Stephan Leppler of MotionTag
With the MotionTag app, users can accurately track which means of transport they have used and when they did so or whether they have travelled on foot. The Berlin-based company has now been chosen as one of the nine best new startups in Europe in the area of “Digital Cities”, not only because of its current app but also because of its corporate vision. Managing Director and co-founder Stephan Leppler tells Projekt Zukunft how MotionTag, based on mobility data, is planning to offer smart and automated ways of payment in the public transport sector.
Mr Leppler, how will we get from A to B in the year 2030?
Hopefully in a way that is more efficient, more eco-friendly, more comfortable and more geared towards individual needs. There will certainly be differences between urban areas and rural areas. I expect that the increase in digital networks, the greater willingness of people to share vehicles and innovations such as driverless cars will make things easier and more efficient. It would be nice if that would lead to us needing less private cars and to a decrease in air pollution, carbon dioxide emissions and noise pollution. Public space that is currently used to park cars could be used for additional green spaces and bicycle lanes, for example.
How important are mobility data when it comes to smart cities and why are these data particularly interesting to many companies and institutions?
The provision of needs-oriented offers would be impossible without mobility data. These data help us understand what it is that the people need. A city can only be smart when it listens to people and understands their needs. First of all, mobility data provide a solid planning foundation for companies and cities. What’s more, as digital networks continue to grow mobility data can be used to plan according to needs. Data are at the heart of a city which makes them an ideal basis for an operating system for urban mobility.
Your company is very young and you have only just made your own apps available in the App Store. Nevertheless, you plan to break into several markets all at once. Ticketing, fleet management, smart travel companions or route planning – which is the area that generates the most demand?
First of all, MotionTag is a technology provider. We are driven by the goal to improve mobility by using smart algorithms. So when we first started out we asked ourselves what products we could build on our technology. Currently, we are still learning a lot from our customers as achieving product/market fit is imperative in order to be successful in the long run.
Can you give us a concrete example?
The project that is closest to our hearts is seamless ticketing, for sure. This very simple app enables users to combine several means of transport and always carry a valid ticket, no matter which means of transport he or she is using at the moment. At the end of a certain period of time, for example after a week, the app calculates the best possible price. Especially users who combine different means of transport according to demand and situation can benefit from such an app-based solution. Often users don't really know in advance which ticket in the public transport system will be the cheapest in the coming week. Perhaps a single ticket would be a worthwhile option as the weather will be better and bicycles could be used as well. Another advantage: our users no longer will have to deal with different fare zones and price categories which will be automatically determined by the app. Such obstacles can still lead to the user ending up taking the car, which is inefficient. We intend to change exactly this – it is our aim to make travelling from A to B as comfortable, efficient and inexpensive as possible. We currently see a great deal of interest in and demand for seamless ticketing. However, we still have a lot of work to do until this will become reality, not just as this involves the highest requirements in terms of reliability, but also because the public transport sector in Germany is very fragmented and many people have to be convinced for this vision to be implemented across Germany or even Europe.
Let's move on from the added value for data users to those generating the data: The users of your app can accurately track when and how they used the public transport system – and thanks to machine learning they don’t even have to type in the data manually. How can users benefit from such statistics?
We see the MotionTag app as a smart mobility log book. The app enables users to learn more about their personal mobility in a relatively playful manner. Graphs show how many kilometres the user has travelled in total depending on the means of transport and how fast users navigate their everyday lives. In map view, users can clearly see when they were out and about, where they went to and which means of transport they used to do so. In addition, users can experience the connection between their personal carbon footprint and their mobility behaviour. They can then compensate their carbon footprint via climate protection projects on Atmosfair. What’s more, users can compare themselves with other users and see how many kilometres they have travelled by bike and foot compared to other users. We plan to make our app even more attractive for our users and look forward to receiving suggestions for improvements at firstname.lastname@example.org. Basically, we want to learn what it is that moves people. It is the aim of the MotionTag app to receive feedback from our users as regards automatic recognition. We receive feedback on our systems when users double-check and edit the automatic recognition function in the app which enables us to improve our app. This is only way to improve the mobility of the future through seamless ticketing, for example. We are glad about every single active user, about feedback and about people who share our vision.
Personal data are a sensible issue. Can you briefly explain how you protect the movement profiles of your users?
We are very conscious of the fact that movement profiles are sensible data which we have to treat with particular care. This is why we have designed our data protection and data security concept in collaboration with external data protection experts. We place utmost value on transparency and security. Our data protection concept meets the requirements of the German Federal Data Protection Act when dealing with personal data. Only a small part of the team has access to the movement profiles and every one of those members of staff is bound by contract. In addition to transparency and conformity with data protection requirements data security is extremely important. This is why we strictly follow the WASC (Web Application Security Consortium) standard. Our servers are stationed in a data centre in Germany which has been certified in accordance with ISO 27001. The communication between our apps and our servers has an SSL rating of A+. Our data protection and our data security even is a USP compared to the big players. We are a young company and we can’t afford a scandal. We don't want our users to lose confidence in our products which would lead to the end of MotionTag.
You were supported by the European Organisation for Innovation EIT Digital and you are based in the Green Garage on the EUREF Campus. Can you give us an assessment of the competitiveness of Berlin-based startups in the areas of mobility, smart city and transport?
For one and a half years we were part of the Climate KIC Accelerator and had an office in the Green Garage as part of the programme. The accelerator is an excellent programme for young companies. Luckily, we have managed to make the top nine of the European EIT Digital teams in the “Digital Cities” category. The final round will take place on 29 November in Paris. I believe that Berlin has given birth to some really exciting startups in the mobility area. For example, ally and door2door, respectively, are working on developing a product (allygator shuttle) that is meant to compete with Uber. Then there's clevershuttle with a purely electric shuttle service or ubitricity with their smart charger cables for electric vehicles. then eMio with their sharing service for electric scooters. There are many other great companies and their number keeps growing. I think that Berlin offers very good conditions in the area of mobility as there are a lot of things happening here, many things are tried out here, and every year young, smart and hungry companies with great ambitions are founded.
Could you finally please complete the following sentence: Berlin is...
...a great testing field in the mobility area. Young companies, open-minded people. There is a reason why Berlin has the most cars in free-floating car sharing. I think that here the future of mobility can be experienced first-hand.
Leitung Kreativ- und Medienwirtschaft, Digitalwirtschaft, Projekt Zukunft