As the latest Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the world’s biggest consumer tech trade show, opened on Jan 9 in Las Vegas, Singapore made history with the first ever pavilion dedicated to showcasing its start-ups.
Among the 15 Singaporean start-ups that electrified the crowd at CES was Neuron Mobility, a first/last-mile connectivity outfit that gives urbanites the option of either bicycles or electric scooters.
Electric Scooter Sharing
It was among the first e-scooter players in Singapore, behind just Telepod which launched just one week earlier. The overall concept is similar to bicycle-sharing — only instead of just dockless bicycles, it also offers docked e-scooters.
The docks are basically charging stations powered by solar energy that also ensures the e-scooters do not clutter up surroundings, an increasingly problematic side effect of the growing dockless bicycle-sharing ecosystem worldwide.
Users book either a bicycle or an e-scooter via Neuron’s iOS or Android app. Upon registering and paying a refundable security deposit, users will be charged SGD$0.50 for 15-minute blocks of use for either option.
However, users are not allowed to use Neuron’s devices for more than 24 hours to ensure other users have access to the facilities too.
To ensure safety, the e-scooter had been configured to go no faster than 15km per hour, according to Neuron. Users must be 16 years or older.
Solar-Powered Modular Charging Docks
The solar-powered charging docks drew much attention and was a hit at CES. It drew inquiries from many countries from Japan to Mexico, including a French electric bicycle sharing company which Motion Digest has yet to identify.
The beauty of its e-scooter charging docks, apart from being solar-powered, is that the docks are mobile. They are secured to their positions with weights instead of bolts, meaning the docks can be relocated based on changing trends and usage patterns as needed.
In other words, Neuron retains flexibility and nimbleness to re-deploy its assets as demand dynamics change based on its real-time data monitoring.
Real-time Fleet Management & Analytics
And Neuron is keeping close tabs on such data. Each Neuron e-scooter and charging dock has 3G connectivity and constantly feeds data back to allow real-time tracking, real-time analytics as well as real-time control over the devices.
According to Neuron, it uses the data to optimise its sharing network — implying it is constantly rethinking where to position its charging docks — and to improve operational efficiency and enhancing user experience.
For example, the data will eventually allow Neuron to detect when an e-scooter is going too far from the nearest charging dock to safely return before it runs out of juice. It can then alert the user so as to stay within the radius.
It is worth noting that Neuron uses resources from US-based geospatial data firm Esri as part of the latter’s start-up incubation programme in Singapore. The program supports participating firms with data tools and analytics platform ArcGIS, aid that is worth US$181,000 over three years.
Neuron is the first Singaporean start-up under Esri’s incubation program. Esri’s tools allow Neuron to create data-driven maps that highlight patterns, trends and insights.
Proving Its Business Case
Since its launch, Neuron has done some pilot projects that tested different user niches for its e-scooters — first/last mile connectivity, leisure and delivery services. In turn, the reception from these projects have demonstrated the commercial viability of its services.
In June 2017, it deployed 50 scooters with 110 charging points available across 8 stations for a six-month pilot run at the Singapore Science Park. The test run targeted the first/last-mile connectivity segment and saw respectable average use of between five to six daily trips per scooter.
Separately, in the third quarter of 2017 it also deployed 15 scooters at three hotels — Park Regis Singapore, Holiday Inn at Clarke Quay and YMCA One Orchard — with 20 charging points at 3 stations.
These e-scooters, aiming for the leisure segment for sight-seeing tourists, saw an average use of up to three hours daily.
Pay-as-you-Use for On-Demand Delivery Services
The game-changer for Neuron, however, could be in delivery services. Earlier in January this year, Neuron officially expanded into the food delivery niche via a partnership British online food delivery outfit Deliveroo, following successful trials last November.
To start with, Neuron will provide a fleet of 100 e-scooters for Deliveroo in Singapore with up to 1,000 e-scooters overall to come in stages. According to Neuron’s Facebook page back in October, the link-up is aimed at enabling more e-scooter use for efficient delivery.
It told Motion Digest that the e-scooters will deploy batteries designed for long-range use with users charging them at home. Charges will be calculated on a pay-as-you-use model.
While user reception towards e-scooters had been encouraging among first/last-mile connectivity and leisure users, delivery services would mean a higher volume of use that is also recurring — which means more stable income stream.
Tying up with delivery services such as Deliveroo also offers scale and stability. The demand for more urban-friendly transportation modes is certainly there. In Singapore, lunch delivery workers are seen using ofo bicycles to leverage on its free usage period until February.
Will Deliveroo partnership open the door to more business link-ups for Neuron? It’s a space to watch closely.