Arval and XXImo have been joining forces for more than 6 months now to devise a flexible travel solution and to implement an integrated mobility policy.
Flexibility, simplicity, and speed: these three words encapsulate the new Arval and XXimo transport solution designed for Belgian and Dutch customers. The Arval Mobility Card and accompanying app allow you to plan and pay for use of the various transport services available to your employees, including public transport, taxis, shared vehicles and bicycles, and high-speed rail. No more receipts or expense claims – everything is done with an electronic card.
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Will micro-mobility redesign the Smart City?
In a few years' time, self-driving cars will be cruising through Smart Cities, so we are asking questions about how to integrate micro-mobility into a smart general transport system.
Alternative means of transport, also known as micro-mobility options, include vehicles as dissimilar as electric scooters, bicycles and gyropods. These are the perfect answer to the desire for ecological responsibility in the cities of tomorrow. Driven by human power or small electric motors, they are non-polluting by nature. But their low-tech architecture, which makes the installation of complex built-in electronics difficult, inherently means they are unsuitable for travel in urban areas where traffic will be directed by digital technology.
In 2016, a study by the Vias Institute (formerly BRSI) found that in Belgium 16% of journeys between home and the workplace were made by bicycle: an increase of 9% over 2010.
So, where do alternative means of transport fit in when all the vehicles on the road have to continuously collect and transmit data to be directed, move forward, turn or brake? Whether we're talking about manufacturers, start-up companies or users, micro-mobility initiatives are already underway to ensure it will be a widely used means of transport in Smart Cities.
Micro-mobility is redesigning the city
"The Smart City will be the 15-minute city. So there'll be a great need for micro-mobility solutions instead of medium to long-range transport options."
Stéphane Leguet, Digital Strategic Analyst at BNP Paribas.
Alternative but connected
Wink Bar, the smart connected handlebar designed by French start-up Velco and winner of the Smart Cities prize at CES in Las Vegas just over two months ago, is pushing cycling into the digital era. Wink Bar is equipped with a GPS that doesn't have a screen but instead uses turn signal lights, which also makes it highly visible. By remaining focused on the correct route, the Wink Bar was designed as a co-pilot 2.0 to help cyclists throughout their journey. A purpose-built app provides location tracking for the bicycle if it goes missing, and records how many kilometres you travel and how many calories you burn while pedalling. It also gives you access to a range of supplementary services.
In a similar vein, smrtGRiPS connected bike grips, designed by the start-up of the same name, also use GPS and a smartphone app to direct the cyclist through the city streets, this time thanks to handlebar grips that vibrate to show you which way to go. If you need to turn right at a junction, the right grip vibrates. If you should go straight on, both grips vibrate at once.
The same is happening with electric scooters. Last year the Chinese company Xiaomi marketed a smart model, the M365, which included a whole range of connected apps. And recently the French company Archos, a specialist in smartphones and tablets, launched Citee Connect, a connected scooter with a 3G antenna that works with Android. A 5-inch touchscreen incorporated into the handlebar uses Google Maps and lets you cut journey times by choosing the shortest route. The touchscreen also allows permanent location tracking, shows the speed of travel as well as the number of kilometres travelled. Even gyropods are becoming connected. Conceived as the ecological solution for getting from one spot to another in the city, the Ninebot E+ by French designer Segway comes equipped with a Bluetooth connection for the first time, which gives access to several functions such as remote control of the vehicle.
These innovations demonstrate the ingenuity of start-up companies and manufacturers in adapting micro-mobility practice to digital technology and making it compatible with data use. Although admittedly still in the early stages, it's a first step. With connected means of transport comes the need for bespoke infrastructure so that micro-mobility can be fully integrated into the Smart City. For Stéphane Leguet, Digital Strategic Analyst at BNP Paribas, "the Smart City will be the 15-minute city. Whether we’re talking about schools, shops, workplaces, co-working, leisure or housing, hyper-proximity with and hyper-accessibility to all aspects of the urban environment will be a key element of the city of the future. So there'll be a great need for micro-mobility solutions."
Elsewhere, use of the bicycle as a means of transport is on the rise in Brussels. Between 2000 and 2015, bicycle use increased from 1% to 5%. This trend is clearly set to continue between now and 2020. The Villo! shared bicycle service will play its part in the success of cycling in Brussels. We have already seen impressive progress in 2017 with journey numbers rising to 1,615,160 as against 1,577,811 in 2016.
Connected cities support micro-mobility
"We increasingly realise that when most people travel by bike, we have a livelier, safer, more sustainable and healthier city."
