This month for the November edition of the ‘Women In Shared Mobility’ series, our CEO Sandra Phillips interviewed Elizabeth Chee, Independent Mobility and Digital Health Consultant.
Elizabeth has two decades of international management and industry experience in digital health, software and services. She is driven by a vision to use technology to better the causes she cares deeply for: Mobility, Healthcare and Education. In particular, she is passionate about supporting inclusive mobility from the elderly to the physically challenged of all ages through sustainable and seamless mobility services. She is also keen on improving connectivity and mobility of health data while respecting their privacy and ownership. Previously she has been invited regularly to speak in conferences on blockchain applications driving value-based care, financial inclusion and better access to basic Healthcare. Now, it has converged to inclusive mobility.
Women in Shared Mobility: thoughts on Equitable shared mobility, ai technology and the future of mobility-as-a-service.
ELIZABETH CHEE, Independent Mobility and Digital Health Consultant
Sandra Phillips, chief executive officer, movmi
Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do
Good morning, good afternoon, good evening – everyone wherever you are. Greetings from Munich, my name is Elizabeth Chee and I’m an independent consultant in digital health, mobility and services. I have had two decades of international management and industry experience in, basically software around these areas and what I truly care about is really using technology to better the cause of mobility, healthcare and education. I’m originally from Singapore and I have been living, working abroad in U.S, in Asia Pacific Japan and now eleven years in Europe out of Munich.
1. YOU’RE PASSIONATE ABOUT HEALTHCARE AND MOBILITY. WHY ARE THESE IMPORTANT WITH REGARDS TO SOCIAL EQUITY IN SHARED TRANSPORTATION?
So for me, because of my passion in digital health, a lot of people ask why did I come into mobility because it’s two different worlds – digital health and mobility, but actually I saw a very strong connection and in fact I see the industry converging. Simply because if you look around the world globally, we are facing a fast aging population in addition you also see a whole array of disabilities whether they are visible or invisible, as well as special needs requirements by different people, different groups from expectant mothers, families, people who are wheelchair bound, people who may be demented or who may have anxiety, just along these lines. If you look at transportation, what does it mean to have connected mobility? It’s basically to ensure that each and every individual has access and they’re able to get from point A to point B, door-to-door as seamless and as fast as possible. Right now in healthcare you do see that as we age not every country has truly thought about how to manage that going forward. How do people get to the hospitals without family help? Let’s say there’s no caregiving and your family isn’t with you or your children are too busy, you want to be able to maintain what I call ‘dignified aging.’ That independence to know that you have the ability to get to where you want without actually troubling anyone. If you belong to the independent group, which we see often in Europe, whereby everyone’s, you know, they don’t live with their children, whereas in Asia it’s a little bit different – where children are expected to take care of their families and therefore we’re expected to ferry them around. However that has also become an increasing burden on caregivers, so what we try to do – as I see this developing actually a lot faster in Asia – is to look at connected mobility in healthcare. Tying up with the hospitals, tying up with the caregiving companies, tying up even where some of the super apps like Grab or Go Jack – how do they transport an elderly person? Or a sick person? Or someone who just needs to get to the point of care from the homes or from the offices?
3. WHY DO YOU THINK THE CONNECTION BETWEEN HEALTHCARE AND MOBILITY IS DEVELOPING FASTER IN ASIAN COUNTRIES?
I think it arouse out of a very critical and urgent need for one. Secondly it also arouse out of a cultural mindset how to. And I’ll use Japan as the lighthouse example – simply because the way they look at it from governmental levels down to the individual from public/private sector partnerships – they look at how do we actually think about it in a very holistic way. How do we integrate all the various interfaces with relevant sectoral policies? How to actually tackle the societal challenges to make sure that there’s digital privacy, that healthy living, public services are being maximized too with regards to utility? And how to actually make society kind of more complete? That’s overall well-being: there is a huge focus on that and there’s a lot of, I think, respect for the elderly. And Japan is probably one of the fastest aging populations, coupled with a double whammy, which is a very low birthrate and that’s still declining. It’s just driven by these critical, let’s say challenges. That’s where the thought of how can we use technology to improve that mobility? You also see that in Japan they rely a lot on on-demand, connected autonomous vehicles when it comes to mini buses. They are also serving less densely populated regions, where public transportation is not that well connected which is very typical, even here in Europe.
4. WHAT CAN WE DO FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE ANXIETY? WHAT ARE THE TRENDS IN THIS SPACE? WHAT IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?
