condominiums. It incorporates an RFID card reader to ensure that only authorised users have access to charging. This gives the manager greater traceability of the charging point’s operation.
  • The UNO PRO version is accessible to the general public or installed on company premises. In addition to an RFID reader, this version is equipped with a MID (Measurement Instruments Directive) meter that enables electricity to be billed back to service users and simplifies the reimbursement of employees’ business expenses by certifying the electricity consumed during home recharging. 
  • The VERSO version is the two-way Mobilize PowerBox charging point. It charges the vehicle, of course, but it can also send electricity back to the home network and to the public grid. A dream that will soon become reality, with the Renault 5 E-Tech electric. Equipped with a bi-directional charger, the iconic city car is the first vehicle in a long series to benefit from reversible charging – when combined with the Mobilize PowerBox Verso charging point and the Mobilize electricity contract.

All Mobilize PowerBox versions can be locked and unlocked remotely, updated automatically and diagnosed remotely if required (FOTA, firmware over the air) via WiFi or Ethernet connection. The UNO PRO and VERSO versions have a 4G connection. 

★ ★ ☆
two-way intelligent charging: a reality thanks to Mobilize PowerBox Verso

At the cutting edge of the latest energy and data management technologies, the Mobilize PowerBox Verso communicates directly with the car, but also with the home network and the public electricity grid.  

The user doesn’t have to worry about a thing. The system’s intelligence and connectivity mean that the service can take control of the charging and discharging of the vehicle.  

On the one hand, the car is charged at times when electricity is the least carbon-intensive and cheapest, i.e. when it is most available on the grid compared with overall demand. This is particularly the case when the sun is shining on photovoltaic panels and the wind is blowing through wind turbines. As well as helping to reduce the share of fossil fuels in the electricity mix, this means lower energy bills for users, up to 50% for home charging. 

On the other hand, the car is discharged at times when the electricity supply is insufficient compared with demand. The low-carbon electricity stored in the vehicle thanks to the intelligent charging phases can then be fed into the user’s domestic electricity network or the public electricity network. By offsetting the intermittency of renewable energies such as solar and wind power, the bi-directional system encourages the grid to make maximum use of them, in order to produce low-carbon electricity.  

From Mobilize’s point of view, intelligent two-way recharging, or V2G (vehicle to grid), is not just for the happy few. On the contrary, it is designed to be accessible, so as to maximise its impact on the local energy mix. Mobilize PowerBox operates on direct current (AC), which considerably reduces its acquisition cost compared with terminals operating on alternating current (DC). Combined with its ability to generate significant savings for the user, Mobilize PowerBox actively contributes to the widespread adoption of two-way electric charging. 

★ ★ ★
combining expertise for carbon-free electric mobility

The Mobilize PowerBox is the fruit of the strength and technological expertise of a veritable ecosystem: the Software Republic, and more specifically 4 of its members – Orange, Renault Group, STMicroelectronics and Thales – together with their partner IoTecha Corp.  

The Mobilize PowerBox terminal is thus at the heart of innovation in intelligent, secure and sustainable mobility. Two examples among many? It has been designed to guarantee users a maximum level of cyber security, thanks in particular to the expertise of Thalès. And its services are always at the cutting edge of technology, courtesy of a remote update system.  

To manufacture it, a specialist was also needed. The industrial launch of the Mobilize PowerBox charging point took place in February 2024, on the new production line at Lacroix’s “Symbiose” electronics plant in Maine-et-Loire, France. Lacroix, an international player in the electronics production of embedded systems and industrial connected objects, is thus putting its strategy of automated and digitalised Industry 4.0 at the service of Mobilize. 

The choice of this partner is in line with Renault Group’s commitment to contributing to the relocation of the electronics industry in France. In addition, the plant benefits from a network of local suppliers that reduces the carbon impact of the supply chain. 

The Mobilize PowerBox charging point will soon be available in the Renault network for all Renault Group brand electric vehicles, starting of course with the Renault 5 E-Tech electric. The Renault network is a genuine “one-stop shop”, enabling customers to order their vehicle and charging point at the same time. The Mobilize PowerBox will be installed and ready for use as soon as the vehicle is delivered. 

The Mobilize brand dedicated to recharging solutions, Mobilize Power Solutions, is responsible for setting up the Mobilize PowerBox. Its expertise is particularly valuable in supporting business customers, whether in assessing the needs of the user(s), installing the right version of the charging station and monitoring its operation. 

2030: What if the future of mobility was rural?

WHAT IF…

2030: What if the future of mobility was rural?