Jan Gehl, Architect and urban design consultant.
Smart travelling and parking
The progress made on connected junctions, which in future will direct self-driving cars in cities, is already taking cyclists and pedestrians into account in order to prevent accidents when modelling traffic in real time. Likewise, micro-mobility digitalisation will in time see vehicle-to-vehicle devices being installed, which will enable smart infrastructure to identify bikes and gyropods accurately when directing traffic. These devices work by using drivers' smartphones, making it possible for scooter or gyropod users to activate them when moving.
New smart infrastructure for cyclists
Parking too is a source of innovation. In London, the Eco Cycle start-up company is imagining future parking for bikes and is developing space-saving solutions that are ecologically responsible too. Its engineers have invented a tower-shaped smart storage system. Bicycles are hooked to rails that ascend and descend, with the capacity to store 200 bikes in each tower. Bicycle owners can easily park and retrieve their bikes by accessing the system with an Integrated Circuit (IC) Card. London also has other cards up its sleeve in its quest to make room for micro-mobility. Architect Norman Foster is working in partnership with London City Hall on an unusual project to build 10 cycle routes covering a distance of 220 kilometres suspended above the old railways that surround the city. Equipped with their own traffic lights, the routes aim to reduce congestion in the city while giving cyclists their own space.
There is still a long way to go before micro-mobility is fully integrated into the cities of the future. But the smart bicycle and connected gyropod are not simply by-products of fashion or the desire of start-ups and manufacturers to tune into their times. In reality, these innovations are fully aligned with the Smart City urban model, characterised by hyper-accessibility and based on digital technology and the sharing economy. So these alternative means of transport need to forge ahead, both now and increasingly in the future.
Company car-sharing: a sustainable and cost-effective solution
When you have a significant number of cars "idling" for too long in company car parks, car-sharing can seem an attractive solution, especially due to the advantages in economic terms (for companies), environmental terms (for the planet) and mobility (for traffic in towns and cities). So what's the challenge? Companies need to bring an end to the "car-ownership culture", and start to promote one based primarily on usage...
Whether you call it car-sharing or car-pooling, the approach behind these concepts is the same: that of a product as a service, or a means of economising on the use of company cars. Is it complicated? Not really! The idea is to let company employees enjoy the benefits of a car (i.e. the ability to travel), rather than provide them with something that they own per se. Having become hugely popular among individuals, thanks to platforms such as Cambio, ZenCar and Blablacar, car-pooling now has a place within companies too.
Advantages for everyone
At a time when mobility is a major social challenge and the company car issue is increasingly being discussed, car-sharing is a relevant solution for the times in which we live. Indeed, this smarter mobility option is better suited to our current needs and allows companies to make substantial savings. When viewed in relation to the planet and the "sustainability" of travel, this approach clearly improves the situation. With regard to mobility, reducing the number of cars on the road means there will also be less traffic. For companies, streamlining their fleet of cars, and making their car parks smaller as a consequence, would result in considerable financial savings. All the more so, given that company cars are parked up most of the time (particularly between 9 am and 5 pm). However, employees still need to be convinced of the benefits of car-sharing.
Methods supporting car-sharing
There is still a deeply entrenched "car culture" among many workers, especially in Belgium, where the company car is king. Apparently, there are three essential elements to bring about a necessary change in mentality: financial incentives, ease of use and the availability of alternatives. First of all, companies should, in one way or another, try to make up for the "loss" in salaries resulting from company cars, through financial rewards, for example. When it comes to making car-sharing flexible, companies should look to simple and effective technological solutions (which already exist today).
These include online mobile apps, user-friendly management, immediate availability and others. Furthermore, employees should be able to reserve vehicles for private use for evenings and weekends, potentially paying to do so. Finally, the third element is undeniably to roll out a wider range of mobility options, in order to enable workers to travel in different ways. These could include public transport, bikes, electric scooters and others.
A comprehensive strategy
In any case, companies have a strong incentive to develop a comprehensive vision for "their mobility" (travel, remote working and others). For example, Brussels-based companies with more than 100 workers (on the same site) are now required to put together a company travel plan and implement several compulsory measures. In the same way, several SMEs (or VSEs) can discuss collective car-pooling, in order to share their fleet of cars. This could be an effective measure, in terms of zoning companies, for example.
Shaping energy transition together
This is the ambition of the EUREF campus, where companies, start-ups, universities and research institutes work together to develop new solutions in the field of sustainable energy and mobility. It is an incubator for ideas at the heart of Berlin's Schöneberg district.
