Smart Mobility

Creating the Next Killer Mobility App

Smart mobility is everywhere. Users are turning to mobile applications to guide them in all travel decisions, large and small - whether it’s a three-week trip to Hawaii or a 5-minute walk from a train station to a job interview.

Many app developers are focusing their efforts on creating the next killer mobility app. If they succeed, their creation will be a close companion for millions of mobile users around the world. The stakes are high, and so are the rewards.

If you’re thinking about creating a mobility app, read on to explore:

Why Are Consumers Turning to Mobile Devices for Travel Assistance?

Consumers are turning to mobile devices to help them navigate, plan, and coordinate travel within and between cities. A growing ecosystem of apps is providing this assistance, leveraging the broad availability of intelligent transport systems, wireless internet, Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), and cloud technologies.

Most commonly, consumers want mobile apps to provide:

  • Optimal driving routes.
  • Information about roadway construction and incidents.
  • Available parking spots.
  • Public transit schedules and maps.

5 Types of Mobile Apps Taking Transportation Forward

If you’re considering building a transport app, one of these five app categories is a safe bet. Today’s most popular transport apps help plan personal mobility, power deliveries using crowdsourced communities, embed digital technology in vehicles, make parking easier, and help travelers plan their next vacation.

1. Smart Mobility Apps

Smart mobility apps help people with routing, booking, and sharing public transportation.

  • Shared mobility: Users can gain access to real-time and on-demand data about shared modes of transport (such as car-sharing and bike-sharing). Apps provide users with pick-up address, destination, time restrictions, special requests, etc.
  • Public transit apps: Mobile applications provide users with a map of their public transport system and geolocated information about their stops. Benefits include reduced waiting times, reduced traveling time, and increased transit use.
  • Real-time road traffic data: Mobile apps can help users get to their destination quickly by avoiding traffic congestion, roadway construction, and accidents. Users receive alerts indicating an accident has occurred, leveraging global navigation satellite systems, cell phone data, municipal sensors, etc.

2. Courier Network Services

Courier network services use the web and mobile applications to make freight delivery more effective. The crowdsourcing revolution means delivery fleets are outsourced, both to companies and individuals can sign up for delivery applications and earn an additional income.
Two courier network service models:

  • P2P delivery services: Anyone who signs up can use their private vehicle or bicycle for a delivery.
  • Paired on-demand ride and courier services: Delivery drivers sometimes make better use of their vehicles by giving rides to passengers while they deliver freight.

One such app is Zendfast, an online technology platform that uses crowdsourcing to connect customers (businesses or individuals) to an extensive network of couriers.

3. Vehicle Connectivity Apps

Connectivity is a significant trend in the automotive industry. Vehicles are becoming much more than a means to get from one place to another; they’re transforming into an extension of a digital lifestyle that demands omnipresent information, communication, and entertainment.

  • Driver apps: Drivers can make hands-free phone calls and control their entertainment and navigation systems using voice recognition, via technologies like Ford SYNC. Other apps, designed for delivery drivers, help connect drivers with their dispatchers and help them optimize delivery routes and perform other actions like payment collection and proof of delivery.
  • Vehicle diagnostic app—most cars and light trucks are equipped with Onboard Diagnostics (OBD) ports that provide access to data from the Engine Control Unit (ECU). To access the information, plug an external wireless device directly into the OBD port.
  • Roadside assistance app—many mobile apps provide roadside assistance when an accident takes place, engine malfunctions, an individual is locked out of their car, etc. Many car manufacturers and some insurance companies have their own roadside assistance apps.

4. Smart Parking Apps

Smart parking is a technology that makes it simple to find a parking space. Smart parking provides information such as the proximity of parking, the best available rates, etc. Cities are deploying sensors and cameras in the ground, on buildings, or on light poles, which collect data on available parking spots. Via these sensors, cities can provide a real-time parking map, which can be accessed by application developers to help drivers find parking.

