For personal ride-hailing and ride-sharing, we’ve got Uber, Lyft, Gett, Seize, and numerous others around the globe. For public transport stalwarts, there’s Google Maps, Citymapper, Transit, Moovit, and extra, every serving up one of the best mixture of the way — together with trains, boats, buses, and extra — to get from A to B.
On the floor, it might seem that there isn’t a lot room for one other city transport app — however Here Applied sciences, the corporate behind the favored location and navigation platform, disagrees.
At this time, Here launched a new standalone cellular app referred to as SoMo, derived from the time period “social mobility,” to maneuver the idea of transport apps up a notch — SoMo has been constructed from the underside up as an all-encompassing social transport app for each city and rural dwellers.
SoMo merges all modes of transport, together with public, personal, and private, into a single platform, enabling anybody to see all their choices from a single interface. However SoMo’s core promoting level is its enablement of free rides by permitting individuals to create social circles round particular occasion classes, similar to a one-off sporting event or live performance, or recurring occasions reminiscent of a work commute or a baby’s Saturday morning soccer apply.
“SoMo is the bridge to today’s sharing economy,” famous Liad Itzhak, head of Here Applied sciences’ mobility unit. “Consumers should have freedom of choice in how and with whom they travel. That’s why SoMo brings people together based on common social interests and mobility demand, whether they’re traveling to a holiday party, basketball practice, or a Beyoncé concert.”
By means of a fast recap, Here is likely one of the main on-line mapping platforms alongside the likes of Google Maps, TomTom, and OpenStreetMap. The story behind the way it obtained to the place it’s at the moment is a moderately convoluted one — Nokia acquired digital map knowledge firm Navteq for $eight billion in 2007 to energy its Nokia Maps product, which in flip was rebranded as Here in 2012. Nokia then bought Here to a consortium of German automotive producers three years later for $three billion.
Although Here does supply some consumer-facing purposes of its personal, together with a Google Maps-style navigation app referred to as Here WeGo, it’s third-party licensing that serves as its core enterprise. And central to that is knowledge, which is partly why shopper cellular apps are so necessary to Here — they assist garner insights into how individuals are touring. SoMo matches into that broader scheme — it can assist enhance the Here platform’s real-time visitors knowledge, high quality of maps, and extra.
Nevertheless, Here may also function a revenue-sharing mannequin with the on-demand transport suppliers it surfaces by means of the app.
SoMo: the fundamentals
Getting arrange with SoMo is simple — you first want to offer your cellular phone quantity, as a result of that is what is going to enable you to join with your folks and energy all of the social options inside the app.
After that, you enter your identify, add a profile photograph, and you’re good to go.
The app has two core sections: “create a ride” and “create a gathering.”
In “create a ride,” SoMo can be utilized as a commonplace navigation app, just like Google Maps, Waze, or Here’s very personal Here WeGo. You enter the beginning and finish places, and hit “drive” (should you’re driving). Or, you possibly can select to see what your optimum public transport choices are by hitting the little “bus” tab on the best.
Nevertheless, these options are usually not actually SoMo’s core raison d’être — they’re extra “nice-to-haves.”
Once you’re creating a experience, you’ll be able to invite pals and acquaintances to hitch a journey, type of like a carpool / ride-share service besides you hand-pick the people you need to journey with, be it work colleagues, relations, or greatest buddies. This could kind of be replicated by means of a mixture of messaging apps and Google Maps, however SoMo facilitates all of the journey particulars inside a single app, and it shows the full journey particulars and real-time ETAs to everybody from the get-go.
Plus, provided that SoMo is constructed atop Here’s navigation platform, the app can optimize routes based mostly on the time-of-day, distance, and all of the riders’ numerous pickup / drop-off factors.
It’s value noting that SoMo isn’t purely for those that have their very own automobiles. It additionally integrates into the Here Mobility Market, which launched final January to serve up entry to third-party on-demand transport suppliers together with taxis. It should additionally ultimately add help for further providers together with bike-shares, helicopters, boat taxis, and extra.
The mobility market, and thus on-demand journey providers, will solely be obtainable by way of SoMo in 15 cities at first — London, Athens, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Brussels, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Good, Los Angeles, Helsinki, Piraeus, Thessaloniki, Almere Stad, Haarlem, and the Hague. However the firm advised VentureBeat that it expects to open to as much as 10 new cities every month, and it anticipates supporting greater than 100 cities throughout Europe, North America, and South America by the top of 2019.
