I confess that as a young girl I truly believed that by the time I turned 40 teletransportation will be a common way to avoid traffic jams. As the date is fast-approaching, and although teletransportation is still a mirage, I believe that we are evolving fast enough that transportation will no longer be a pain and, something that a young Joana never worried but now keeps me up at night, better for the environment.
As environment goes electric transportation is allowing us to keep moving without polluting the air with tons of CO2 per mile. Some Governments seem more committed than others in providing the conditions for the expansion of electric vehicles: Amsterdam has pledged to ban all gasoline and diesel powered cars by 2030 and is now offering charging stations to those moving to e-vehicles.
Shared mobility is another big trend. As an epic road rager, I am a fan of not owning a car and only drive when I really, really must, using car sharing services and being a fan of uber. However, at Beta-i we always like to verify what customers really want of each product and in Japan Orix found out that youngsters are using shared cars as a place to crash and spend the night almost as much as they use them for moving around.
Finally, a trend I am most fan of: all the tricks and knowledge on how to get from point A to point B as seamlessly and fastest as possible. That is why I am a huge fan of Meep, one of the startups that participated in the first edition of SOL Mobility, and that allows me to choose the fastest, cheaper or more environmentally friendly way of moving around.
It’s not teletransportation, but sounds good enough for me!
Smart Open Lisboa continues to unite the biggest players in different sectors in Lisbon with the most innovative startups to create a better user experience of the city for Lisbon’s citizens. Rethink spoke with Guillermo Campoamor, CEO of Meep, to get to know their work in the program and the future of mobility.
Meep App is a multimodal journey planner that combines all modes of transportation available in a city into a single app. With Meep, users can plan, book and pay for rides, eliminating the need to use more than one application.
Through the app, customers can choose the best way to reach their destination, according to their own priorities: being able to choose between the cheapest, the faster or the greener routes.
SOL Mobility Piloting
For their SOL Mobility pilot, Meep partnered up with Carris, Emel (specifically Gira, the bike sharing component) and CML (Câmara de Lisboa) to aggregate all transportation resources into a single app. Lisbon locals and tourists would be able to plan their daily routes using bicycles and buses. The Meep app would display real-time information for both the bus stops and bike stations so users will have the opportunity to combine both modes of transport in a single route, based on their preferences. Through this pilot, they hoped to improve the mobility ecosystem, making public transportation more attractive and increasing the accessibility of the city by creating routes that no one has previously provided.
RT: What were your goals in joining SOL Mobility?
GC: Our primary goal with SOL Mobility was to create a feasible pilot in Lisbon that would become a successful product deployment, integrating all transport operators in the city. We recognized that the participating partners in the program are key players in the mobility ecosystem who could, therefore, help us establish a network in Lisbon, and make it possible to deploy Meep as efficiently as possible. A very important component to our goal was to be able to adapt Meep to the local market. Thanks to the insights and mentorship we received through SOL Mobility, we managed to quickly adjust certain features within Meep to accommodate the unique characteristics of the city like creating a custom button through which users can apply their monthly pass.
RT: How was developing the pilot along with the partners?
GC: Developing the pilot with the partners added a valuable perspective to our experience in deploying Meep. We were able to observe and learn from the developments along the path to launch, especially changes and needs in integrations. For example, at the beginning, Carris and Gira were the first to jump onboard as principal partners, while Camara de Lisboa joined as an observer. As we made progress and our positive impact on the city spread, other partners outside the SOL mobility program like ecooltra and emov joined the platform. We also saw some partners, who had expressed interest from the start, have to opt out due to technical difficulties.
RT: What is the impact you believe an app like Meep can bring to the city of Lisbon?
GC: All features of Meep aim to improve city life and travel by decreasing the use of private cars and making transport more accessible, user-friendly and ecological. Through more efficient, integrated travel, Meep will reduce travel costs and conserve much-needed time for Lisbon residents. Further, by creating previously unexplored routes, remote areas will become more connected and therefore more livable. Meep will also make life easier and more mobile with in-app ticketing and payments – the next step in deployment. As we continue to develop, we hope the platform will serve as a mobility marketplace within which users can interact with the information in the platform and with each other, giving the city of Lisbon the most accurate and updated user behavior and data with which it will better serve the people.
RT: Are there any first results of success you can share?
GC: Thus far, we have seen Meep users in Lisbon use the app to create endless combinations of different transport modes between buses, bikes, motorcycles, metro (Gira) and scooters. We are growing fast, and more and more people are choosing Meep as their preferred transportation app. Since our recent launch in November, we have more than a thousand active users per week. For now, they are mostly younger techies who want a better way to move around.
