The digital traces of bike rental solution "Bicincittà"

When it comes to bike rental platforms, I am often intrigued by how digital technologies are employed and for what purposes. A description of how italian biking solution Bicincittà describes it in detail:

"Monitoring and organizational systems: Every movement of the bicycles is transmitted to a server that updates in real time their availability in the area. Upon receiving an electronic card, each cyclist is then registered in the server, having inserted his/her personal information and telephone number. This card is distributed for an indeterminate amount of time and can be deactivated remotely at any time at the director’s discretion. The system’s interface supplies us with the user’s personal information at the moment of the hire, giving us a general overview of who is exploiting the system. As a result we can analyze bike movements and study their statistics in order to increase or decrease the number of bicycles according to demand.

Tele-diagnostic system: Bicincittà is equipped with a remotely enhanced diagnostic system that allows us to know the conditions of the parking stations at any moment. Wherever there may be a damaged or malfunctioning unit, a remote mechanism allows us to reset the device, be it a single parking space or the entire parking station. The practicality of the tele-diagnostic system allows us to solve problems from a distance. This guarantees a completely efficient, indispensable organization in providing quality available alternative public transportation."

Seems to be very close to Velib/Velov and co. The website interestingly gives some random stats which seems to be more descriptive than explicative:

Why do I blog this? I find interesting to see where digital technologies play a role in bike rental solutions; and the description above is quite transparent regarding how the digital traces of physical activities (movement, parking, diagnosis). In addition, I like the way they describe the whole process. There must be intriguing tools and visualizations to reflect that kind of traces for diverse "urban audiences":

  1. the company which needs to have indicators about his services (but the one above is maybe less informative since it's regardless of any explanatory variable such as city, weather, etc.).
  2. local institutions that what to get information about bike mobility in their city, how the platform is used, etc. in a sort of descriptive way. Further out, they might also need to access to a more explicative dimension so that they could see what works (re-fill of stations, time spent on bikes, etc) and what doesn't. The point would hence be to modify the system (change the frequency of re-fill, add stations, etc.)
  3. Customers who may want to get information about the service availability (number of bikes in real-time at what station) or more elaborated services (why not printing out special maps to depict the best areas to drop a bike, new routes to come past certain empty bike stations). This information could also be coupled with other one coming from other means of transport to help people to pick-up a more efficient succession of transport means (get a bike - use it to go to a metro station - get the metro and get out); in order - for instance - to avoid finding no spots for your bike (or a steep hill?).