April 2030. The mass exodus of a whole generation deserting the city for the country has taken on such an importance that it has completely changed the face of the countryside. At the centre of this transformation is mobility, which for many means an electric vehicle that is no longer dominated by private use. Let’s imagine ourselves in this scenario, which has not a drop of science fiction about it! Rural mobility has become a central element to social cohesion and renewing rural areas, making great use of technical solutions, solidarity approaches and resource-sharing. And to prove it? Today we are witnessing the reopening of a village corner shop, which has plenty of ideas in store to make electric mobility breathe new life into the local area.

  • connectivity
  • transport on demand

The village had never been so busy! In any case, that’s what all the locals who have mostly spent their wholes lives here were saying. Nor did they ever think they’d see the day when the local corner shop would reopen its doors. The shop closed around the year 2000 because no one wanted to buy it. But finally, iIt has recently been repurchased by Ludivine and Paul, a young couple fleeing the city without wanting to give up on its modern comforts, with a firm ambition to make this spot the centre of community renewal. And today is its official opening.

reviving rural communities

The entire region has been undergoing a transformation over the past four years now. Despite being under threat of desertification as residents were still only yesterday moving away, today the region is an example of rural renaissance. If it feels sudden, this new energy is not due to chance. It’s the result local authorities persevering and a huge effort from businesses, which have managed to convince a whole population tired of the city and its amenities to settle in the region. Infrastructure development, support for remote workers, and the reopening of local services reopening have all gradually helped change the face of the countryside. And the evolution of means of mobility helped structure this profound transformation too.

the car and the countryside: friends for life

It must be said that the rural revival has for a long time come up against the question of transport, in a rural landscape where people live spaced out and far from one another, and where the population density makes public transport unsuitable. The private-use car generally remains the main means of transport and represents a substantial part of one’s budget for the rural population, for whom access to a vehicle is determined by the cost of purchase, maintenance and high fuel prices.

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“One observation is clear: the region’s stability can now only be imagined as part of a fundamental reflection about how people can get about.”
 

And the local economic and political actors have been able to act on this wisely. In a way, those who have come today to the inauguration of the corner shop are witnesses as much as actors of change.

technical, yet social innovation

Mobility has transformed by both desire and necessity into a deeply united gesture that is no longer about people getting about individually, but rather getting about collectively. It aims at bringing accessibility to isolated homes, connecting people and revitalising villages threatened with desertion. Shared and carbon-free mobility solutions are leading to an unprecedented movement in terms of technological, but also social innovation. Some are being lead by local authorities, others stem from individual initiatives driven by civic sense and the needs of a generation of “neo-rurals” still connected to urban lifestyles. As such, a large number of sharing platforms have naturally emerged, often promoted by local businesses, developing car-sharing and vehicle pooling solutions. On top of this there are on-demand vehicle and short-term rental services, which had so far failed to develop in rural areas purely for logistical reasons. Mobility, driven by determined local businesses and digital tools, is once again becoming a powerful lever of solidarity. Especially since the digital satellite network rollout has helped to eliminate the last phone coverage dead zones across the region and to make internet access universal once and for all.

meet you at the charging station

The reopening of the village corner shop is part of this dynamism. For Ludivine and Paul, it’s now about making this local business a solution to the main barrier in electric vehicle adoption in rural areas: the issue being range and the availability of an electric charging network. Battery storage capacity has greatly improved, thus already solving part of the problem – which leaves the network. With their corner shop, the new owners want to actively participate in a movement implemented a few years earlier in the countryside, aimed at increasing the number of charging stations available in the region. Their corner shop has therefore been designed as a mobility hub, equipped with two fast charging stations and, when required, a space for returning vehicles on demand. So not only do you come to the shop to stock up on food, but also to charge your car’s battery. It’s also a way of attracting tourists and encouraging them to stop off for a while, to grab a coffee, read the local papers and chat with the locals about the things to see in the region. It’s a way of maintaining social ties and making the region more attractive . It’s a virtuous circle that is part of an entire ecosystem.

