ZipCar revolutionized car rental with their slick Internet based system for renting cars. ZipCars are parked all over a particular city in regular parking lots. Renting from ZipCar required simply visiting a website or using an iPhone application. You drive your ZipCar, return it to an authorized ZipCar parking spot and again using nothing more than an iPhone app, check the car in. Simple, effective and super low overhead. ZipCar is also revolutionary since their cars can be rented by the hour, something not possible with traditional rental cars.
Now the company Social Bicycles is taking the model and turning it to bicycle sharing. Bikes are Internet connected, include a special locking mechanism and are built for easy maintenance. There are web applications both for the consumer to find and rent bikes as well as operators to manage the bike fleet and users. Social Bicycles is launching in New York at the end of summer and will come to two cities on the west coast as well. I would expect one of those cities to be Portland, OR as Portland is already one of the most bike friendly cities in the country.
This is a pretty neat concept and we’ll see about the business viability. Internet connected bikes is also another example of the Internet of Things that is rapidly being built.