City Limits Volume Two: Mobility

In our second edition of City Limits, we explore how the (supposedly) simple task of getting from A to B is being blown into new-scale proportions, with unique and urgent challenges popping up in cities across the globe. Enjoy the ride.


And so we’re back with another ideas ‘n’ inspiration-packed City Limits – our view on urban living (from the rewards offered to the challenges encountered), and how brands can reach for culturally-charged commercial advantage in these high-drama mega-spaces.

This time we’re focusing on mobility. Though, truth be told, that’s a pretty diverse topic in itself: mobility in terms of how we navigate the city; mobility in how we get to live in the city, be that upping sticks from someplace close by, or migrating thousands of miles; mobility in how people succeed and progress in these intense environments. Mobility, clearly, sees us moving forwards in many fascinating ways.

The role of data. Transportation innovations. Brand campaigns decoded. Fresh trends and emergent visual language. It’s all here – and all sourced from Crowd DNA intensely global and highly researched view of the world.

It’s all rich food for thought, we hope, as you stroll/run/ride/drive/hover (OK, not just yet) about your city.

Andy Crysell, group managing director, Crowd DNA


At A Glance:

Mobility Around The World…

Cities In Motion

A mobility revolution is gearing up…

Urban mobility has become a seriously hot topic over recent years. As more and more people flock to cities and urban populations swell way beyond imagination, the (supposedly) simple task of getting from A to B is blown into new-scale proportions, with unique and urgent challenges popping up in cities across the globe. How, for example, do you get one billion commuters safely around Mumbai during rush hour, every single day?

Gone are the times of relying on fixed routes and public transport timetables. Now, tech gurus sit alongside brands, businesses, governments and urban planners, all working on exciting and disruptive mobility solutions. Worldwide, cities are moving away from privately owned modes of transport towards viewing transport solutions as a service. As a result, consumer demand, responsive tech and seamless, multimodal journeys are the key trends driving this new age of urban mobility. The rules of the road are being rewritten.

And, while significant technical and regulatory barriers to autonomous vehicles still exist, we only need to study the success of on-demand and dockless transport to see the potential of urban mobility ahead. Countless new bike, car, scooter, cycle, moped and taxi sharing services now operate in cities around the world. These ‘floating’ transport options – Ofo, Cityscoot, Spin, Mobike, Jump, to name just a few – automatically generate new routes and possibilities, as well as improve travel times, environmental impact and access to mobility for all.

So as we move full speed into this new era of urban mobility, what will it mean for citydwellers and brands alike? As the way we experience cities fundamentally changes (thanks, in part, to urbanization, remote working and the dominance of digital) our very movements change in response. And so too do our routes, rides and rationales for travelling from A to B in the first place.

As our perceptions around space and movement change, so too will the shape of future cities around the world

From A To B

Urban transport meets brands and culture…

The ever-changing landscape of mobility and our constant ‘on-the-go’ attitude has dramatically changed how we experience transport in pretty much all cities around the world. Continuous innovation in the field is now reflected in our cityscapes, urban engagements and new brand activations. Here’s how culture and brands are engaging with matters of transport within city environments.

Identity In Transit

Swelling populations, busier streets and conflicting urban influences: cities are where the self can easily get lost in an endless sea of people. Particularly during transit, it’s hard to cling to individual identity. How are brands helping consumers assert their sense of self when on the road? How can identity remain present while moving through the urban mass?

The Path Of Least Resistance

It can be difficult to move around a city or get from one place to the next with increasing levels of congestion and bad connectivity (to name just two mobility issues!). How are brands and social initiatives encouraging frictionless mobility and making it easier for consumers to get from A to B?

Disrupting The Everyday

Swallowed up in the faceless crowd, it’s easy to tune out to surroundings – especially when making the same journey hundreds of times. How can brands break the monotony of mundane commutes? How can people experience their cities with fresh eyes through transformative activations?

Energising Cities

With limited green space and little access to nature, cities are often a place of stationary pleasure. Urban planning restrictions and hectic lifestyles mean it’s particularly difficult for city dwellers to find the time and space to be active, to reconnect, or consistently engage with sustainable behaviours.

Four Key Future Mobility Trends

From driverless cars to flying passengers, we take a ride into the future of urban mobility

Everything from intelligent traffic systems to levitating capsules are being considered as mobility solutions for our ever-growing cities. As with many things, however, it can often feel like we’re getting carried away with hyper-futuristic concepts, while the simpler solutions that cities actually need are ignored. With so many pie-in-the-sky ideas (literally) flying around, what are the urban mobility trends worth tracking?

1. Multimodal Journeys

The Institute For Mobility Research suggests that future-ready cities are the ones embracing multimodality. Simply, by offering various means of getting from A to B, cities are able to flex and open to the needs of its ‘users’, without relying on fixed services. On-demand vehicles, new forms of public or private transport, walking, cycling and a whole range of dockless contraptions allow people to take control of their journey, while decreasing congestion and pollution at the same time. This shift towards multimodality moves cities away from centralised power and opens up new ways of living, characterised by flexibility, spontaneity and diversity. Brands and businesses that rely on fixed communications should explore a similar mix-and-match approach to urban life.

