The “sharing economy” is now moving into the “sharing services economy.”
This morning, Verizon Enterprise Solutions announced its “Auto Share” service, enabling any car company to become a Zipcar. A Verizon exec confirmed to VentureBeat that the company’s intention is to create a platform to share virtually anything.
Auto Share, which is being shown this week at the ITS World Congress in Detroit, allows a smartphone app to scan a QR code on a car’s windshield and capture the vehicle’s unique ID number. Once validated, the smartphone user remotely receives the capability to unlock and start the compatible vehicle. A key fob for operating the vehicle will be stored inside. Auto Share will be available by the end of this year, and promotional offers and expansion into ride-sharing are in Verizon’s plans.
But there’s no obvious reason why such a service couldn’t also be applied to, say, renting lawnmowers, rug cleaners, commercial storage, a motel room, and perhaps even tablets and smartphones — all without any human attendants.
“That’s precisely our intention,” Verizon Associate Director of Connected Solutions Paul Bedard told VentureBeat.
“This is just our entrée toward developing a platform for a sharing economy,” he said, where users can just walk up to any kind of shared resource and access it through Verizon.
Direct taxi service Uber recently opened up its API, raising the possibility that it could become a major platform for peer-to-peer services, but it isn’t focused on unlocking the resource. Zipcar and other car rentals have their unlocking solution, but they’ve yet to emerge as significant platforms.
Verizon, on the other hand, is not vested in any of those industries — its announcement points out that it is “service-provider agnostic” — so it can provide booking and unlocking capabilities just as it provides calling and data services.
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Its added values include secure storage in the company’s Enterprise Cloud, access to its huge and growing 4G LTE network, and integration with Delphi Connect devices for monitoring and locating cars. Companies can customize their car-sharing application for their brand. Pricing has not yet been announced.
If the service catches hold, one can readily see other telco giants — and, of course, Google — offering this as yet another cloud service for any industry that has resources to rent.
In such a new phase of the collaborative economy, time-sharing companies would then compete on the basis of their deals, the quality of their peered inventory, and various value-adds — not on the basis of their sharing technology.
Because, at that point, the sharing companies would find it easier and cheaper to just rent their sharing capabilities from the phone company.
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