RT: What are the next goals for Meep?
GC: Next goals for Meep in Lisbon are to add kick-scooters to the platform and to progressively integrate payments for current operators.
We are also actively increasing the area that Meep covers in Lisbon so that we can connect to other municipalities. We believe this is important for current and potential Lisbon Meep users because many of them commute back and forth on a regular basis.
We are excited to see how the app progresses in the city, and how we can use the data to advance city living and tourism.
Mobility as a Service
Meep believes they are an integrating part of a new business model – Mobility as a Service – that is rising to meet the new challenges of mobility in the cities.
The pressure of population growth, pollution, and traffic in the cities demand that we re-think how transportation services are currently provided and used, to streamline one of the most important parts of city living: getting around.
We can’t wait to see where Meep and Lisbon’s mobility solutions go next, and we’re also very excited about the startups on SOL Housing, the new vertical of Smart Open Lisboa, that kicked its Bootcamp this week – read about it here.
Gonçalo Faria first became interested in the field of innovation and entrepreneurship in 2011, during his MBA, where he recognized innovation was an area where his business experience and his creative and performing arts background could be tied together.
He spent the following years working in strategy consulting in Portugal, Angola and South Africa, being regularly involved with innovation projects and reports and mentoring startups, before dedicating himself fully to innovation when joining Beta-i in January 2018.
Since joining Beta-i one year ago, Gonçalo has taken on the challenge of directing Smart Open Lisboa, which was a perfect fit for his personal and professional ambitions.
It was my initial project and I don’t imagine a better fit with my purpose in life, to bring technology and innovative solutions to better people’s lives. This is a program that has a clear focus on having a positive social and environmental impact, and that is very important for me.
When he joined Beta-i, he became involved in Data Pitch, an EU-funded Open Innovation program that aims to promote a data sharing space in Europe by putting startups working with data from corporate partners based on specific sectoral or data provider challenges.
Joining the open-innovation team was a clear path. To him it’s more and more clear that innovation can only happen in collaboration: when you get together several stakeholders with complementary views, information, needs, solutions, technologies.
Open innovation programs aim to structure that collaboration between two very important agents of change: startups and corporates.
“In a program like Smart Open Lisboa, we have several corporates within a specific sector (either Mobility or Housing/ Real Estate for the verticals we have already implemented) collaborating with the startups and among themselves. And on top of this, we have the City Hall that gives the program a political/ institutional backing and provides the program with access to the city resources and spaces for testing innovative solutions.”
He reasons that considering these factors, you can find advantages for all the stakeholders, which is fundamental to a successful project.
“The City Hall is able to improve citizen’s life and the city management with innovative solutions and to be understood as a friendly city for startups and innovation.”
But it’s in partners that we see the biggest changes: “The corporate partners, are able to tap into the global source of innovation in their specific sector and test new disruptive solutions in collaboration with startups and other program partners and we’re also seeing a budding capacity to handle innovation – it’s learning with peers coupled with learning by doing when it comes to innovation skills and mindset.
As for startups, “they get access to a group of corporate partners, typically hard to reach, and the potential to test a solution with them and eventually get a partner that can give them easy access to the market and jumpstart their growth.”
What we really aim for on our open-innovation programs is for real value added pilots to happen and for the best deals to come forward either investment or partnership deals.
He also took on another big challenge: to direct Smart Open Lisboa and to steer it into its current version – with different verticals in each edition and a very tight alignment between the program verticals and the strategic priorities of the city. “When Smart Open Lisboa started in 2016 it was structured as a one single program dealing with several smart city sectors. We soon realized that it would be much more effective if we created specific vertical programs. It would be much more aligned with the partner’s core business and would present a much stronger value proposition to the startups.”
Implementing the first vertical, Mobility, last year was a challenging feature, but one that paid off: the team immediately realized that the new structure made much more sense. “Not only the partners were much more aligned in their goals, but when they got everyone together for the bootcamp week, there was an amazing level of collaboration and exchange of ideas. Between startups and partners, there was a group of more than 40 companies in the mobility sector, together in the same room, exchanging ideas and collaborating. That’s an amazing feat in itself!”
After a successful Mobility vertical, the Housing vertical has launched and is now preparing the bootcamp. They hope to re-create the “magic” that happened in the previous edition.
We are now running our second vertical, SOL Housing, and we are seeing the same level of commitment and collaboration from the partners… we are really looking forward to getting the startups in the mix.