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social garages are the new third place

A few months earlier, a social garage opened in an old agricultural warehouse in the village. It’s run by Andia, who used to be an electrician but has since retrained in electric vehicle maintenance. Based on the same principle of a community bicycle repair workshop, the garage enables those with few resources to find the suitable equipment to maintain their vehicle at a lower cost and to be trained, if necessary, by a professional mechanic. Andia currently employs five full-time employees and the garage now houses a mobility hub where you can rent utility and agricultural vehicles for very short periods, as well as a pooling system for both shared vehicles and even bicycles! The whole package completes the nearby corner shop’s offer, enriching this ecosystem just a little bit more.

the countryside, but better

This concentration of mobility services is a fundamental movement inseparable from rural renewal. Mobility innovation has opened up new opportunities for building social ties. Moreover, the emergence of such mobility hubs in villages are now a common sight, housing both charging stations and other services, such as a fleet of shared vehicles or carpooling pick-up points. These hubs are also frequently combined with parcel drop-off and concierge lockers. Electric mobility is gradually changing the very face of the villages it touches – and for the better. Driven by this new dynamism, restaurants, bakeries and hairdressers are gradually repopulating the village centres that they had formerly abandoned due to a lack of visitors. Electric mobility is the main vector for rural renewal and for breathing life back into local areas. In a way, the car has once again become the driving force behind social cohesion and freedom that it always wanted to be.

are NFTs the future of used cars?

REALITY CHECK

are NFTs the future of used cars?

Don’t you just love to hate NFTs? Even the name “non-fungible token” seems to have been invented just to confuse you. So what is this technology doing in the used-car market? Well, it’s being used to guarantee what up until now was a major barrier in this market: trust.

  • connectivity
  • shared mobility

what is an NFT?

To understand what an NFT is, first you have to understand the blockchain – which is an internet network on which data is exchanged and archived in a decentralised way, so basically, without a middleman. It’s the user who guarantees the data distribution and verification. NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are cryptographic assets, such as an image, a contract or an original creation, which are stored on the blockchain. So basically anything that can be digitised can be an NFT. An NFT can be compared to a work of art: it can be passed on or copied, but remains resolutely unique and indivisible – or “non-fungible,” in economic terms. Each NFT is therefore given an identifier which guarantees its authenticity and ownership, which cannot be counterfeited. As such, the ownership certificate and maintenance log that follow a vehicle throughout its life are data like any other. So it was only to be expected that the car industry and NFTs would someday join forces.

why would a decentralised system be more secure than any other type?

The advantage of a centralised system is that it always converges towards an entity that ensures its proper functioning. For example, for a computer network, all workstations link to the same central server. Although it’s easier to manage, if there’s a breakdown or hacking, the entire network goes down. A decentralised system avoids such risk. If one part of the network malfunctions, it doesn’t prevent the rest of the network from functioning properly. However, this is not enough to guarantee that information cannot be falsified. The blockchain has a solution for this. It’s often compared to a ledger shared by its users: everyone can write in it and check what is written, but no one can decide to change or delete information unilaterally. This kind of system is based on data transparency, i.e. all users have free access. It’s quite easy to understand what advantages the used-car market, which is looking for traceability, can get from this feature. This shared accessibility coupled with data interconnection is what ensures greater integrity in a decentralised system.

why buy a car NFT?

First of all, an NFT is a piece of data. It’s not necessarily something that can be bought. A car NFT therefore concerns information relating to a vehicle. In fact, it’s similar to a sort of digital maintenance log which records directly on the blockchain the various transactions implemented throughout its life, such as its mileage, repairs with new spare parts, car services or tyre changes. Any maintenance performed is automatically added to its associated NFT and cannot be altered, thus giving buyers, garages and insurers a complete history of the car. This obviously changes a lot of things, especially for the used car market. Odometer fraud (or mileage clocking) and modifying any repair work has now become impossible. At the time of resale, the car NFT offers added value for the seller and traceability of repairs for the buyer.

is it really impossible to cheat with this system?

Yes, once the information has been entered into the NFT, it is impossible to defraud it. The risk of deliberately withholding information is all the rarer now that the handling of accidents and breakdowns is highly digitised, so we can legitimately conclude that the NFT is secure.

is the tech already gaining ground in the industry?

The first vehicles with an NFT digital certificate have already been released on the market, available in a rather high-end positioning whereby the NFT strengthens the models’ unique character. The vehicles marketed today will therefore have this original guarantee which will follow them throughout their existence. For now, NFTs are mainly put forward as a selling point to attract drivers who are early adopters of digital tech. But a market is undeniably emerging. It’s not really surprising when you realise just how connected vehicles are to the digital world today. In the future, vehicles will undoubtedly no longer be released on the market without a certificate.

how else are NFTs being used?

