Overview of Denver B-cycle's bike-sharing program
Bike-sharing programs have been a popular trend in many foreign countries for years but have just started in the United States, driven mainly by the desire to provide zero-emissions transportation for commuters and tourists in urban areas. A new Denver, Colorado, company, Denver B-cycle, offers one of the largest bike-sharing programs in the United States. The company has more than 500 bikes, all made by Trek, that are available through more than 50 bike stations, or B-stations as they are called, in the Denver metropolitan area. Each B-station is fully operated by using a variety of wireless technologies, such as RFID, GPS, and Wi-Fi, which have a number of locking docks that hold as few as five bikes or as many as 25. The number of bikes at each location depends on the amount of use expected.
There are several methods by which a user can access a bike. One method is to use the B-station kiosk machine that allows users to unlock bikes with a credit card. This method is preferred for those who seek infrequent usage for short-term rentals. Here, the user receives a day pass that is good for a 24-hour rental. Another option is to purchase a 7-day, 30-day, or annual membership online or at the B-station kiosk for those planning to use bikes on a regular basis. Members receive an RFID-enabled card that allows them to retrieve any of the available bikes from the B-stations located around the city. Members can also download an iPhone app with the added convenience of using the device to unlock and locate bikes.
Once a user selects a bike by using the day pass, RFID-enabled membership card, or iPhone application, the transaction must be validated before the bike is unlocked. This is all done using RFID readers and Wi-Fi-enabled devices that validate the transaction with the company’s main database. An RFID reader collects the ID number encoded to an RFID tag attached to the bike. The device then forwards the ID number, using Wi-Fi to the company’s central database, so that the system knows which particular bike to associate with which user. Once validated, the user is then alerted with a beep and a green light, indicating the selected bike is unlocked and available for use. When a user wants to return a bicycle, he or she only needs to find an empty dock at any B-station to roll the bike into the locking position. A beep and green light will signal that the bike has been securely locked, and the RFID reader records the tag ID from the bike and sends this information to the company database to complete the transaction.
In addition to having an RFID tag on each bike, embedded GPS units record the routes that a user travels. When a user returns the bike, the GPS information is uploaded to the company database, along with that bike’s tag ID number. These data help Denver B-cycle understand the most common routes that its users take in addition to allowing the company to collaborate with Denver merchants to target product or service offerings to members, based on their daily routes. For example, a coffee shop might email a coupon to a user who rides by each day. The GPS units also help to protect the company in case a user does not return a bike, or a bike is stolen. B-cycle can use LBS to help find the missing bike.
1.What advantages does a wireless network provide Denver B-cycle?
2.What challenges does a wireless network create for Denver B-cycle?
3.What information not described in the case can Denver B-cycle use with RFID and LBS data?
4.How could Denver B-cycle use other wired or wireless network technologies to gain a competitive advantage?