Startups lead the way in smart city mobility

Cate Lawrence
5 min readMar 17, 2021
city landscape of a tram at nighttime

Mobility startups typically have the advantage of youth, agility, an interest in new technology, and an eye to creating future-proof transportation and technologies. However, they also face a number of unique barriers. Fortunately, smart cities have created a valuable space for mobility startups to innovate within.

By 2030, sixty percent of the global population will live in urban areas, and one in every three people will live in cities with at least half a million inhabitants. Many cities have spent part of the last decade embarking on ambitious, smart city projects that aim to make cities not only responsive but ‘smart’ and predictive of the needs of their inhabitants. A range of this smart infrastructure has IoT embedded in it, including smart kiosks, parking, transport systems, connected vehicles, weather monitoring, waste control, lighting, and traffic controls. Cities connect their infrastructure to deliver urban services more effectively, save money, and provide a means to engage with citizens, visitors, and local businesses.

Successful cities are typically part of research programs, pilot studies, and funding recipients of bigger Government investments or the investment of big companies such as Cisco, Intel, and various telcos and utilities. But equally critical is the role startups can play in smart city mobility, bringing in new schools of thought, new technology, and new business models.

How cities can facilitate a mobility startup ecosystem

Mobility startups face a number of unique challenges:

  • Their testbeds are typically public spaces.
  • They are dependent on the rules and regulations of their local municipality.
  • They need data traditionally only available to city officials.
  • When it comes to deployment, their primary customer may in fact, be the local government with their own challenges of budgetary restraints, election cycles, and red tape.

Fortunately, smart cities recognize the value of startup and can facilitate their success through a range of strategic actions:

Testbeds

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Cate Lawrence

Tech journo and writer, based in Berlin, Germany. I don't really write on medium much but you can find me on LinkedIn and Twitter