Creating Mobility Markets in Rionegro and Medellín, Colombia
In 2016 I worked with regions addressing complex climate concerns of congestion in cities with exponential pollution in high-traffic regions. How do you solve for dirty data in smarter cities when our behavior patterns create tremendous waste? Or to look at culture:
Make it rewarding to travel cleaner, faster, together
To make cleaner travel also easier, cost effective and faster our team at Fastrack Institute recognized the need for a personal way to travel effectively using the cleanest modes of transportation possible. Carpooling, carsharing, electric motorbikes, flying personal drones and other shared transit vehicles all play a part as we learn to integrate ourselves and cleaner vehicles with citywide IoT systems. My team in LA has been building future media for decades, so I began to look at big visions for smart cities from sci-fi series to theme parks and experience zones.
Our team at Fastrack began looking at mobility challenges with the region of Antioquia in Colombia, flying into the Rionegro and Medellín region to address system frustrations and pain points. Often there’s no easy way to get from point A to point B. No one knows when an option is available or willing to stop. No app connects transit options. On trains, lines for access contribute to congestion as connections take too long and friction adds to frustration. Sometimes you cannot drive due to restrictions and decrees need to be written for sharing economies.
In our vision of Smart Cities people connect with rides easily and waste little time between modes of transit. Signaling is easy and safety is part of the package. Sensors in cars, in smartphones and citywide IoT mesh work together to reduce waste and traffic. People choose to ride together and find new people who share their commutes, favorite neighborhoods and interests. Electric vehicles are tied to sharing economy platforms, profiles and trusted people in community. People are rewarded for finding new friends to bike and ride together using clean vehicles that do not create pollution.
Air quality is a major health issue in Medellín along with major cities like Beijing, Bangkok, Los Angeles and Delhi. Exponential pollution is a health crisis in cities trying to support millions of moving people burning carbon fuels.
The region surrounding Medellín has narrow roads and steep mountains on top of lots of gas-fueled motorcycles with very dirty trucks clogging roads. There are a number of local hurdles to using cleaner electric vehicles with few options sold locally. Cost of import is a factor in social adoption of cleaner vehicles along with social factors and quality of EVs sold. How do you start an electric vehicle market without charging stations?
In our clean mobility R&D I began to look for a sharing economy platform that enables all forms of clean transportation on a unified NFC/RFID system with many types of potential interactions and devices. We wanted to see more than a mobility-sharing service and began to envision a platform that creates easy ways to share rides and recharge energy on the lightest possible interaction.
To do this, we have to put power in hand. Mobility movements can shift to electric vehicles quickly and make riding together efficient and easy to reward.
How can we tap into each other effectively?
To start we gathered the best in smart cities systems for faster, cleaner mobility. The Octopus market in Hong Kong is the best mobility market model we’ve seen worldwide with millions of purchased NFC access items used to access public transportation and other services. To work with luxury designers and kids alike I wanted simple wearables akin to the MagicBand used at Disney parks to make it easier to go between systems and transactions. A 3D printed DIY version of an NFC Ring became an early prototype along with keychains for tourist markets as a quick solution that can work with smartphones to tap in for ridesharing.
Smartest cities are often leading innovation capitals with big populations and long commute times. Cities like Paris and San Francisco have great multi-modal mobile apps for transit planning but few offer easy wearables integration or dynamic profiles to match rides, people and interests. Cards with basic NFC taps are most common, but little information is shared back as profiles or rewards to riders sharing cleaner systems.
We see movements growing. The same keyfobs used for EV charges can be used for metro transit. There are very few use cases of autonomous shuttles in the Americas for public or carsharing transportation yet Europe already has shuttles in service tied to kiosks and smart transit stops. Free local transportation is subsidized around the world yet in Medellín, private buses rule many roads and look like a Burning Man art car in full party mode on wheels during festivals. They are not tracked or regulated, yet there’s potential for a common reputation and trust system tied to devices.
Signals and smarter keys to success
When meeting with local engineers, entrepreneurs and designers I heard interest in wearables, transactional smartcards and smart devices being integrated into fashion. We plan to see Colombian leather wearables and biker gear with many products to come for kids, tourists, women and families.
