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Ofo rolls out big data platform for shared bikes to help build smart transport system

Using the Ofo bike-sharing app to rent a bicycle in Shanghai Photo: Imaginechina

China's leading bike-sharing company Ofo has launched a transportation management platform to share big data of shared bicycles with more than 200 Chinese cities, as several city governments have set restrictions on further deployment of shared bikes partly due to concerns over traffic congestion and illegal parking.

Beijing, Shanghai, Xiamen and Chengdu are among the first 20 cities that are connected with Ofo's artificial intelligence-based big data platform, through which these cities' governments can obtain the information about the number of shared bikes deployed, bike parking locations and the distances traveled by the riders.

Ofo Chief Executive Officer Dai Wei hailed the transportation management platform as China's first shared bike-related big data system, which is driven by artificial intelligence technologies, big data analytics and computing.

The transportation management platform will unconditionally share all the information with the local governments in hope of helping them regulate the near-saturated bike sharing market, said Dai.

The transportation management platform tracks as many as 10 million bikes deployed in 250 cities in 20 countries and more than 200 million registered users, and uses the powerful computing ability to streamline the operation of shared bikes in a short time and make prediction about the supply and demand of shared bikes.

Ma Jun, an official from Ofo's Shanghai branch, said that by logging in the transportation management platform, Shanghai's regulators can easily contact the related operational people in case of traffic incidents through a seamless bike management mechanism. Helped by the platform, Ofo found that two deployment sites in the Pudong New Area of Shanghai are places where shared bikes are used much more frequently than the city's other places, said Ma, adding that it tells Ofo to enhance operation and maintenance services there and reminds the government of the need to improve public transportation there.

Free-floating shared bike is dubbed as one of China's "four great new inventions" in the modern times. Over the past several years, there have been 10 million shared bikes operated across China. And the country's bike-sharing startups have engaged in a fierce race to attract investments from venture capitalists, which they use to expand footprint at home and abroad.

The excessive development of the bike-sharing industry in China has triggered concerns of the local governments about the go-as-you-please attitude toward bike parking on public places, which has worsened the traffic congestion.

In order to solve the problem, eleven Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou last year imposed bans on the deployment of shared bikes in a bid to control the number of shared bikes.

Industry insiders said that the launch of the big data platform is a result of the official restrictions and would promote the healthy development of the bike-sharing market.

Following Ofo, archrival Mobike also debuted a big data website and pledged to strengthen cooperation with the local governments and research institutions to work on the intelligent management of shared bikes and the building of sustainable green traffic system.

Mobike said that its shared bikes were equipped with Internet of Things-based locks which embed satellite positioning module, a technology that helps track the locations, moving trajectory and status of the shared bikes. Currently, the company operates in more than 200 cities globally.

Industry insiders said that except for the efforts to strengthen management on the deployment of shared bikes, the bike-sharing service providers need to improve the technologies applied to shared bikes.

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