NFT couldn’t stop there. Related initiatives are now being developed in the world of cars. For example, Renault launched a blockchain-based experience to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its iconic R5. On top of that, the carmakers launched its Racing Shoe5, a range of sneakers whose design is inspired by the legendary Renault 5 Turbo, available to buy from the brand’s first virtual, immersive store. Buyers are assigned a digital collectible, an artistic representation of their shoes in the form of an NFT, which also contains all the information related to the product, such as to prove their authenticity, the materials used, their origin and the date of purchase. This exclusive ownership deed can then be used to collect the sneakers “in real life.” This is a successful example of the real and the virtual combining together, which proves that the use of NFTs is not reserved for insiders only, but can have many applications in our daily lives. It goes to show that the only thing probably limiting this expanding market is our own imaginations.

chap. 2: the smartphone… towards ever more sustainable mobility

ARTEFACT

the smartphone
[chap. 2] towards ever more sustainable mobility

Artefact is the video series conceived by Mobilize that tells the story of mobility through its objects.

Discover the episode focused on the Swiss army knife of modern times, the smartphone. Artefact shows us how it facilitates mobility, but also how it optimises it, including reducing its impact on the environment.

  • connectivity
  • electric vehicle
  • shared mobility
  • transport on demand

 

The episode about the smartphone and mobility is divided into two videos. Here, in the second chapter, Artefact explains how the smartphone is not just a new compass for everyone’s mobility needs. Its connected nature makes it a pillar of data exchange, in real time and on a large scale. Optimising recharging of electric cars, encouraging shared use… The smartphone contributes to maximising the benefits of mobility and limiting its negative impacts on ecosystems.

 

 

Previously, in the first chapter, Artefact explained the smartphone’s role in a seamless mobile experience…

 

the smartphone
[chap. 1] a mobility facilitator

The smartphone is above all that little companion that we all have in our pocket and can no longer do without. Finding a recharging station on the way, renting or sharing a car, hailing a taxi or booking a chauffeur-driven car… The smartphone helps meet all kinds of mobility needs.

watch the video

chap. 1: the smartphone… a mobility facilitator

ARTEFACT

the smartphone
[chap. 2] towards ever more sustainable mobility

Artefact is the video series conceived by Mobilize that tells the story of mobility through its objects.

Discover the episode focused on the Swiss army knife of modern times, the smartphone. Artefact shows us how it facilitates mobility, but also how it optimises it, including reducing its impact on the environment.

  • connectivity
  • electric vehicle
  • shared mobility
  • transport on demand

 

The episode about the smartphone and mobility is divided into two videos. Here, in the second chapter, Artefact explains how the smartphone is not just a new compass for everyone’s mobility needs. Its connected nature makes it a pillar of data exchange, in real time and on a large scale. Optimising recharging of electric cars, encouraging shared use… The smartphone contributes to maximising the benefits of mobility and limiting its negative impacts on ecosystems.

 

 

Previously, in the first chapter, Artefact explained the smartphone’s role in a seamless mobile experience…

 

the smartphone
[chap. 1] a mobility facilitator

The smartphone is above all that little companion that we all have in our pocket and can no longer do without. Finding a recharging station on the way, renting or sharing a car, hailing a taxi or booking a chauffeur-driven car… The smartphone helps meet all kinds of mobility needs.

watch the video

[chap.2] the mobility design

ARTEFACT

the smartphone
[chap. 2] towards ever more sustainable mobility

Artefact is the video series conceived by Mobilize that tells the story of mobility through its objects.

Discover the episode focused on the Swiss army knife of modern times, the smartphone. Artefact shows us how it facilitates mobility, but also how it optimises it, including reducing its impact on the environment.

  • connectivity
  • design
  • shared mobility
  • energy storage
  • energy transition
  • transport on demand
  • electric vehicle

 

The episode about the smartphone and mobility is divided into two videos. Here, in the second chapter, Artefact explains how the smartphone is not just a new compass for everyone’s mobility needs. Its connected nature makes it a pillar of data exchange, in real time and on a large scale. Optimising recharging of electric cars, encouraging shared use… The smartphone contributes to maximising the benefits of mobility and limiting its negative impacts on ecosystems.

 

 

Previously, in the first chapter, Artefact explained the smartphone’s role in a seamless mobile experience…

 

the smartphone
[chap. 1] a mobility facilitator

The smartphone is above all that little companion that we all have in our pocket and can no longer do without. Finding a recharging station on the way, renting or sharing a car, hailing a taxi or booking a chauffeur-driven car… The smartphone helps meet all kinds of mobility needs.

watch the video

[chap.1] the car design

ARTEFACT

the smartphone
[chap. 2] towards ever more sustainable mobility

Artefact is the video series conceived by Mobilize that tells the story of mobility through its objects.

Discover the episode focused on the Swiss army knife of modern times, the smartphone. Artefact shows us how it facilitates mobility, but also how it optimises it, including reducing its impact on the environment.

