Last week I attended MOVE 2020 at London's ExCel centre, which was pitched as "the world's most important mobility event, where disruptive technology and innovation drive much-needed change". It was billed in the trade media beforehand as being focused on "disruptive mobility firms" and whilst there certainly were a large number of start-ups at the event, my overriding sense from my second year of attendance was how many more scale-ups and established businesses had a significant presence at this year's event. That definitely led me to thinking that, in just the last year, the mobility sector in the UK has done a lot of growing up. 

For a start, the event was at least double the size of the event last year, by just about every metric you can think of - exhibitors, attendees, number of stages, stand-size, length of queue for PayPal's free coffee stand - you name it! 

But within the greatly expanded cohort of attendees was a greatly increased number of established businesses, looking to assert their mobility and smart city credentials. These included tier one manufacturers like Ford, Nissan and Toyota all being represented at the event, and a significant presence throughout the event by BP. In particular, BP stood out for the large stand it had at the event, showing off the fruits of its investment in Charge Master and Advanced Mobility.  

In addition, there were stands and speakers from a number of businesses which have seen significant growth in the past year since the last MOVE event. These include Oxbotica, which announced a Series B funding round since last years' event, What3Words, who also saw a venture round since last year, and Immense, which announced new partnerships at this year's event, with a much increased presence on last year. 

Also, you might say that "on-site tech" alone is an indicator of increased investment in an event, and therefore investment in a sector. By that measure, the sheer number of cars, buses and on-stand hardware in comparison to a great prevalence of, shall we say "solo mobility solutions" like scooters and bikes at last year, shows the growth that MOVE and it's exhibitors have seen for 2020. 

But what does all this increased investment and interest in the sector mean, and what are some of the trends coming out of this years' event for exhibitors and attendees alike? Here's three things that I saw:

  • Data may be the new oil, and just like oil it needs some refining - Exhibitors like Otonomo demonstrated that there are nearly endless applications for data harvested from cars - insurance, improvements to safety, smart cities, fleet management, improved parking options, the list goes on... But there is a growing need to manage, understand and tag this data, at scale. Companies like iMerit offer companies with large data pools the ability to label, annotate and make sense of the data for machine learning with human "coders".
  • Car-sharing is brutally competitive - There are a LOT of car sharing options out there from Zipcar to Turo, Lfyt to BlaBlaCar, and everything in between. This market will need to see expansion in users, but also consolidation in providers for it to fully realise the potential it offers car owners, commuters and city planners alike. 
  • There may be more mobility options than we can manage - The range of bike, scooter and "personal mobility" options displayed at MOVE from companies like Blue Zoom, Bird, Greenmo, and Exomotion show huge innovation in options being offered to the consumer. But any company in this sector faces challenges around the regulatory environment, town planning, consumer awareness and adoption, pricing and prevalence to make these solutions work. 

Whatever the future holds for the sector, it's undeniable that MOVE 2020 represents the year that mobility demonstrated that it is, in the immortal words of Bobby Gillespie, "moving on up, now". What happens in the next year will probably depend on whether the companies there can make more believers out of regulators, town planners, venture capitalists and, importantly, consumers, in 2020.