A bicycle with an ordinary lock is nothing more than a simple mode of transport. One that has a lock connected to the internet of things has proved to be something that can change the world.
The IoT and public bike sharing were made for each other. Locked public bikes are placed around cities in areas of demand, and using IoT, people can unlock the bikes as simply as by sending a text message to a remote server and riding away.
So popular has this business model become in China, that brightly-colored public bikes of different brands now flood the streets. One key area of difference between many of the bikes, and the battleground that is being mostly fought around are the locks.
A leader in this area was Mobike, whose bikes featured a proprietary IoT-chip working as a CPU to transmit data back and forth between the bike, user and remote server.
"We are more of an IoT company than a bike-rental service provider," said Xia Yiping, co-founder and chief technology officer of Mobike during the 2017 International China Internet of Things Conference in Shanghai.
The company teamed up with Qualcomm and the China Mobile Research Institute in May to upgrade its own IoT chips to narrow band smart chips so as to provide a positioning service with even greater accuracy.
The chips can provide extensive connections at an extremely low power usage, linking 50 to 100 times as many chips than a standard Wi-Fi connection. This means the battery life of the chips is extended from several months to up to three years, leading to significantly reduced maintenance costs.
Most importantly, the considerable extra data can help provide a more customized service when and where teams deploy the bikes on the street ---- providing a better service to the public.
According to market analysts Machina Research, these chips will be used in 25 percent of all IoT applications in the future, making it a sought after weapon in the battle for public bike-sharing supremacy.