Long development cycles can eat up capital and competitive advantage. How could Advansolar get its technologies to market quickly enough to overtake competitors in the electric bicycle rental market?
Advansolar joined forces with the IBM® Cloud Garage consultancy to create an innovative electric bicycle rental solution, leveraging a range of IBM Watson Data Platform to accelerate development.
60%saving on development time helps Advansolar seize market share ahead of competitors
30%saving on development costs frees up capital to invest in sales and marketing
Supportsinternational growth by making it easier to adapt products for new markets
Business challenge story
Getting the best possible start
Identifying an opportunity is not enough—if you don’t move rapidly and effectively to take advantage of it, you face the risk that a competitor will get there first. When Advansolar identified an opportunity to revolutionize the bicycle rental industry by selling solar-powered charging stations for electric bicycles, the race was on to develop a solution that would not only provide the solar charging infrastructure itself, but also include an easy-to-use application to help clients manage rentals and maintain their bikes.
Raphael Brière, CEO at Advansolar, takes up the story: “In France alone, the market for electric bicycles is expanding by something like 40 percent per year. If you have not come across an electric bike yet, the chances are that you will very soon. The growing interest in this sector presented a huge opportunity, but it also attracted the attention of competitors—so the pressure was on to get our product to market fast.”
Advansolar’s vision was for a turnkey solar electric bicycle charging and rental solution, with an online service platform to manage processes such as booking, check-in, check-out and payment at solar charging stations. This would enable rental operators to leverage a wealth of operational data to optimize the services they provide to their customers.
“We have a lot of experience of building solar charging stations, which is the hardware side of the solution,” says Raphael Brière. “But to turn our concept into reality, we also needed to invest in software development. In the past, we had subcontracted development work to other companies, but for this product, we needed a more flexible, agile approach. At the same time, with limited resources available, it was vital to stick to our development budgets and timelines.”
Advansolar looked to the IBM Cloud Garage consultancy in Nice for help—and found it. Formed of multi-disciplinary teams, including developers, product managers and designers, the IBM Cloud Garage is a physical hub where companies can collaborate with IBM to rapidly innovate and deliver new technologies using IBM Cloud solutions.
“The IBM Cloud Garage team were our partners throughout the development of our new electric bicycle rental solution,” says Raphael Brière. “Working with them gave us access to the power, openness and agility of IBM Watson Data Platform, as well as the IBM’s expertise. This helped us hit the ground running.”
Using the IBM SDK for Node.js starter pack in IBM Cloud, Advansolar and the IBM Cloud Garage teams created a responsive web application with personalized interfaces for four different user groups: rental customers, rental agents, operators who own and manage the equipment, and administrators from Advansolar.
The solution incorporates the IBM Watson™ Internet of Things Platform to connect the company’s solar charging stations to a cloud-based MongoDB database, managed by IBM Compose.
“The hybrid cloud solution that connects our solar charging stations with a range of cloud-based services is hosted in an IBM Cloud datacenter,” explains Raphael Brière. “We chose to use MongoDB as our database platform because it offers us greater scalability, flexibility and ease of use than traditional relational databases, and is more adaptable and cost-effective than other NoSQL options. With Compose, we gain the added advantage of a robust, well-managed high availability solution, which helps to ensure that we can keep our services online at all times.”
Advansolar’s all-in-one solar bicycle charging stations—which allow operators to secure, manage and recharge fleets of electric bicycles—push data to MongoDB in the cloud. Advansolar’s applications then help operators monitor the data and understand how their bicycles are being used. This kind of insight can help to improve many aspects of their operations, such as fleet management and maintenance. The solution supports both long-term bike-sharing models for use in towns and cities, and short-term rental models for clients in the leisure and hospitality industries.
“The highly scalable IBM solutions give us the ability to collect valuable data on bicycle use, such as the maintenance history of each bicycle, how much it has been used, whether it is well-secured, and the level of charge in its batteries,” says Raphael Brière. “As a result, our clients can take a smart approach to fleet management, focusing their attention only where it is needed: they don’t need an attendant at each charging station, because one person can easily monitor and manage multiple sites.”
Crossing the finish line
Drawing on IBM DevOps services for Cloud, Advansolar adopted an agile approach throughout the implementation phase, accelerating the delivery of the solution. Overall, the company was able to bring its new offering to market at significantly greater speed and lower cost than would have been otherwise possible.
Raphael Brière elaborates: “By partnering with the IBM Cloud Garage and using IBM solutions, we estimate that we saved up to a year on development time, enabling us to get to market 60 percent faster, and giving us a head-start on our competitors. We also saved around 30 percent on development costs, which means we can focus more of our resources on marketing and sales.”
Advansolar has already made headway in the French market, and has set its sights on expansion into other countries. With a flexible approach to development in place, the company has removed some of the barriers to growth.
Raphael Brière concludes: “It has only been a few weeks since we launched the new solution, but the reception has been good so far. The key advantage of working with IBM Cloud tools and experts is the agility it gives us: we can rapidly adapt our solutions and strategies to respond to demand in individual markets. As a result, we can start looking to the opportunities that we know exist in the electric bicycle market across Europe.”
Advansolar designs, engineers and manufactures turnkey solar charging stations for event, e-mobility, real estate and energy stakeholders. Incorporated in 2010, the company is based in the Eco-Valley, near Nice, France, an area where renewable energy and clean tech are flourishing.
- IBM Cloud Databases and Compose
- IoT Platform
- Z Compilers
Take the next step
To learn more about Advansolar’s partnership with IBM, please read Raphael Brière’s blog at ibm.com/blogs/think/2016/03/22/innovating-fast-in-the-cloud. IBM Watson Data Platform offers a complete portfolio of data and analytics services providing unique and seamless product integrations to build apps faster and gain new insights easier with flexible deployment and pricing options. For more information about how IBM Watson Data Platform can help businesses solve tough big data problems rapidly and cost-effectively, please visit ibm.com/analytics/us/en/watson-data-platform/.
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