There are a couple of projects ongoing, I believe here in Europe, Amsterdam in the Netherlands itself you also have some in the Nordic countries. And I know that they also have it in Japan, I just can’t remember which city. It’s about, for example, having labels such as stickers – just a very friendly sticker -on people so you know why this person isn’t giving up his or her seat to the elderly even though she looks young. Or why is this person actually sitting in a priority seating which is designated usually for the physically challenged, expectant mothers with children etc. So these are very subtle ways to actually show that, okay look, I may have a disability that you do not know of, you’re not aware of, but I do and therefore please ‘leave me alone’. Or even a tag I think they have it somewhere in the US as well, I remember reading it somewhere. It’s not to be taken advantage of but, I believe caregivers of people with hidden disabilities are able to ask for some kind of lanyard with a tag that says that ‘hey, be kind to us, we need some space when we’re using public transportation.’
So that’s one, the second thing is, of course, you start seeing the emergence of what I call clever shuttle. We actually have a company called ‘CleverShuttle‘ here in Germany and the van that is IOT. The purpose is that, how do they ferry them from either desolate locations or even directly from their homes? Just to the railway station or the regional train station or to just within specified distances within the city. It just depends on the kind of offerings that they have, where it’s less crowded, it’s more accessible and you don’t need to be in a bus full of noisy people for example, especially during the afternoon when children and students are off from school. So these are just some options to think about alternative to the mainstream transportation.
5. IS THERE A BETTER OPPORTUNITY FOR MAAS TO TACKLE THE ISSUES AND CHALLENGES AROUND HEALTH? IS THERE A WAY MAAS COULD REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
Absolutely, I think you brought up a really good point when it comes to strollers and I think it can be very helpful. Here in Europe, where a lot of places are hilly – so I was just at a web summit last week in Lisbon and I’ve forgotten how hilly it can be and not to mention the crazy cobblestones. We just had a friend who brought her child with her, a four-year-old kid and the stroller wasn’t made to be that durable – with those huge buggy wheels it’s almost like she had a ‘mountain bike stroller’ so it was really difficult to get from one place to the other for one.
The second thing is if we think about it from a broader perspective, people who are wheelchair bound – so one of my cousins, a very close cousin of mine, who is like a little brother to me, has muscular dystrophy which means he can’t walk and he is wheelchair bound for life. He would love to go see places, and use some of the travel websites, like booking.com etc. Now they have improved, in the sense that hotels cater to people who are wheelchair bound, however they don’t state that actually there are ramps around, or that the bathtubs are still not really accessible. You still need somebody to help you and that meant he got there, to the hotel but he couldn’t use the facilities. He had to, again, check himself out and book into another hotel, on last-minute notice. So these are things that I believe mobility -as-a-service can help. It’s really about smart design thinking, how do you actually integrate it and the user experience into the UI? That’s the first step, the second step is, of course, how willing are partners in an ecosystem across the different verticals, willing to join in that ecosystem, to make it more seamless, to make a troubled experience better for their customers?
6. DO YOU KNOW OF ANY PROGRAMS THAT ARE A BIT MORE HOLISTIC WITH THEIR APPROACH TO THE FEELINGS AND EXPERIENCE OF THE USER?
At this point in time most of the projects are still in piloting phase, I would say, just the piloting. Actually Odakyu railway in Japan just launched its new app called EMOT and it basically means mobility with emotion and it’s interesting. The video that they had to show the app focused on what it means from door to door with a young person as well as an elderly person. How does it make it user friendly for them, to get from one point to the other and I believe in time to come it will actually incorporate all those different items. As a matter of fact, right now the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport in Japan, earlier on, this year, in March or April, launched or rather approved about fifteen out of the nineteen projects across Japan and different prefectures (or you call them States). Each with a different focus depending on what the region needs. Some needed health care, some needed tourism, some needed something else to improve the mobility overall. They are also facing a reduction in population whereby people are moving from the countryside to cities, so they’re looking at how to serve the underserved and I would say that in terms of how they’re thinking about it, it’s probably one of the best models I’ve ever seen. Especially in terms of really bringing in the entire society, stakeholders – what it means to them, what it truly means to use shared mobility – to be accessible by all and not just the privileged few.
7. WHAT IS IT THAT MAKES THE JAPANESE MODEL SO DIFFERENT AND PERHAPS MORE SUCCESSFUL?
It’s exactly like you said, there is no one-size-fits-all. For them, customer is king. So whatever they do, however they design the service, regardless, whether it’s in mobility, mobile payments etc, it always centers around the human being. It’s about how to make an experience as trouble-free. The cost of acquisition of the service by the customer as effortless as possible.
