Yesterday, Ofo has announced a partnership deal (in Chinese) with China Telecom (中国电信) and Huawei. The partnership will see China Telecom providing wireless data access, Huawei providing NB-IoT chips (PDF), and Ofo providing the bikes. The announcement emphasized a big pain point for the company: their technology.

At this point, it’s fairly clear that Mobike and Ofo are not part of a “sharing economy”, rather they are an O2O solution to a notoriously difficult transportation problem. However, what isn’t so clear is whether they are technology companies.

O2O ride-hailing services like Uber and Didi must create and optimize their software and underlying algorithms to reduce friction and ensure that customers are satisfied through short wait times, easy payments, as well as a sense of trust between driver and passenger. Bike-rental, on the other hand, is much simpler. Mobike, through GPS and QR code-based authentication systems, at least has a way to keep track of their bikes and create a pool of data. Ofo, however, has an app which tells you the static combination for a 4-digit lock.

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John Artman

John Artman is the Editor in Chief for TechNode, the leading English information source for news and insight into China’s tech and startups, and co-host of the China Tech Talk podcast, a regular discussion...