2. Get There Faster, Together

With global investments in ride-sharing companies increasing from $5.3 billion in 2014 to $11.3 billion in 2015, it’s clear that a shared approach is quickly solidifying its place in the mobility food chain. Transport subscription services and thousands of ‘unlock-and-go’ apps are now having a significant impact on both public transport usage and vehicle ownership. As we move towards these experiential ways of consuming transport, new opportunities arise for brands to investigate urban exploration and shared mobility occasions, as well as temporary or subscription based ownership (or, indeed, ownership at all).

3. Innovative Rides

Despite still being parked behind technical and regulatory barriers, we’re all aware of the hype surrounding autonomous vehicles and flying taxis – such as Google’s self-driving car and the Rolls-Royce electrical vertical take-off and land (EVTOL) vehicle. Even though they’re still not ready for the ‘road’, these technologies are likely to bring about positive change on a global scale. They promise to answer road-safety concerns; lower transportation costs; run on sustainable power; and open up widespread and inclusive access to mobility. What’s also interesting is that autonomous vehicles will offer passengers the luxury of free time, instigating a whole new category of leisure for brands to engage with.

4. Smart and seamless

Of course, constant connectivity and the Internet Of Things are steadily making their way into urban mobility structures: smart traffic lights and road sensors are already commonplace. As routes become increasingly networked, real-time data can optimise and augment our city experience, creating entirely new ways of interacting with urban environments. But with greater access to products and services that facilitate this seamless mobility, the city itself needs to become similarly adaptive. Urban planners should leave room for people to construct and reconstruct their own environments.

Migration And Movement

Exploring the visual language of urban migration and mobility in cities, as represented through brands and culture…

Mass migration and increased urban mobility are changing the face of the planet – and, in return, the faces that make up our cities. While this is nothing new, it is certainly speeding up. And, as society finally starts to demand accurate, diverse representations of city life, how is the mobility of humans affecting branding? We explore recent manifestations of migration and urban movement, as told by culture and brands.

Roots Of The City

Migration has laid the foundations of cities across the globe for centuries; brands are now celebrating the history of movement and shaping of urban melting pots.

Mapping Diversity

Cities are shaped by diverse neighbourhoods. Brands are exploring and mapping these social landscapes by moving between urban areas, often championing their difference.

International Networks

Brands are exploring freedom of movement between urban hubs, assessing the city’s place within the wider global narrative of mass migration.

Tales Of Social Healing

Attempting to remedy the effects of polarisation, many brands are celebrating cultural mobility and migration within cities – and beyond.

City Tracks

As data begins to track our every step, how is it driving mobility?

Data (big or small) is having a profound effect on how we navigate cities, as well as how we experience urban relationships – both IRL and online. But it’s also responsible for wider changes: using our tracked movements to address social challenges; improve overall urban life; and alter the very shape and size of cities around the world. Data-driven mobility has only just set off, here’s what’s currently on the circuit.

Intuitive Traffic

Advances in mobility data find a natural fit with transport issues – in particular, city traffic. For example, the local government in Louisville, Kentucky is using sensors and cloud technology to allow traffic lights to adjust in real time, improving responsive mobility around the city. Similarly, in 2017, Transport For London conducted a four week pilot, analysing anonymous data from customer’s wifi devices across central London. Tracking 42 million journeys helped them understand what people were doing at certain pain points – passing through stations, changing trains, or entering and exiting a station. They plan to use this data to install tailored improvements across the network, streamlining the commutes of millions.

Data is having a profound effect on how we move around cities,

as well as how we navigate urban relationships

Streamlined Safety

Transport For London is also using data to address issues of public safety. Their interactive collision map plays a key role in the Mayor’s ‘vision zero’, which aims to eradicate deaths on London’s roads by 2041. Smart policing tools also aim to harness data to improve public safety. For example, ShotSpotter is allowing police across 90 US cities to mobilise quicker and more accurately in response to gun crime. It uses machine-learning algorithms to identify gunshots from sound recorded by sensors on buildings and triangulate their exact location, which is then sent to police smartphones.

Personalised Progress

On a more personal level, apps such as CityMapper and Google maps (whose familiar interfaces guide us through an ever-growing list of international cities) have become increasingly responsive to real time choices and contexts of city life. Similarly, fitness trackers such as Strava and the Nike running app (which monitor distance, pace, time and calories in relation to personal goals) are connecting millions of urban athletes, creating a digital community based in the joy of movement. These apps, and many others like them, are using data to streamline the city experience for personal gain. As urban populations grow and technical innovation ramps-up, the potential of individual gain within smart cities has only just begun.

Consumer movement data is revolutionising brands’ abilities

to understand their presence and power within a city

Branded Commutes

Consumer movement data is also revolutionising brands’ abilities to understand their presence and power within a city. For example, by measuring the success of campaigns against IRL outcomes from exposure to advertising, whether that be static or mobile. Herradura Tequila worked alongside Foursquare to geomatch urban nightlife spots with location data from mobile phones, targeting individuals who had recently been near a location. Data also helps brands understand how their customers are moving through a city; tracking their routines and assessing how to become a relevant part of those rituals. For example, in Istanbul, Unilever has used temperature sensors on billboards to dynamically switch between soup or ice cream adverts, allowing them to react intuitively to the real life context of their consumers.

The rise and potential of data-driven mobility is clearly exciting for consumers and brands alike. As technology continues to evolve and react to urban needs, a symbiotic relationship between place and populous is beginning to form, transforming our city sprawls into high-tech, intelligent eco-systems.