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Forget Your Car and Kick Start Your Move to Zurich!

By Karla Schlaepfer
smide, zurich

Design Thinking and SMIDE – use and share cool E-bikes

You ride and we take care of the rest!”

This is the motto of Smide the beta E-bike pick-and-ride project that is blazing through Zurich. The initiative is collecting a trail of user information while learning about the mobility habits of Swiss urbanites!

Smide is a Bike Free Floating pilot project now servicing Zurich. It is planned to run for 2 months. Thanks to the current good weather, it looks like it will go till the end of November 2016. Sponsored by the Swiss Mobiliar Insurances AG, the innovation team champions an empathy based design approach.

Bike Free Floating means that you can use the free app and location service to find a cool new E-bike parked nearby, ready for you to hop aboard. No particular stations or complicated rental conditions to deal with.  Later when you’re done, you can log out and then drop off the bike anywhere in the orange Geofence area in the larger Zurich city area. Sounds, good right?

Feel good name: Smide (smile + ride) is supported by an informative website and a friendly Smide team.

Smide is a user-focused self-sharing initiative that aims to anticipate and understand the values of its users regarding mobility. The team is looking for answers to questions like: What might our Smide riders need? What could go wrong? Who do participants turn to for help? On the Smide website, we find a long list of how-tos and FAQs. When using the Smide app, riders give permission for their biking tracking data to be analyzed according to the terms of the Smide project.

Maintenance and service are carried out by the Smide service team or partners. Both are included in the rental fee. Also included is the adjustable helmet with a custom visual design which was exclusively designed for the Smide project.  There is even a USB outlet to recharge your smart phone. Really useful since you use your smart phone to book and pay for the E-bike riding time. Cool that the first 20 minutes are free!  After that the minutes are booked via “minute packages” and prepaid. The basic price is 0.25 CHF/minute (about €0.23/minute).

But maybe you have asked yourself, why is an insurance company involved in an E-bike service?

The project initiator Jana Lév, heads the organizational unit of Connected Mobility. She has years of experience innovating with Design Thinking processes. In 2015, Lév joined the dynamic innovation team at the Mobiliar.  She views Smide as a pioneer project with lots of potential. Lév is eager to gain insights from the Smide users’ experiences. This design-driven approach of data acquisition is ground-breaking for this business. Ground-breaking in that it is taking business outside of the office and asking meaningful questions about what real people do when they move and why. It is leaving the safety of the company desk and moving into fresh territory.

What can be learned about contemporary urban mobility needs?

Who knows better than actual users what is relevant for their lives? For their workflow and the stories about their changes from one place to another? “Getting the voice of the customer” is the key. Using this feedback as a part of the design based process can help innovators to figure out how to create new forms of value. To design for people’s  mobility needs now and in the future.

“Sen-sa-ti-o-nell! Gerade das erste Mal mit @smide_picknride rumgedüst! Sehr cool und sehr einfach, danke!“ Tobias Sager (tweet from Nov. 2, 2016)

The demographics of our cities are constantly changing and changing fast. In order to be able to build  safer infrastructures for channels of transportation, more research information is vital. For example, we need to know more about how people feel about sharing and not owning. What people actually do and what they avoid when they share their E-bikes?   These questions  spur creative thinking about unmet needs of the customers. How can bike riders better co-exist with cars? Where do the bottlenecks emerge and why? How can insurers improve safety aspects?

How can we delight our customers?

In design thinking and service design, the answers to these and other relevant questions are the preliminary data. This input is then used as a basis to produce a set of hypotheses for prototyping and testing. It is a kind of  co-creation with the customer which makes the future feel real and the users help design.  Design thinking data and research based processes can lead to new insights and to personally tailored offerings. These services and products appeal emotionally to the customer in a qualitative way that is much so more than your usual run-of-the-mill insurance contract!

So, who’s ready for a quick spin around Zurich?!

For continued reading: Ausgebremst und überholt

Karla Schlaepfer