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Guest blog: Setting the pace for intelligent mobility

Guest blog from Tom Guy, Chief Product Officer – Vodafone Smart Tech.

How people commute and the way they work is changing

The events of the past 18 months have shaken up our daily routine in ways we couldn’t have imagined – from how we greet each other to how we shop, commute, and move. It’s not what any of us expected from the past year and a half, but amongst these sudden changes we have seen many interesting shifts in behaviour, one being that COVID-19 has sparked a cycling revolution. As we continue to look for alternatives to public transport, more and more of us are pulling out the lycra and taking to the saddle, and with a billion-euros having been injected into European cycling infrastructure since March last year, it’s set to win big. 

The trend is only set to continue

According to data from a 2020 cycle scheme study, 83% of people have started cycling again due to lockdown. We’re seeing a rise in both commuters and weekend cyclists, whether they’re looking for a safer way to travel to work or a form of exercise that doesn’t involve a busy gym. Either way, a combination of new infrastructure investment and increased adoption rates is starting to show cycling’s future potential.

With change comes (tech) opportunity

A new army of bikes on the road opens a whole new set of exciting opportunities for a greener world, but many riders still face concerns about accidents and thefts, especially in urban areas. And whilst apps like Strava have helped many smarten their exercise and measure their performance, there’s still a gap for smart technologies to create a safer riding experience.

But for such technologies to be successful, the challenge lies in finding that perfect balance between creating something that gives cyclists reassurance on and off the road without compromising on the simplicity, elegance of the design and user experience.

Placing consumers at the heart

If there’s one thing that the pandemic has reminded product designers like me, it’s that as well as you might think you know your customer, their needs and behaviours are always changing. And I fundamentally believe that it is impossible to create technologies that are both beautifully designed and genuinely meaningful to people’s lives without putting those customers at the heart of the journey.

This was our guiding principle for the development of the Curve Bike Light & GPS Tracker, the latest product in the Designed & Connected by Vodafone range. We work to the belief that smart technology, when developed well, has the power to improve everyday living, and knew that if we wanted to create something both beautiful, simple and relevant to the needs of modern cyclists, we had to build not for them, but with them.

So we started by creating a hypothesis based on one on one conversations with customers, using over 4,000 contacts across the EU to gain an understanding of their main concerns. In the case of cycling, these were accidents, visibility on a ride and theft. After identifying these pain points, we were able to develop features designed specifically as a response to those learnings. From the integration of impact detection and SOS alerts that notify loved ones if you need help, to movement alerts and a siren that help deter theft - all key product decisions were driven by the goal of reassurance. We complemented this with an effortless experience in the app and with the device itself - from easy installation during the first use to a magical quarter turn to remove the light that puts it in “armed mode” and simple charging features.

 And the response from the biking community has been fantastic.

Making tech meaningful in 2021

At a time where people are more worried about the economy, their health and their loved ones than ever, customers are looking for ways to stay connected to the most important people and things in their lives. Whilst there’s no doubt that beautiful hardware has a role to play in creating innovative tech solutions, the shiny new stuff alone isn’t enough to generate real meaning for people. But start with your customers needs and a drive to find an elegant solution, and consumer IoT can really become something magical.


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