7 Startups Decamp to the ‘Smartest Place in the World’ to Rethink Mobility

Share this:

Marketers using mobile phones to connect real-time data and buyer-intention to drive and measure consumer foot traffic is a tired vision of the future from last year … it has more to do with our past than our future. It’s so 2016.

How about cars silently communicating with vehicles around them and then to retailers looking to capture attention based on location — talk about driving a whole new level of traffic.

I may be doubling my entendres but the point is made that when (not if) machines around us communicate asynchronously in a meaningful way — in the service of the consumer — we’re likely to see some astounding outcomes. (Just as long as we can turn them off, of course.)

Ravi Puvvala is the effusive founder of Savari, a mature startup using software and hardware to create what he calls “V2X,” which is “Vehicle to Everything” communications — something he hopes can link vehicles with each other as well as the overall network to create an accident-free future by 2020.

“When cars and infrastructure are all equipped with V2X radios,” Puvvala noted, “the real-time, automatic communication among millions of vehicles will improve safety and convenience while reducing traffic and fuel consumption.”

Puvvala is part of an effort that aims to propel his and innovations from six other startups (Disclosure: I am a co-founder of Urgent.ly, which is in the program.) participating in INFINITI LAB Smart Mobility program, based in the world’s smartest city which has also dubbed itself a Smart Nation — the tiny island from the future called Singapore.

It’s here that buildings are smart, taxis roll without drivers and autonomous buses are coming just around the bend.

One government official from Smart Nation talked to us about the many things being tested in Singapore with an eye toward improving mobility and IoT in general. And they aren’t stopping in the carpark. As an example, he spoke of a unique way to check on the elderly who may be alone for days between visits from family or friends: a smart toilet that sends an alert when, uh, usage patterns are broken.

In comments made at the launch of the accelerator program INFINITI Motor Company’s president Roland Krueger talked about the potential upsides for both the startups and his brand:

“INFINITI has always been driven by the spirit of innovation, we are constantly seeking opportunities to both engage with and nurture entrepreneurial talent,” said Krueger. “When it comes to startups, Singapore is brimming with potential and INFINITI is helping accelerate the next entrepreneurial breakthroughs in the smart mobility space.”

The eight-week accelerator — its third in partnership with Nest, which is also largely facilitating the event — will help the mobility-focused companies learn more about INFINITI and the premium automotive space in general, building toward a pitch back to the automaker at the close of the program. At least one company Hapticus, a previous LAB alum, continues it’s relationship with the carmaker.

The number of Connected cars worldwide is set to grow more than six-fold from 2013-2020.
Additionally, mentoring from INFINITI execs brings the smart and connected car startups right up against the glass to see how decisions are made and innovation is executed, with the intent to broadly educate the companies on the interworkings of automakers while also providing them an opportunity to appropriately shape their offering.

As INFINITI put it, “This  unique  program  gives  high-potential startups in mobility and connectivity the opportunity to pitch viable business-use cases to INFINITI’s decision makers.”

The companies are from around the globe, selected from over 120 that battled to get in the program, and range from inter-vehicle comms to retention generators for car dealers.

BlueSignal (Korea – CEO Jason Baik) can predict future driver risk rate and traffic status “from two hours to two days in advance”; CarForce (U.S. – CEO Jessika Lora) empowers car dealers to know in real time the health of their customers’ vehicles and provide concierge-like services; Pantonium (Canada – CEO Remi Dessa) uses proprietary algorithms to “transport riders efficiently in an on-demand world,” including blending fixed routes and flex services on the fly; Ryde (Singapore – CEO Terrence Zou) is Singapore’s “leading sharing economy company and peer-to-peer transportation network,” it’s service delivered through a carpooling rideshare product; KATSANA (Malaysia – Managing Director Syed Ahmad) a data company focused on connected cars, with a gamification engine that interprets driver behaviors and tracks vehicles; Savari, whom I mentioned and my own Urgent.ly, which is reinventing roadside assistance on a global scale for an on-demand world.

Dane Fisher, who is General Manager, Global Business Transformation & Brand at Infiniti Motor Company Ltd., and a key figure behind the initiative, said he sees several goals for the entrepreneurs to reach, particularly bringing fresh innovation.

“What i expect is ultimately to bring a business opportunity that we can pilot,” Fisher said. “So what we’re really looking for are some clever, innovative ideas that can use the existing business that they have (or a new business interest that they have) and how that can be relevant for a premium brand, specifically for Singapore. We are ready to listen… we are ready to learn, and we are ready to help.”

The LAB is the brainchild of Dane Fisher – General Manager, Global Business Transformation & Brand at Infiniti Motor Company Ltd.

Fisher went on to say part of the help could be a pilot in Singapore for wider scaling.

And how does all this digital innovation play into the INFINITI brand? Fisher said one key thing was about scaling.

“It allows us scalability … I think we’re at a really interesting inflection point in automotive industry. In the past you needed massive scale with bricks and mortar — many of our competitors have 3000  dealerships around the world. We’re a little bit smaller  [nearly 600 dealerships]. In the past that would have been a real challenge but moving into the future we really see this as an opportunity because with digital innovation we have the chance to get closer to the customer in their natural habitat for searching for cars which is the online environment,” Fisher said.

“And if we get the online-to-offline relationship correct, we’re going to be much closer to our customer, much closer to understanding their needs, and providing scalability that our competitors can’t do because they’re hamstrung by a bricks and mortar approach. And that’s why we like to work with entrepreneurs because entrepreneurs see the future … they see opportunities that we have not been able to come across yet and they can help us pilot new ideas to take us closer to our customers.”

So the themes remain: finding ways to transport people and these large hunks of metal better, to use bits to move atoms and ultimately erode the friction that exists today when going from online to off — whether it’s buying a car, servicing one or finding ways to get it from point A to point B the quickest.

So while the machines might not be chit-chatting with one another about the weather too soon, at least in Singapore it’s all being tried.

RickRRick Robinson is SVP of Product for on-demand roadside assistance startup Urgent.ly. He is also an advisor to Street Fight. Follow him at @itsrickrobinson