China’s sharing economy – Mobike takes centre stage

The concept of bike sharing is not new. Indeed many countries have had a similar service for years. However, arguably no single proprietor has achieved the same level of success as China’s Mobike. In Mobike’s latest whitepaper it reported over 100 million subscribers collectively travelled in excess of 2.5 billion kilometres. That is equivalent to 3,300 trips to the moon and back!

Setting the new standard – driving innovation through technology

The primary question that comes to mind is what sets Mobike apart from its predecessors? The key is technology. Mobike has a simple philosophy – enhance customer experience through technology.  Three main technology drivers are:

  • QR codes: each bicycle is fitted with a QR code, which users can scan to unlock and activate their bike via Mobike’s mobile app. When riders are finished, they simply scan the QR code again to lock the bike (i.e. no manual payments);
  • Smart lock technology: while the bicycle is idle, the smart lock technology prevents it from being used without authorisation; and
  • GPS technology: each bicycle is fitted with GPS tracking so users can locate units via the mobile app.

Is this the rise of China’s sharing economy or simply an obsession with technology?

We have seen advances in technology transform many industries from grocery shopping to dating apps, and it has been at the core of the evolution of the sharing economy. Bike sharing is yet another example of the possibility (or arguably novelty) created by technology.

Mobike has used technology to overcome hurdles not only to adoption on the consumer side, but also in protecting its business assets (unlike Sharing E Umbrella, which saw 300,000 of its umbrellas stolen within a matter of weeks from launch).

This reinforces that technology is, and will remain, critical to operators of platforms within the sharing economy and key to scalability if concepts like Mobike are to expand into other markets whilst remaining a sustainable business model.