  • connectivity
  • design
  • shared mobility
  • transport on demand

 

The episode about the smartphone and mobility is divided into two videos. Here, in the second chapter, Artefact explains how the smartphone is not just a new compass for everyone’s mobility needs. Its connected nature makes it a pillar of data exchange, in real time and on a large scale. Optimising recharging of electric cars, encouraging shared use… The smartphone contributes to maximising the benefits of mobility and limiting its negative impacts on ecosystems.

 

 

Previously, in the first chapter, Artefact explained the smartphone’s role in a seamless mobile experience…

 

the smartphone
[chap. 1] a mobility facilitator

The smartphone is above all that little companion that we all have in our pocket and can no longer do without. Finding a recharging station on the way, renting or sharing a car, hailing a taxi or booking a chauffeur-driven car… The smartphone helps meet all kinds of mobility needs.

watch the video

electric charging: a new version of the game of 1000 miles

mobilize
GUIDEBOOK

electric charging: a new version of the game of 1000 miles

More ecological, more economical, more responsible: driving an electric car is undoubtedly a sensible choice for getting around. It also raises some questions. Among the most significant are questions about charging points. How to recharge the battery? Where to do it? Are all charging points the same? With all this, we’re reinventing the game 1000 Miles.

  • connectivity
  • electric vehicle

1) One point or one thousand points?

When you take to the road at the wheel of your electric vehicle, it’s highly likely that the availability of electric charging points along your route, and their compatibility with your vehicle, will be among your first questions. In Europe, there are not 1000 but 500,000 points available across the region. For the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), these figures hide major disparities in terms of geographic distribution, since 70% of the electric charging points are currently located in the Netherlands, France and Germany. These are countries where the development of electric vehicles is clearly more dynamic. More importantly, though, the wheels have been set in motion and this imbalance is gradually being reduced.

2) Charging power: a trump card

While the number of charging points is still increasing, there is already a broad range on offer when it comes to power. In short, the more powerful the charging point, the faster it charges…. which means that the terminals are all the more powerful as they are located in short-stay places.

 

Classic charging points use alternating current (AC). These are – from the least powerful to the most powerful – the standard household power socket at 10A/2.3 kW (single phase current) found in every home; the reinforced household power socket at 16A/3.7 kW (single phase current); the dedicated home charger at 32A/7.4 kW (single phase current) also known as a “wallbox”; the charger that can be placed in a private place as well as on the roadside at 16A/11 kW (three-phase current); and the public charging point at 32A/22 kW (three-phase current), which is mainly found in commercial car parks. The fastest charging points are reserved for major roads. The charging points then deliver a direct current (DC) of up to 400 kW, to stock up several hundred kilometers of autonomy in just 30 minutes of charging.

 

On the car side, the Combo charger, particularly found on Renault Group electric vehicles, can be connected to any charging point, AC or DC. Your car could be charging as soon as you park.

3) Public charging points: draw a “driving ace” card

Once you’re on your way, you’ll need to know about public charging points and their distribution networks. The difference between the operators is, for now, mainly about price, with competition contributing to a gradual standardisation of rates. It is worth noting that a number of town centers and some larger stores offer free parking alongside the charging points, or even free electric recharging: this attracts the least polluting vehicles.

 

Generally speaking, it may sometimes be hard to find an available charging point when you need one. The Mobilize Charge Pass is a bit like a “safety card” in the game 1000 Miles, it gives you access to over 500,000 charging points in 25 European countries. Along with its app locating the charging points available on your route, it’s like being handed a master key. At the time of charging, it can be used to switch it on and pay per unit.  Do you already have a Mobilize Visa Card for payments in France? No problem! You can use it to pay for your charging following the same steps. Keep playing… while the others take their turn!

4) Private space: speed is limited, but installations get the green light

Whether it’s at work or at home, we have to admit that a vehicle spends more time sitting in a car park than in motion on the road. The good news is that these stationary moments are perfect for charging batteries, making the issue of charging capacity in such private spaces crucial. Whether it’s at home, in a company car park, or a shared space, for yourself, customers or visitors, there are many solutions. Here there is less of a problem with charging speeds, but rather the decisive question of the installation and connection of the terminal.

 

Mobilize has the answer, thanks to Mobilize Power Solutions, which enables customers to order a charging solution and its installation at home, at the same time as they order their vehicle from a dealership. Depending on the type of charging point chosen and the location where it will be installed, Mobilize Power Solutions calculates a set price with no surprises. For professionals, Mobilize Power Solutions provides turnkey solutions, from advice to the installation of charging points, to the operation of the charging service and energy optimisation.