The initiative was born in 2008. Based on the principle of partnership, its ambition is to develop smart solutions for the city of tomorrow. The choice of site was symbolic: it is located at an old gas storage site with historical importance. Its imposing reservoir tank has been converted into a forum that can play host to several hundred people.
EUREF campus has a clear objective: to create new energy solutions that help the country, and other countries too, to make climate protection aims a reality by 2050. The campus is therefore a place for training, study and also experimentation. Challenges related to energy transition are tackled here. The solutions developed by the different stakeholders are exhibited to bring them to a wider audience, because it's not enough just to innovate, you must convince others too.
The campus was founded to reflect the fact that in order to tackle climate change effectively, all the corporate, scientific, political and public stakeholders must work hand-in-hand, not just to discuss ideas, but also to take action. This is why guided tours and informative events on climate protection take place on the campus to contribute to raising as much awareness as possible.
A melting pot of ideas for generating sustainable energy
The ideas born here are tested here. The energy generated on the campus is largely climate neutral. There are photovoltaic systems, urban wind turbines installed on the street or on roofs and a natural biogas cogeneration plant that generates most of the energy required to run the site. To accompany the energy generation, distribution and storage are being rethought at a local level. A smart micro-network forms the heart of the campus's energy supply system. Both in terms of size and operating model, it is unique in Germany and could soon integrate geothermal energy.
The EUREF campus also has the country's largest electrical charging point. A solar roof provides sustainable energy to supply electric vehicles, which themselves serve as mobile storage for the smart network. Soon, driverless vehicles will charge themselves at new induction charging stations.
And it's working! Anyone who walks around the campus can see the ideas developed by the partners being translated into concrete solutions that prove that the energy transition is both achievable and affordable.
A look at Climate-KIC
Are you considering how your organisation or company can make the sustainable transition? Climate-KIC might just be able to help you.
Located on the EUREF campus, Climate-KIC works to mitigate and adapt to climate change. It is the biggest European public-private innovation partnership focusing on climate change. Created in 2010 by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), Climate-KIC brings together dynamic companies, the best academic institutes and the public sector.
They focus on four key areas:
In February 2017, Climate-KIC moved to new offices in Brussels, close to the European Parliament and Commission.
Can working remotely save lives?
A study by the Belgian Institute for Road Safety (VIAS) establishes the link between working remotely and road safety. The study estimates that if the number of remote workers were to double, there would be 25 fewer fatalities and 221 fewer accidents on our roads each year.
The Belgian commute
In its study, the Belgian Institute for Road Safety VIAS starts by pinpointing the commuter culture. A typically Belgian custom, given that we drive on average 6% more kilometres each year than our Dutch neighbours, and 9% more than the French. But we are in a much smaller country. That means, among other things, that the trips between home and work represent nearly 25% of the total kilometres driven, but mainly it means that two-thirds of this distance is driven during rush hour... It is obvious that the traffic jams in Brussels and Antwerp perfectly illustrate this.
Remote working: a growing alternative...
Between 2006 and 2016, the percentage of Belgians working from home, most of the time or occasionally, went from 6 to 12.9%, according to the numbers from the Minister of Employment, Kris Peeters. According to VIAS, on average, only 8% of workers work remotely for at least one day per week in our country. The level is just 4% in SMEs... We should also note that of businesses with over 100 employees, only 18% offer their employees the option of working from home. Nevertheless, nearly 3 employees in 10 are in a job that would allow working from home...
A link with road safety
10 people working from home means on average 5 fewer vehicles travelling to work and back. In practice, right now, working from home already yields a reduction of 2% of this type of travel in Belgium, and up to 4% in Brussels alone. One of the most striking conclusions of this study was the following extrapolation: by doubling the number of remote workers, because this reduces the distances travelled, we could avoid around 221 accidents with injuries, 25 fatalities and serious injuries on our roads. By multiplying this number by 10, to reduce the number of trips by 20%, there would be 3,200 fewer injuries and 320 fewer people killed or seriously injured... A correlation which highlights the major role that working from home could play in improving road safety.
The study by the Belgian Institute for Road Safety goes even further, because it identifies the benefits of remote working from the point of view of employers (attractiveness, cost savings, reduced building costs, lower absenteeism, lower social costs, etc.), but also from that of employees (less stress, savings on transport or childcare costs, increased creativity, personal/professional life balance, opening up the job market, etc.). Moreover, the publication also identifies a certain number of factors that are slowing down the adoption of working from home, as well as around ten suggestions or detailed recommendations aiming to encourage remote working in Belgium. These include, and we must stress the size of the cultural shift required, the creation of a positive attitude, and support from employers, especially small businesses.