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BeiDou buoys bike-sharing companies

By ZHENG YIRAN in Beijing and PEI PEI in Shenzhen, Guangdong | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-06-30 08:49

Visitors check out a bicycle equipped with a BeiDou positioning chip during an industry expo in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. [Photo/XINHUA]

China's homegrown BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, which is currently used for weather and earthquake forecasts, land surveys and mapping as well as for navigation of taxis, buses and trucks, has found a new home in the bike-sharing sector as companies are using the technology for better operations and user experiences.

Bike-sharing companies have started using the system in a big way after the final satellite in the BeiDou navigation system was launched last week. Shanghai-based bike sharing company Hello Global has brought all its sharing bikes under the BeiDou umbrella, while Qingju Bike, owned by ride-hailing major Didi Chuxing, has put into operation shared bikes using the BeiDou services in Shenzhen of Guangdong province, Wuhan of the Hubei province and Beijing. Meituan Bike (formerly Mobike) has established an internet of things platform with millions of shared bikes backed by the BeiDou technology.

Li Kaizhu, co-founder and executive-president of Hello Global, said: "The application of the BeiDou system is the first large-scale attempt in the shared travel sector. It will help shared bicycles better integrate into the urban public transportation ecology."

The BeiDou network will help users park vehicles in an orderly manner as the technology will prioritize the parking order of vehicles on municipal roads, he said.

Hello Global has launched "designated return spot" mode in Shenzhen, requiring all shared bikes to be parked in designated zones for locking the bikes. Currently, the ratio of "designated return" of bikes surpassed 95 percent.

"The mode has effectively improved vehicle parking, and lowered management costs for government and enterprises. By using BeiDou, we are able to manage bike distribution more precisely," Li said. In addition, it also helps the company to gauge bike requirements and relocate its resources accordingly, he said.

Technicians can use the BeiDou system for real-time management of road vehicle information in the background and effectively control traffic tides, ride hotspots and vehicle accumulation, said an official from Qingju Bike.

Wang Peng, assistant professor at the Renmin University of China, who specializes in transportation, said: "The 5G technology-empowered BeiDou system solves the signal problem of shared bikes. Previously, the bikes were equipped with 3G, or even 2G networks, and the signal was poor, making it difficult for users to find a bike or make a payment online. The combination of 5G and BeiDou solves the problem, offering a better user experience."

In addition, 5G networks are less energy consuming. In the past, the battery life of a shared bicycle was normally a month, or even 20 days. Now, the battery can run for six months, he said.

Yu Zejun, a research fellow at the research institution of China Fortune Land Development Co Ltd, said that shared bikes are among the four major application fields-A (automobile), B (bike), C (cellphone) and D(drone)-of the BeiDou system. The location service offered by BeiDou is a key element in shared travel.

In the future, every shared bicycle will be equipped with a BeiDou positioning chip. Shared travel contains diversified scenarios, and the application prospect of BeiDou system is promising, he said.

"Not only in shared bikes, in the future, the BeiDou system can be applied in wider areas, such as shared automobiles, shared trucks and shared drones," said Wang.

"Under controllable costs, the system can be integrated with cutting-edge technologies such as virtual reality and online interactions, to realize more functions, including entertainment, social interaction and sports," said Wang.

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