5) Mobilize Fast Charge: play your “emergency vehicle” card

The development of public access charging points is an essential condition for the growth of electric vehicles, which is called for by European policies on cutting traffic emissions. The European Commission announced a target of one million terminals installed by 2025. An ambitious target that demonstrates the trend is to increase the number of public charging points.

 

Mobilize is taking an active role in this movement, with the deployment of Mobilize Fast Charge, a super-fast charging network that should have 200 charging stations in Europe by 2024. These stations will be available near motorways, with a view to covering charging needs on long journeys. All across the recharging infrastructure, Mobilize Fast Charge is a comprehensive service, which integrates smart energy management by storing it up for redistribution when it is most needed. The Mobilize network will also offer rest areas with games consoles and remote working zones with WiFi for its customers. Not a bad way to pass the time while you top up. And why not start a ‘real life’ game of 1000 Miles? It’s your turn…

Tallinn, an example of smart city technology use

mobilize
TOP PLAYER

Tallinn, an example of smart city technology use

You wouldn’t instinctively guess that Estonia would top the list of countries home to the world’s most advanced smart cities. And yet, its capital Tallinn stands as a global model for them. Following the fall of the USSR and a large-scale cyber attack in 2007, this small Eastern European nation was forced to reinvent itself. We got to sit down with Hannes Astok, smart city expert and head of development at the e-Governance Academy, as well as director of the Tartu Smart City Lab, a member of the Estonian Smart City Cluster. He explained how Tartu, Estonia’s second-largest city, is developing intelligent urban solutions—and painted us a picture of the smart city of his dreams.

  • connectivity
  • design

Could you explain what your role is, as well as that of the Estonian Smart City Cluster?

I’m lucky to wear two hats: a more admin-centered one with the e-Governance Academy, and a more tech-focused, cross-disciplinary one via the Cluster. These roles allow me to help create a bridge between Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), companies, and public administration.

I work with cities and government councils on digital transformation projects. For the last six years, Cluster has been working to bring cities and companies together, around ICTs and transport for example, while asking the following question: how do we create a space for brainstorming and experimenting, all in service of a city’s residents? By working together, companies and public administration can invent new things. Companies don’t always understand how government councils work and vice versa, particularly regarding things like profitability and development. But for modern innovation to happen, we need them to work together, which the Cluster helps facilitate.

In Tartu, you’ve already helped modernise areas of the city that date back to the Soviet era. What’s the next step? Could Information and Communication Technologies help reduce carbon emissions from housing?

Yes, ICTs can offer solutions for reducing carbon emissions. With regards to mobility, yes, but especially in relation to housing. We’re currently looking at intelligent housing that could regulate its own temperature (through heating or air-conditioning) whenever necessary, and could even plan out temperature a few days ahead of time—a system that we could combine with solar panels, for example. We’ve renovated several buildings in Tartu, and from here on out, we’ll be thinking about how to use technology for improved building isolation.

Apart from housing, what other aspects of urban life are part of Tartu’s smart city plan?

A year and a half ago, we redesigned public transport routes with help from phone operators and data experts. The bus network wasn’t organised properly. By analysing people’s anonymous travel data, we realised that the main bus routes weren’t adapted to meet the actual demand. From that, we redesigned routes in accordance with peak travel hours and patterns, helping us optimise traffic flow. This also helps reduce our carbon footprint as buses are travelling fewer kilometers.

And you did this using resident data?

Communication is extremely important. In this case, all the data is anonymous and must be kept by phone operators for a certain amount of time for the authorities. But yes, in other cases, the primary issue is the importance of the data collected. We need to collect lots of data, to store it somewhere, but also to think about people’s privacy. Today’s cities don’t really know what data is collected, how to store it, or what to do with it. That’s the next challenge. If data scientists and cities work together, we might be able to find some ideas.

hannes astok
Hannes Astok, Executive Director and Chairman of the Management Board at the Estonian e-Governance

Tech innovations aside, smart cities are first and foremost designed to serve their residents. How do they relate to health and social services?

Unfortunately, in Estonia, health is not considered the city’s business. As for social services, the question we need to ask first is: how do we let people maintain their independence? Should we use sensors to help us get around our own houses? How do you monitor older people, or physically and/or mentally handicapped people without becoming a kind of “Big Brother”? We need to find a way to do that without being intrusive. We’ve thought about solutions like recording daily activity through say, refrigerator, toilet, or water use. If activity suddenly stops, someone could be called to come check on the person living there.

The idea here is not to collect data, but to be able to compare general patterns of a person’s daily life within a given period. The key is to keep it simple for people and families in a time when many Estonians would prefer to stay home rather than go to a nursing home.

