Mobility Apps and People with Mobility Impairments – Challenges and Prospects

The past years have seen an influx of mobility apps with the aim of increasing and improving people’s personal mobility. More people than ever use their smartphones to find information on how to move from A to B, which means of transport they should use etc.. However, how does this work for people with a mobility impairment? Can mobility apps provide an alternative for people using a wheelchair or a walking frame, or even people with a stroller or loads of luggage?

Many use cases assume that you are a physically fit, tech savvy kind of person without kids and luggage. So as long as you fit into this user group, you are well off. However, ironically, one user group that is especially dependent on services that increase personal mobility too often cannot benefit from the services mobility apps offer.

People with a mobility impairment need more information than usually provided by mobility apps. And because many apps do not provide this additional information, they cannot use them.

Information needed by people with a mobility impairment

One of the most important pieces of information for mobility impaired people is whether a place or a means of transportation is accessible. A mobility app that helps you to find the best means of transportation but does not tell you whether, for example, the suggested metro is accessible and if there is a wheelchair space is not of much help for a person with a mobility impairment.

And even if you know for instance that all metro trains in a city are accessible, the app will most probably not tell you if all elevators in the station are working. Which means you might not actually make it to the platform to which your smart mobility app told you to go.

Furthermore, information on services offered en route or at a location are often not easily found, such as whether there is a wheelchair accessible toilet, mobile ramp etc. available. And once we start talking about navigation apps, we need to think about information regarding the height of curbs, road condition, slopes and much more.

When saying that people with a mobility impairment need more information than is usually provided by mobility apps, one could easily argue that this kind of information is too specific and not really relevant for most people.

Hence, it should not be included in your regular mobility app. However, there is already a huge user group that could benefit from more “disability mainstreaming” when it comes to information regarding accessibility.

Next to the approximately 1.6 million wheelchair users in Germany, there are more than 2 million people using a walking aid with a dramatic rise of about 50 percent since 2009. Now add all the people who have kids and use strollers and/or have loads of luggage. For all of them it is pretty important to know if the elevators in a station work or if there is a free space on a train – be it for strollers, wheelchairs or a walking aid.

People with a mobility impairment – a growing user group

Furthermore, when thinking about mobility in the future, it seems fairly likely that a great deal of the above mentioned information on accessibility etc. will become important to an even larger number of people.

The UN estimates that “In countries with life expectancies over 70 years, individuals spend on average about 8 years, or 11.5 percent of their life span, living with disabilities.” For Berlin, the Senate Administration for Urban Development estimates that in 2030 more than 22 percent of the population will be older than 65 years – many of whom will likely use either a walking aid or a wheelchair.

Considering this demographic change, it makes a great deal of sense to take the needs of mobility impaired people into account when building mobility apps. Moreover, information on the accessibility of means of transport and public places as well as on additional infrastructure such as elevators, wheelchair toilets, and available spaces for personal mobility devices of all kinds is a major benefit for all kinds of people.

In conclusion, when building the mobility apps of the future, the growing user group of people with a mobility impairment should be taken into consideration and their needs should not be dismissed as being too specific.

Share your idea with us: For people with a mobility impairment, what are the most important accessibility features that should be included in future mobility apps?

Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.

Transport Apps and the Long-Term Market Development – Part 3

How will the changing rules of the transportation market affect the customer and the companies? The answer lies in the rising importance of customer decisions, the extent of big data and a new era of monopolists.

There are many determinants – customer focused, economic and financial ones – that may lay the grounds for a new area of monopolistic competition where technology firms replace each other which finally benefits the customer by enhancing product quality and providing perfect competitive insight.

On the economic side the solution will be attracting investors for the business model via the customer lifetime value based valuation method. In this context it will be interesting to see if the negative interest rates currently seen in the financial markets will foster further investments in the segment of transportation and routing apps.

On the customer side we will see a clear preference to handle all objectives with a single app in the long run which is also reflected in the valuations currently leading to significant investments in technology start-ups managing to create an increasing number of relevant touch points.

A first tendency can be seen in the progressive influence and room given to smartphones replacing a peripheral IT environment. Product quality will be a driving force as the best app will be the one creating the most seamless touch points across the entire set of industries.

Competitive advantage is hereby mainly gained through data utilization driving efficient use of available capacity by leading customers’ decision processes and synchronising them with real workflows along the supply and production chains of different companies. Logistics could, however, become a driving force in creating real-time customer propositions.

