October 7, 2019
3 Key Things to Get Right Before Scaling Your Fleet
Building a successful micromobility company requires nimble business practices and blazing speed to market. At Particle, we’ve partnered with the top ride-sharing companies who operate in a hundred plus cities across four continents. We’ve learned what works, and what guarantees failure. Here are three keys for your team to get right before scaling your fleet.
What you build to get you into the market may not be what ultimately wins the market. What we’ve seen is that rapid iteration is key to the initial push to market, but scaling a reliable fleet requires different types of investment and team focus. Three key areas that will ultimately differentiate your offering in the market, increase your chances for success at scale, and help you streamline your business and prepare for rapid expansion. You need the following.
- Fleet management software that gives you a 10,000 foot view of your fleet, but also includes actionable diagnostic information at the device level and integration with your OTA tooling.
- An advanced and flexible over-the-air firmware practice, allowing for continuous delivery of added features and a critical tool for providing the best user experience.
- Product lifecycle planning that accounts for device needs beyond the first day on the streets. Focus on extending product lifetime and look beyond simply improving device durability.
Solution-driven fleet management and diagnostics
Running a healthy fleet requires constant, near-real-time monitoring of the key health indicators of your devices. Think of feet management and diagnostic tools as your first option when looking to uncover a potential problem and essential for managing a timely solution.
As you scale your fleet, managing and diagnosing potential issues becomes critical for fleet health. And as fleet size grows, so too does the complexity of problems you’ll encounter. Rolling out new hardware and software, deploying devices into new towns and cities, not to mention user mishandling and aging hardware, all increase the likelihood that your fleet will encounter an issue or two during their lifetime.
Ultimately, you have to identify and respond to these issues as soon as, or even before they arise. You simply can’t afford the time to manually scroll through console logs hoping that you’ll spot potential trouble. You need actionable insights. When a devices in your fleet is demonstrating unexpected behavior, being able to drill-down from the heights of the cloud- and connectivity-layer to inspect device-specific health and performance is essential.
Companies that use fleet management tools effectively will be able to respond and deliver proactive solutions that are right for the entire fleet not just a couple of devices. Here are just a few of the things a robust fleet management tool with device diagnostics should enable you and your fleet master to identify and investigate.
- You deployed a new integration, but for some reason the rate of errors have gone way up. Perhaps it’s related to a new software update. Try rolling-back a few device’s firmware to test the theory.
- You’re troubleshooting a latency issue and test a theory, you group devices based on geolocation. This helps to uncover what’s normal and what’s not. By documenting timing and signal quality across locations, it’s quite likely a pattern will emerge.
- You want to evaluate the performance of a new firmware release. Try grouping devices according to firmware version and compare metrics like memory usage, battery charge, data usage to rest of fleet.
- Or, you finally want to get to the bottom of poor battery performance in some markets. Are hills to blame for the underwhelming performance? Try grouping devices and comparing battery performance across geographic regions to pinpoint the gap in performance
Customizable to act locally and scale globally
The ability to deliver Over-the-Air firmware updates is the perfect compliment to solid fleet management and diagnostic tools. Think of OTA as the delivery mechanism for sending software solutions to ailing devices. And with near-zero device downtime.
OTA is a must have feature for any fleet. From incrementally improving your customer’s user experience to adapting to policy regulations in a new market, the ability to wirelessly update the software running on your device is critically important for scaling. OTA also enables you to deliver a better and safer user experience; it gives you the ability to respond to growing local policy needs at a moments notice; and, it’s also one of the best opportunities you have to continuously deliver added value to your fleet.
For example, say you want to move a few hundred devices in your fleet from one city to a new pilot market. This new location is in a completely different city and comes with additional Department of Transportation compliance requirements. While the move makes sense from a business perspective, it’s a calculated risk to reallocate units and it will only work if your timing is right.
With a good OTA solution and fleet management system, you’ll be able to group the hundred devices you need for the pilot program and pull them from your active fleet of thousands. Once grouped, you can flash new firmware to the devices bound for the pilot market without interrupting the rest of your fleet. And should you decide the pilot isn’t the best use of your limited resources, OTA makes it just as easy to rollback firmware to previous versions.
Build a fleet for its entire lifecycle — not just day one
Deploy your fleet with a plan that goes beyond the first day on the streets. Make no mistake, breaking into a new market is a big deal, but it’s just one milestone in the life of your product. You need to understand the lifecycle of your product — both the physical hardware and the software — to fully understand how and what you should be building.
A good lifecycle plan helps to address the uncertainty of wear and tear on your hardware. Lifecycle planning is not just about building an indestructible product, though. It’s about building a product that adapts to your customers and the market without breaking your current product or diverting your team from other mission critical projects. It also helps you to address the uncertainties of your business by making things just a little less, well, uncertain.
If you’ve thought through your product’s lifecycle, you should be able to clearly explain the process you’d go through to overcome moving your entire fleet to a new city or to recommission devices from one market to another. If you don’t have a good idea how you’d do with your fleet, hopefully you are starting to see why you should want to have a clear plan of action. Using unique serial numbers on all your devices is one basic technique to avoid the challenge of reallocation of goods down the road.
Knowing how to move your fleet around behind the scenes will avoid fleet downtime, and let you weather hardware shortages, battery malfunctions, and the constantly changing landscape of compliance with transportation authorities, more gracefully. But your customers will just see the uninterrupted service and continuous platform improvements they’ve come to expect and rely on.
Your product lifecycle planning shouldn’t be set in stone. but it should give you some good expectations of what’s in store for your devices. To truly understand the issues at each stage of your product, it’s important to sync diagnostic information from your fleet that’s on the streets with the lifecycle stages you’ve outlined and planned for. Doing so will help you to better understand what you need to deliver at each stage of a device’s life.
Scaling your operations with the right tools leads to success
Success in micromobility requires rapidly making the right business decisions, which makes choosing the right tools to build and selecting which to buy critically important.
The more straightforward your operations are the better. Piecing together DIY solutions will not work in a highly competitive market. Moreover, the successful micromobility companies that we’ve worked with all utilize fleet management tools that allow for overview of the fleet as well as device-level diagnostic information. They all have robust OTA strategies which lets them efficiently respond to regulation, new market expansion, and continuously adding more value to their product offering. And, they have carefully considered ways in which to extend product lifecycle in the field by having a well defined plan that goes beyond the first last-mile ride.