To do that, we’re working with companies on solutions that take into account another very important consideration: sustainability and responsibility. These are the types of questions we need to address for clients, citizens, families, and the government.

Is it possible to extend this philosophy to the mobility sector in order to create more independent forms of innovative mobility?

Before we get to self-driving cars, it’s important to strengthen public transport and multi-modal platforms within the city, but also across the rest of the country. In Estonia, a third of the population lives in rural areas, and intends to stay there. And as more people start working from home, the question of mobility is going to become more and more important. Today, in rural areas, you need a car to get to the nearest transport hub. It’s even more of a crucial question for older people and doctors. Rural areas are less accessible, and that’s something we have to work on.

One way to respond would be by creating a public service where everyone can act as someone’s driver – a kind of Uberification of the neighbours, who could help people in difficulty to get around. It would also be possible to create a public mobility agency in isolated areas that would facilitate journeys, or help you travel that last kilometre. These are all things we’re thinking about. What’s important here isn’t data, but simplification.

How could we be sure this would work?

Cities need to adopt a test-and-learn mindset. It’s okay if it doesn’t work—the people and the government should be able to forgive them. The key thing is to try to make people’s lives easier.

What are three changes you think we’ll see in the next three years?

First off, using and understating data is the key to the future. City organisation is going to change, or cities will start linking up with others. Tomorrow’s leaders will be those who can understand and decipher these changes. Next is renewable energy. We’re planning to spend a lot more time looking not at how to store energy, but how to use and reuse it intelligently, for example within a closed-circuit. And last, I’d say it’s the ability to predict. Predicting needs through artificial intelligence. It won’t be Big Brother or Minority Report, instead, analysis will be based on predictable patterns that will help simplify people’s daily lives, and anticipate their needs and issues.

What’s the next project you’re working on?

We’re starting to think about the future of online shopping and delivery. How do we redesign the system to reduce its carbon impact? To do this, we’ll be asking people about their shopping habits and delivery preferences via surveys or studies led by research institutes. We’re looking at things like creating a collection hub for online purchases, simplifying pick-ups, and how to avoid having delivery vans making useless trips.

What’s your dream smart city?

I dream of a smart city where all the services and technology I need are invisible, but accessible in some way or another. The perfect smart city will predict what I need so that I don’t have to go get it myself. The city must run simply and smoothly for all in order to make life easier. If my children are going to school, I need to know the travel options in advance. Services could offer older people simple, non-intrusive solutions, or ask them if they need help with anything. The perfect smart city would let me handle all paperwork via smartphone. Overall, a smart city isn’t just about creating a hub for technology and apps, it’s about making admin, transport, public functions, and relationships simpler and more fluid.

 

Interview by Vincent Thobel, L’ADN journalist

L’ADN is the media on innovation that every day analyses the best concepts of the new economy on the web and in magazine format.

 

Copyright: Joonas-Sisask

shared mobility needs to be structured collaboratively

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shared mobility needs to be structured collaboratively

For most, the term ‘shared mobility’ immediately brings to mind the practice of car-sharing but in reality, its scope and ambitions are much larger. From questions of inclusion, to the reduction of greenhouse gases, to rethinking the way we innovate, in this interview, future mobility and open innovation expert Judit Batayé explains how shared mobility will help build better transport in the future.

  • connectivity
  • design
  • energy transition
  • shared mobility

In light of social distancing measures introduced during the pandemic, the idea of sharing seems to have taken a backseat for now. What consequences has the pandemic had on shared mobility and carpooling?

As a member of the board of directors for Som Mobilitat (a vehicle-sharing cooperative based in Catalonia), I got to experience this crisis from the inside. We’d experienced tremendous growth over the last two years, and overnight, everything collapsed with the lockdown. Between March and May, we experienced a brutal 85% drop in reservations.

This period also taught us a lot. We of course increased health and safety measures by putting gel and masks in every shared vehicle, and by airing out each one between uses—but what this crisis also provided was a lesson in community solidarity. Very quickly, we made vehicles including the Renault ZOE available to health professionals so that they could travel to and from the hospital more easily.

We also gained important insight into general public feeling. Though lockdown was a difficult time, we noticed that the public nevertheless seemed to appreciate having a city that was less crowded and less polluted, as much in terms of sound and visual pollution as in terms of CO2 emissions.

This kind of clean city is something shared mobility can help make possible. We’re contributing to it with low-emission vehicles and optimised trips. We think this experience should motivate local councils to adopt shared mobility policies in the future.

judith bataye
Judit Batayé, future mobility expert

We tend to think of shared mobility in terms of connecting people — but could we say that the future of shared mobility depends more on successful data-sharing than on sharing between people?