Then there’s the difficulty of the restricted on-demand transport suppliers obtainable by way of the Here Mobility Market. There isn’t a Uber, one thing that’s unlikely to vary quickly — regardless that Here stated it will welcome the omnipresent ride-hailing firm if it selected to hitch.
“We believe that everyone that shares the same vision of building a competitive mobility ecosystem will want to join,” a spokesperson advised VentureBeat. “The few players who will choose to try and build a monopolistic position and eliminate competition in the market will probably choose not to join. It’s up to each service provider, including Uber, to decide how they see the future of mobility.”
It’s value highlighting SoMo’s social credentials, provided that this performs a central position in its pitch.
Contained in the app, customers can create teams of those that represent the social circles round which journey is coordinated. So this might be “work commute,” “soccer practice,” or no matter. These teams type the idea for all of the social ride-sharing elements of the app.
These teams are notably integral to the “gatherings” part of the app. These gatherings could be outlined as just about something that has a location, time, intent, and group of individuals attending. These could be one-off occasions or recurring, and through the setup course of you stipulate all the small print, together with occasions, places, and members. Solely the group admin can add new individuals to a group, and all those that are added to a group obtain a push notification to their gadget informing them.
By means of these gatherings, members can work out one of the simplest ways for all of them to get to a particular place, which can contain sharing rides with one another, utilizing on-demand transport, trains, or a mixture.
Gatherings are set to non-public by default, however this may be switched to public, which reinforces the chances of SoMo significantly.
Anybody who has tried to journey to a live performance in a neighboring city or metropolis on a Sunday night time, for instance, will know that transport might be a main impediment. If trains cease at 11p.m., you might have to go away the gig half an hour early to make sure you’re not caught. And even when you have your personal automotive, parking could be a nuisance, and it additionally prevents you from having a few beers on the present. SoMo’s “public gatherings” permits anybody to arrange — or be a part of — a short-term social circle round a particular occasion and discover individuals to journey with.
Once more, SoMo takes care of all of the logistics, mapping out one of the best methods for all members to get from their vacation spot and again.
One small level value noting right here is that it might be nice if SoMo might embrace some kind of “tipping” performance, or a simple approach for members of a ride-share to contribute their share of the gasoline. As issues stand, riders should resort to handing money over to the driving force, or in any other case share PayPal / financial institution particulars with one another (assuming the driving force needs gasoline reimbursed).
Public & personal
As we’ve written beforehand, the strains are already blurring between personal transport apps comparable to Uber and public transit apps corresponding to Citymapper. Uber, for instance, shows real-time public transit knowledge to make it simpler to mix modes of transport, whereas Citymapper has launched its personal sensible bus service that allows you to e-book journey instantly from inside the Citymapper app.
SoMo takes issues to the subsequent degree, with a genuinely fascinating all-in-one transport proposition that holds a nice deal of potential. And “potential” is the important thing phrase right here. One of many hardest obstacles for any budding social app to bypass is gaining customers. Whereas SoMo does work as a standalone navigation app for solo vacationers, its fundamental promoting level is that it’s social, and till all your mates and work colleagues begin utilizing SoMo, it can maintain restricted attraction. Phrase-of-mouth will probably be integral to getting extra individuals utilizing SoMo, and Here has some concepts as to how the app might attraction to varied individuals.
“Just as platforms like LinkedIn, Airbnb, and Facebook have leveraged social connectivity, SoMo taps into the power of social networks to reimagine the future of transportation,” added Itzhak. “Standing at the forefront of the social mobility revolution, SoMo enables users to plan, share, and ride in a way that’s simple and hassle-free. Increasing the average car occupancy will make traffic jams disappear and will have an enormous impact on our planet, reducing pollution and making it much greener.”
However all this additionally raises the query of why Google hasn’t enabled such performance inside Google Maps. Certainly, the web big has been pushing extra social performance into Maps in current occasions, recenlty launching a new group-planning function contained in the cellular app, for instance — however that’s extra about creating polls round deciding which locations to go to eat. Nevertheless, don’t be stunned if Google launches one thing just like SoMo sooner or later, and it might stand a a lot higher probability of gaining traction provided that billions of individuals have already got Google Maps put in on their telephones.
SoMo is on the market to obtain on iOS and Android at this time.