One smart parking solution is Parkopedia, which provides detailed static information about 60 million parking spaces in over 8000 cities, including information about real-time parking space availability in over 2,000 cities, via access to sensor data.

5. Travel and Tourism Mobile Apps

Gone are days when people traveled around the world with maps, compasses, and guidebooks. Travel and tourism mobile apps help users plan their travel, find travel agents or guides, book tickets, make hotel reservations, book flights, map routes, access security information, and more.

One trip planner app is RoutePerfect, which suggests a complete itinerary at a discounted price with hotels, attractions, and travel options, based on traveler preferences. This guidance is based on preferences. Travelers decide where they want to start and end their trip and set their preferences. The RoutePerfect trip planner suggests a complete itinerary with hotels, attractions, and travel options, and allows users to order a vacation package.

5 Best Practices Used by the Best Mobility Apps

So you’ve decided what type of transport app to build. How can you make it great? These five best practices, shared by some of the world’s most successful apps, are vital to succeeding in the transport app market.

1. User Journey Simplification—Time Saving Design

The time it takes a user to complete a task on their phone is often a measure of an app’s success. In mobility apps, designers commonly use a linear user journey. Linear design experience is a user experience (UX) with a specific beginning, middle, and end. This helps users understand what is required to complete a task and estimate how long it will take them to accomplish.

Many popular shared mobility apps use a linear user journey, which encompasses a series of well-designed steps that walk a user through the process of ordering a ride.

2. Personalized User Experience

To be competitive, mobile apps must anticipate a user’s needs, keep them engaged, adapt to user data, and, most importantly, offer personalization that’s smart, seamless, and accurate. Transportation apps use tailored content and recommendations so a traveler can personalize their journey.   

An example of a transport app personalization:

A transit app recognizes that your bus is late and that it’s raining, so the user receives a notification such as, “Sorry that you’re stuck in the rain waiting for your bus! Here’s a coupon for a free drink at the coffee shop around the corner. You can also buy an umbrella at the gas station next door.”

3. Cashless Payments

For some people, especially millennials and generation Z, phones function as wallets. Mobile wallets are mobile applications that facilitate financial transactions. Users enter or scan a code or an address to make a payment. The amount paid is deducted from the mobile wallet account and placed into the merchant’s wallet account.

Cashless payments doubled in 2017, and in some regions of the world such as China, are becoming the dominant form of payment. Incorporating cashless payments into mobile apps can help travelers more easily pay for transport services, accommodations, and attractions along their journey.

4. Crowdsourcing—Community Based Mobility

Transport apps are useful on their own but may be much more powerful when used by massive communities of users. Increasingly, transport apps combine traditional map data with information from its own users.

Some information may be provided implicitly, for example, by users who have consented to share their mobile phone’s location. Alternatively, apps can encourage users to provide information about their surroundings—for example, reporting errors in a map and notifying others about police vehicles, car accidents, or traffic jams.

5. Gamification Applied to Transportation

Gamification is about incorporating game mechanics into a non-gaming environment, to make everyday tasks more enjoyable and provide an incentive for users to engage. Gamification can make app interaction exciting and catchy. Designers use challenges, leaderboards, and awards to motivate users.

In addition to providing real-time information, transportation apps are increasingly employing gamification and other incentives to increase user engagement and retention. They also encourage or discourage particular behaviors through leaderboards, badges, levels, progress bars, and points which may be tied to rewards.

Transport Apps and the Future of Mobility

There are millions of mobile apps out there, but transport apps are different. They not only make a user's life more fun or more convenient, but they can also impact communities, cities, and the world at large.

Smart mobility is one of the central trends powering today's smart cities, helping vast metropolitan areas become more efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly. Mobile apps and related city technologies are expected to reduce congestion, pollution, and energy use across large parts of the industrialized world. By building a successful transport app, you may not only have an impact on your users—you might be making a real contribution to sustainable human growth.