When asked what are the main reasons that make the program interesting for startups, validation is the top of mind answer. “The main reasons both revolve around validation. They are looking forward to validating their product, experiment their product or solution in a city like Lisbon, and make it resonate with clients. And also, validate their business – does the solution work for possible clients and are they willing to pay for it? They also have the opportunity to make a deal with a big client, that will get them access to a large market.”
Besides the fact that having the engagement of the City Hall and municipal companies is vital for the success of smart city solutions, Lisbon is also a great city to test these innovative solutions: “It’s a European capital, with a similar regulatory and market environment as the rest of the EU, but with a very manageable size in terms of area and population. And when you are piloting new solutions this becomes a critical factor, you want the pilot to have enough users and exposure to be measurable, but it shouldn’t be too big to handle. You would probably shy away from testing new solutions in a megalopolis but you would probably not want to do it in any backwater or ghost town.”
And then, sometimes, magic happens, and startups that come to test solutions end up falling in love with the city and understanding the benefits of setting up shop here. Lifestyle and quality of life, cost of living, availability of highly skilled developers and engineers at very competitive salaries compared to other European cities, and the general easiness of doing business here. Lisbon is trendy nowadays, and there surely are very strong reasons for that.
Besides the opportunities that the program brings to innovative startups, the impact it brings to the city is one of the reasons it is such compelling work for him. “There are two levels of impact. The first one is the cultural change and more openness to innovative solutions and working collaboratively from different departments of the city hall and the program partners, which is really important if we want to have a lasting impact.”
The second level of impact is the direct change provoked by implemented pilots. Just looking at the last edition of mobility, Gonçalo recalls several: “We now have a better understanding of the flow of people and vehicles in the city and the impact of traffic in air quality, and that can lead to more informed city management and investment decisions. There has been a reduction of traffic (thanks to better parking solutions, a reduction of corporate fleets in the city and additional personalized mobility alternatives like e.scooters). Citizens have now a better “user experience” of the city – there are several apps helping them make their mobility choices, and citizens with reduced mobility now have better service.”
Citizens have now a better user experience of the city.
In this sense, it becomes hard for him to choose the best innovative solutions the program brought to light. “It’s hard to choose because there are many of them, and all of them really interesting and impactful.
But some come to mind: Shotl(a mobility-on-demand solution for people with reduced mobility being developed with Carris), Eccocar (a shared corporate fleet solution, doing a pilot both with Ferrovial and the City Hall), E-floater(a last mile solution, using electric micro scooter that is doing a pilot with Ferrovial on the Lispolis area of Lisbon, and that had a great involvement with the City Hall in defining solutions to avoid all the major issues most other electric mini scooter startups are facing) and Meep (a journey planner with the most complete and accurate info on Lisbon mobility operators, that allows you to choose the best way to get anywhere in the city).”
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Smart Open Lisboa is the open-innovation programme of the Lisbon Municipality that is bringing innovation to the city in several different verticals. The last edition was focused on the mobility vertical, and brought several startups who are successfully working with programme partners to implement pilots in Lisbon. Let’s get to know some of the on-going projects!
Eccocar wants to make your fleet more efficient
One of the programme’s startups, Eccocar, is implementing a pilot in partnership with Ferrovial and Lisbon’s Municipality to help increase the efficiency of their fleet with a car sharing principle. They hope to show their success by measuring KPI’s like management time (the time spent by the user booking the vehicle), fleet usage time, driver per car and fuel consumption. By digitizing the fleet, they hope to reduce costs, make better use of the cars and maintain the same level of service while reducing the fleet.
See the video below for a full explanation of the project:
Wall-i is creating sensors for better experiences
In partnership with Metro de Lisboa, Wall-i is installing visual sensors in key locations inside Metro stations around Lisbon.
The sensors create a heatmap to get more accurate data about the flow of users in the station, helping managers make better decisions. The sensors are also installed in entrances to detect and reduce fraud in the ticket validation gates.
This startup is also testing weather sensors all over the city, this time in partnership with Lisbon’s Municipality, to collect better environmental data in key points of the city: measuring things like CO2 level, humidity, temperature, noise level, etc.
This product is just one of many developed by this innovative startup. Get to know them here:
Shotl is changing the shuttle business
Another startup featured in this open-innovation programme is Shotl, who is trying to modernize the shuttle service.
Their mobility platform matches multiple passengers headed in the same direction with a moving vehicle. This service is especially thought out for suburban areas with less public transportation connections, and for passengers with reduced mobility, who are often confronted with fewer solutions and access.
In SOL Mobility, they have partnered up with Carris, the main bus provider in Lisbon, to implement their model in order to create an on-demand bus service for people with reduced mobility.