That’s one and also they’re very strong in emotional AI. They’re probably the most advanced in the world right now, where they’re using emotional AI in robotics, to look after senior care. It sounds a little bit morbid and also a little sad but it just grew out of a matter of a necessity because of labor shortages. They had to kind of try to outsource to machines in some part but at the same time they want to make sure that the human element is not completely lost because after all it is just a machine. At the end of the day, as a human person, you want the human connection. I think that’s how they have been thinking about it.
8. what does emotional ai in shared mobility look like?
I believe that when they built their user experience it’s always taking into account the EQ aspect first: As a human being, how do I want to be served? How would I want the customer to be served? That’s one aspect. The second thing is, of course, with all the technology they are building, they will definitely use emotional intelligence, built into their AI, which is fed into the data and machine learning. In terms of the UI design itself, what could make it more relatable? More connected with a user? What makes them want to use it?
Because you can mix so many apps, and so many models are what we call B2C. How do you actually differentiate yourself from your competitor especially if you’re in the B2C market? A very crowded market. It almost feels like I have to download 18 apps just for scooter sharing alone – I don’t want that. I want just one app, everything can be done in one single experience, one payment. I mean, okay, if I want to select the details how to break it down etc. that’s fine. But the key is, I don’t want to have to download so many apps and now they’re looking at how they can actually make this work.
We we also talked about this actually in the Nordic region. They have this Nordic mobility innovation platform where the end goal is: How can we make systems more interoperable? Which means, if right now, let’s say I’m on the Odakya app, I can stay on the Odakya app. But then when I go over to, let’s say Scandinavia, can I just you know tap onto the platform in Scandinavia without ever having to leave my Odakya app? It’s these kind of things, that, I think, people and cities – they also starting to think about it – need to think about more holistically because otherwise you end up, again, having people in silos. Different systems not talking to each other and you have to download different apps again and again. So it’s really about the design and also the willingness to adopt open ecosystems.
9. how do you make the end user download the app and use it? is there a secret ingredient for success?
I have two perspectives to that. I would say that firstly that in the B2C model, it’s going to be extremely difficult, simply because that means you have to compete with so many other apps and they are usually very “regionally sticky”, if there’s such a term. It’s just like your messenger apps. Some people use telegrams, some use whatsapp etc. It’s very sticky and the key is, are they willing to play with others? Because the key is that rather than losing your existing customer, you want them to be able to tap into other ecosystems just like a lot of partners or your competitors to tap into your system.
The pie is big enough in my opinion, the mobility market, the MaaS market, it’s huge, it’s at least one trillion by 2030, according to I think IBI Research. And I think it’s already growing, it has really grown, maybe even more than that, I don’t know, so it’s really about keeping an open ecosystem.
The second perspective is if you’re not a B2C, then most likely the easier (I wouldn’t want to say the most successful, the more successful but rather the slightly easier one) it’s actually to go B to B or B to G, whereby your clients get to keep their brands and are able to maintain a control over their user base but are still able to tap into your hub and also various other hubs – various other operators across different regions. To be able to make the best out of this collective synergy for their end customers. That could also be one one method of thinking about it. Initially, I was working for Iomob and Iomob is about, if you’re tapping into the Iomob network, you can get access to a whole slew of MaaS services across the world, but only if you have the Iomob network. The next phase is not just this Iomob network but also other networks.
The key is the customer must have the right to choose how he or she wants, to let’s say, complete the journey door-to-door. So if it’s a customer of let’s say MVG in Munich, which is the Munich subway transit. Let’s say if I’m a Munich subway user, I use the app and I should be able to just stick to this app and get the whole end-to-end journey, where I want to go. However, if let’s say if I go to Japan and I want to use Odakya and then just go into Odakya and do something – that’s if I want to. Preferably, I just want to stick to one app and if that flexibility is there, that connectivity, the interoperability is there, then I would say it’ll be successful.
10. Is there anything ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO TELL OUR VIEWERS?
I just want to say thank you very much for having me and I look forward to keeping in touch with fellow women in shared mobility and I really hope that, in time to come, everyone would keep an open mind at the more open system, so then regardless of whether you’re incumbent or you you’re a new startup everyone has the opportunity to serve the end user.
What are your thoughts on the developments in shared mobility that occurred over 2018 and what is to be expected for next year’s developments? What about the future implementation of shared mobility within rural areas? If you would like to be interviewed or to nominate a woman working in Shared Mobility for our next series, get in touch with us here.