Bike-rental startup Mobike announced yesterday the launch of its artificial intelligence (AI) data monitoring platform dubbed “Magic Cube”, in its renewed efforts to fight against its rivals, our sister site TechNode Chinese is reporting.

This is the first time that AI has found its application in the bike-rental sector.

“Magic Cube” is able to make accurate forecasts of supply and demand for its bike-rentals, and provide guidance to bike dispatching, scheduling and operation, said Yin Dafei, chief scientist at Mobike’s big data department. The AI platform is also assisting in Mobike’s deployment of geo-fencing to address the illegal parking issue plaguing the bike-rental firm.

At the moment, Mobike and its competitor ofo are fighting a pitched battle in the bike-rental sector, taking their clash to bike quantity and technology fronts. Mobike has taken the lead to introduce its IoT platform in collaboration with China Mobile and Ericsson, also the first of its kind in the world’s bike-rental sector.

Powered by NB-IoT, Mobike can provide users with accurate positioning and convenient bike unlocking solutions. In contrast, its rival ofo, which announced a partnership with China Telecom and Huawei in late March, is playing catch-up as they originally did not plan to leverage IoT technology on their bikes. In addition, ofo recently announced a strategic partnership with China’s GPS BeiDou Navigation for smart locks, trying to overcome its defects in bike positioning.

Locked in a fierce race, Mobike and its rival are also currying favor with government-backed institutions, as they look for ways to win government support and cope with regulation issues.

Mobike, apart from the launch of the AI platform, announced yesterday the creation of a city travel research institute with 11 government-backed research institutions and NGOs, to explore sustainable city travel solutions and promote the construction of smart, low-carbon and health cities.

Mobike also published the Bike-Sharing and Urban Development White Paper (in Chinese) yesterday, pointing out bike-rentals have become the fourth important way Chinese people travel, after cars, buses, and subways. Since the emergence of bike-rentals, there has been a 55% fall of car trips (private cars, taxies, and cars providing online ride-hailing services included) and a 53% reduction of the use of “black” motorcycles (黑摩的 in Chinese) – private motorcycles illegally carrying passengers for money, according to the white paper.