Desired interactions on the NFC chips include basic purchases, movement across all types of transit and eventually being able to signal for safe calls or rides home. Tokyo, Malaysia and Hong Kong are creating data structures to support transactional mobility markets that empower people to connect with each other. Safety of kids and women is a key design imperative to provide tracking and ease for getting home and alerting for help when needed. Signaling for emergency ride support is needed in cities around the world — now there’s an XPRIZE for safety and signaling on wearables that may be ideal for Mobility Market entrepreneurs.
Freedom, liberation and autonomy in smarter cities
In December I spent a day in Rionegro including a visit to the Constitution House that once served as their point of liberation and now serves as city hall. It’s beautiful, even in the rain that fell inside the building courtyard. The main plaza is under construction as improvements are happening throughout the region. We met with the Mayor who was excited to hear about technological improvements that bring new opportunities to the area, from VR and sensors to autonomous vehicles.
Self-Driving Buses and the SmartPath
After looking at autonomous shuttles and the local road capacity for rapid change in this region it is possible to create a free or low cost autonomous shuttle service for Rionegro within two years with the right mix of partners.
To create Mobility as a Service — A Regional SmartPath includes:
- SMART STOPS — Kiosks, Solar charging station, seating with information on transportation options
- AUTONOMOUS SHUTTLES — Implementing within two years a full loop smartpath experience around the town of Rionegro plazas and destinations
- SMART DEVICES for TRANSIT — NFC cards and wearables connecting multimodal transit to the regional platform and Mobility Market
Throughout our meetings a key theme included design challenges — inspiring more local talent across fields and sectors to consider future products to make and market in the region. Each of these local challenges meets a specific need in the ecosystem to create a cleaner, smarter city while opening up the community to new ideas and innovation.
Identified Design Challenges to Sponsor in 2017:
- Wearables for Mobility Market (launched as first pilot)
- Smart Stops for Rionegro to integrate solar, info, charging and signals
- Kiosks around town with transit dashboards and interfaces
- MultiModal Mobile Application for traveling around Antioquia
- Electric Vehicle Conversion Kits
All of this leads up to a future Mobility Movement and Festival that can integrate this work for late 2017 to boost the clean mobility market. Culture shifts start with clear, visible actions.
VR, AR and Mixed Reality Civic Simulations
Creating a mixed reality simulation of autonomous vehicles and stops on the SmartPath for Rionegro is a key step to build local stakeholder engagement and excitement in this civic planning process. This type of civic planning VR engages mixed reality interactivity to create the future of cities.
As design challenges and a new market open up new opportunities, the key to education and public adoption will be active use of media and social engagement strategies, incentives and events — like in the US where celebrities come out with their electric vehicles to promote the adoption of cleaner technologies throughout the region. I helped start a festival called AltWheels to debut new types of cleantech vehicles to the market at the Museum of Transportation near Boston in 2003 and we have seen regular boosts through the exponential curve of recent electric vehicle adoption. People see luxurious, desirable clean cars like the latest Tesla or Jaguar and want to be a part of the movement. Jaguar even debuted their new EV car in VR to spark the global movement and imagination for this industry.
In Colombia they will need experts in NFC technologies and Multi-Modal Transportation Planning for mobile applications to move forward on essential next steps that work for everyone in the ecosystem. Our team at ExO Works is a part of that ongoing process along with key collaborators through Fastrack Institute.
Next step is to facilitate collaboration with the Platform Design Toolkit, help start new businesses with local designers and entrepreneurs and guide the challenge process for local engagement. Since returning to the states I have aligned colleagues working in VR, Social Impact, PR, Public Policy, Electric Vehicles and Investor Relations to bridge knowledge gaps and help craft this ecosystem as a lean startup consortium.
Our team at Fastrack Institute, MiVoltio, includes Emilie Sydney-Smith, Sasha Grujicic, Juan Mora with NFC help from my special effects prototyping lead Brent Heyning at Toyshoppe Systems. We spent 5 weeks on remote calls testing ideas with regional leaders in Rionegro and Medellin along with our colleagues at ExO Works especially Kent, Diego, Jabeen and Michal who designed a swarming biomimicry-based data system called Colectiv.io to power connections between IoT and vehicles. Special thanks to RutaN and Fastrack including Rodrigo, Lisardo, Cesar, Salim, Maria, Jose and Carlos for inviting us down to Colombia to share our research, integrated ideas and insights.
I look forward to hearing your ideas for cleaner, smarter cities as the culture shift to EVs is just beginning in many parts of the world. Where are the cleanest and smartest cities growing now? I’m off to Las Vegas, the first in the United States to shift to solar as primary fuel to light the way.