Ofo announces partnership with China’s GPS for smart locks

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Ofo has announced a strategic partnership with BeiDou Navigation, a Chinese government-backed sattelite positioning system, that will see ofo bikes equipped with Beidou-enabled smart locks, our sister site TechNode Chinese is reporting.

Under the agreement, ofo’s bikes furnished with the BeiDou-enabled smart lock will be first launched in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province. In addition, users will be notified of available and legal parking areas inside ofo’s app.

The new lock will help ofo users find a bike easily even in remote areas. Unlike its rival Mobike, whose bikes have GPS-enabled smart locks, ofo uses a low-tech combo lock with no positioning function, which has not only caused their staff great trouble in bike dispatching, but is inconvenient for users to the pinpoint the position of a bike: they cannot use one unless the bike is right before their eyes.

Ofo did not reveal whether it will install the “BeiDou smart lock” on its next-gen yellow bike fleet or just replace the old combo lock with the new one on its old-version bikes.

The government-backed BeiDou navigation satellite system (BDS), on par with the US’ GPS, Russia’s GLONASS and the EU’s Galileo, has been gaining traction since its launch at the end of 2011. The BDS system has a total of 23 satellites in operation, as of June 2016. And it was generating US$31.5 billion in revenue for companies in China, including China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation and AutoNavi.

The tie-up comes after the Shanghai government issued draft guidance (in Chinese) last month for the bike-rental sector, requiring each rental bike to have a satellite-based positioning function and is the latest in ofo’s efforts to comply with government regulations and remove roadblocks for its future development (in Chinese).

Ofo claims to have more than 2.5 million bikes in services in 47 cities across the world, brokering more than 10 million rides every day.