An Outlook and a Comparison of Affected Sectors

As transportation may immure logistics and supply chains much faster than pure end-customer focused shopping portals or search engines, they could have a trump card to win the race against highly diversified yet internally unconnected technology firms currently pursuing a strategy of building up industry competence centres before linking them on their platform. For that I assume transport firms could have a first mover advantage in handling global chains of product delivery while developing brokerage capabilities.

Another industry which could turn out to be having a competitive advantage even though from a completely different direction is the electronic payment industry. Their strength is mainly derived from security-intense applications and the possibility to quickly connect separate touch points while validating spending characteristics. This could proof as a solid backbone for all other platforms.

However payment industry firms may play their cards best via white label solutions and acting in the back as to simulate a separation between banking functions and the actual purchases. This is best argued by the customers’ perception, awareness and especially desire for asset security and protection against financial risks such as unnecessary expenses.

Which competitor will make the cut?

For this reason crossing out electronic payments as the one taking over shopping and transportation interfaces directly or indirectly and referring to the aforementioned advantages of transportation (app) providers, I assume that they will make the cut.

The only open question is who will be faster in establishing the relevant links between the industries and building up a considerable customer base who is not just aware but fully utilizing the apps functionalities.

Coming from this perspective final power lies in the decision of the customer by opting for either model – specialised platforms which may link to more diversified ones or totally integrated platforms which rely on the supply of specialised providers and due to intrinsic requirements are more big data driven.

Tell us your opinion: What kind of mobile app would you like to have that will help you in your day-to-day lives?

Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.

Transport Apps and the Long-Term Market Development – Part 1

Will the soaring number of transportation apps benefit customer choice or will the market consolidate to foster an even more monopolistic position of IT giants controlling nearly everything? Resolution can only be found by looking at the question from different angles of market penetration approaches.

Currently we observe a “Moore’s Law – like” increase in the amount of routing and transportation apps which is mainly driven by mobile commerce roll-outs of single mobility service providers trying to give their original core business an additional boost in market share by attracting new customer segments via smartphone-based enhancements or minimizing the churn rate by staying up to date from a technological perspective.

At the same time, there is a tremendous rise of intermodal concepts developed by student groups or amateur developers mostly trying to fix problems they encountered themselves in transportation. However, most of these solutions have a clear regional focus and are far from global reach or gaining the necessary critical mass of users to stay competitive.

All this happens while traditional map focused businesses have not (fully) entered the market yet and concentrate more on routing rather than full-fledged mobility solutions.

Who Are My Customers and What Do They Need

Customers for these new types of apps are mainly drawn from the upper-right located sinus-meta-milieus, which globally is the fastest growing peer group giving intermodal travel an upside since this form highly depends on customers exhibiting a clear degree of IT affinity.

Beyond this the development is accelerated through the consumer segments leaning towards a general more social-hedonistic attitude reflected by an access trumps ownership perception of products.

Derived from this orientation of the main customer group the implication is that they are likely to choose the offer which provides the greatest elation or social coincidence over one that is purely practical.

Therefore transport or routing apps need to offer more than just a link from A to B, which will lead to an extension of one-stop-shopping concepts and relevant engagement marketing picking up that trend.

Keeping in Touch With the Customer Is Key

In return, this search for experience opens the market to many non-traditional side entries of companies originally not affiliated with any kind of transport business. For these reasons, chances are that successful brands utilize their latest technological developments such as new payment models to create additional touch points along the customer journey map resulting in total coverage if combined effectively with pre-existing app modules facilitating seamless travel and shopping experiences.

Additionally, more production focused participants of the economy 4.0 may assimilate their tools and utilize their applications in fields foreign to them in order to maximize their generic standpoint as software provider since customer contacts are core in sustaining profitability.

The importance of being the incumbent operator of customer relations can also be seen in the fact that former market leading telecommunication companies have lost their position as the business today is taken over by huge companies with various business segments who keep the customers with their respective mobile operating systems altogether.

Holding the customer contact is also the main source in generating additional revenues since this gives a significant edge about supplier activities in form of information gathering as an incremental element in creating successful product propositions.

This is vested from these data collections providing sufficient probability in incentivising people to use a certain product rather than relying on static data i.e. necessary links between available information and the AIDA marketing conception to increase sales.

Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.