Absolutely. Creating efficient shared transport is largely a question of how to handle data in order to make trips as fluid as possible. The goal is to arrive at a real MaaS (Mobility as a Service) model in which you can easily share information, book vehicles, or even calculate the best way to get from point A to point B (in terms of travel time or environmental impact), using a mix of public transport, private transport, and the other complementary services available. This is not a new model: it was invented in 2006 by a Finnish man named Sampo Hietanen, who describes it as “the Netflix of mobility.” But putting it in place can be complex sometimes due to the data-sharing that’s required to develop these kinds of services. I’d nevertheless say that there are many projects being developed that indicate things are going in the right direction.

Creating efficient shared transport is largely a question of how to handle data.

If I had to highlight one in particular, it would be the test project Renfe as a Service (RaaS), an A-Z mobility experience that allows you to access all Renfe services (Spain’s national railway company) alongside third-party services within a single app. By making multiple mobility services available, you make the user journey more efficient to and from train stations. By sharing data, we can create a truly integrated system that makes passenger mobility truly fluid. I think we have to move towards this model of data integration.

Your consulting firm Six-Ter champions the idea of a sharing economy that fosters inclusion using the principles of a social solidarity economy. Could you give us some examples of how shared mobility contributes to inclusion?

I think that the idea of inclusion underpins the sharing economy philosophy. Once again, there are many projects I could cite, but I’m a particular fan of what Taxistop is doing in Belgium by making social solidarity initiatives an integral part of their objectives, whether in terms of housing or mobility. I could also cite Mobicoop, a company that’s bringing transport services to the populations and places that need the most.

And in a larger sense, I think that technological advances like self-driving vehicles will also help contribute to greater inclusion. I still remember my 72-year-old mother’s reaction upon discovering Waymo and its self-driving car service. She was extremely enthusiastic about the possibilities a service like that could offer her.

By reducing the number of vehicles per person in service, the very nature of the sharing economy can help us reduce our environmental impact. What else is the shared mobility sector doing to take this even further?

To have real environmental impact, shared mobility needs to be structured collaboratively, and involve all key players: cities, infrastructure, manufacturing… but also all the different sectors that are linked to mobility: delivery services, ports… Everything is interconnected. Shared mobility is a collective pursuit—and each link in the chain has to work towards sustainability. If, for example, infrastructure makers decide not to get involved, manufacturers won’t have enough reason to develop electric-powered services.

To have real environmental impact, shared mobility needs to be structured collaboratively.

Returning to the example of delivery services, in Barcelona, the growing number of “Amazon-type” deliveries taking place is creating real congestion issues. So logistical solutions like building more pickup points can help reduce traffic and thus reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Logistical optimisations like these are also a part of shared mobility.

It’s clear that working together is essential, and that such efforts will require a kind of collective coordination — if only to avoid ‘silo-thinking’ in which everyone works alone on their own solution. How do we encourage this?

I very much believe in mobility hubs. For me, they’re the best way to encourage open innovation that truly involves all parties. There are already several exciting projects like this underway—for example Railgroup, the most innovative cluster in my opinion, which is a perfect example of how to apply the principles of open innovation. In Europe, I could cite EIT Urban Mobility, which is made up of 40 members (cities, public transport providers, universities…) that work together to envision the future of mobility. Here in Barcelona, industrial actors come together at Cámara de Comerç de Barcelona to invent future mobility systems. And the Barcelona Global consortium — a group of the most important companies in the region who are working to promote a new model of mobility that’s more sustainable, safe, efficient, and inclusive. In their manifesto, they presented policy leaders with 15 concrete mobility solutions, from parking projects, to the use of big data, to an overhaul of public transport. So, I think that the future of mobility will have to be shared.

Not only in the sense of sharing between the final users, but in the sense of sharing the design and ideation process, too.

About Judit Batayé

  • Over 20 years of experience working on innovation projects in the mobility sector
  • Director of Six-Ter, a consulting firm focused on social innovation and sustainable mobility.
  • Member of OuiShare, advising on themes related to the future of sustainable mobility
  • Co-founder of COVIDWarriors, a non-profit organisation working to accelerate social, technological, and health-related projects that address the current crisis

 

Interview by Jérémy Lopes, L’ADN journalist

L’ADN is the media on innovation that every day analyses the best concepts of the new economy on the web and in magazine format.

 

Copyrights: Kaspars Upmanis via Unsplash, DR