Geo-fencing could give the Lime electric scooter a competitive advantage over upgrades
Lime, one of the largest operators of small, app-based electric scooters, is currently upgrading its scooters to make them more responsive to operating requirements within geolined areas.
"We are rolling it out globally this week and bringing it technically to all of our pedals," Adam Kovacevich, head of government relations for Lime in the Americas, said last week."It needs to update the firmware of the scooter itself."
Today's technology works by making scooters "ping" a central server about every 60 seconds.In the industry, Kovacevich explains, these signals relay location data in the form of GPS coordinates, known as the "heartbeat" of a scooter.A server that contains all geo-fencing maps of the area and compares the scooter's GPS location to the map.
"The challenge is that if this happens every 60 seconds, it delays the execution of the zone command," Kovacevich says.Not being able to obtain commands immediately delays compliance with geoled-off areas."Instead of ping the server every 60 seconds or more, which is what other companies are doing, the next thing is going to happen," Kovacevich said. The scooter's brain, called the CPU, will host all maps of the area.Directly on their firmware."
Kovacevich explains that Lime has been patented.."That means the scooter itself will be able to do calculations, perhaps once per second, to determine its position," he said."Then, if the 'brain' determines that the scooter has entered the area, it will ping the server and receive the appropriate commands."
For a variety of reasons, as the city's regulation of scooters has grown, they have carved out areas where operations are limited or restricted.For example, some areas may be no-parking or no-cycling areas.Other areas, such as boardwalks in beach communities, require scooters to travel much slower than the typical 15 MPH.
Because it may take a minute for the scooter to receive a no-ride zone command, the scooter may be well positioned in that zone until it receives the stop signal.
"As a result, it may take some time to identify that you are in an unmanned area.In the future, it will recognize it immediately."Kovacevich said.
Cities may like these upgrades, says Colin Murphy, director of research and consulting at the Center for Shared Use Mobility.But most municipalities do not monitor scooters minute by minute.
"Most cities will not have the resources to deal with every minute or really compelling regulatory requirements," Murphy said in an email.
He added: "I think the bigger issue is about the validation of the data feeds and the extent to which the data cities get from the operators actually reflect the reality of time and space."
Kovacevich says technology like new firmware installed on Lime electric scooters could make the company more attractive to cities as they debate which scooter suppliers to license.
"What we are seeing is that many cities will choose scooter operators based on the advantages of GPS and fence technology," he added."This allows us to show cities that we've made a real investment in the technology, and that our Geo-fencing will be 90 percent faster than other operators."