By Kelly Clark and Grace Pulliam
1. Tell me about yourself! What’s your background like?
My background is entirely academic and nonprofit. I majored in both chemistry and studio arts at University of California San Diego (UCSD) — my favorite classes were quantum mechanics and conceptual art — the catalyst to my art conservation career. After graduate school, I consulted and worked for organizations such as UNESCO and the J. Paul Getty Trust on cultural heritage conservation and preservation projects. My work took me all around the world: Eastern Europe, the Middle East, China, South America, Southeast Asia…Based on my travel destinations, my friends would sometimes joke that I must work for the CIA and art conservation was just a cover.
In 2015, while still at the Getty, I began looking into blockchain technology — specifically smart contracts — as a new way to preserve content producers’ Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). As you may already know, the process of verifying and tracking IPR and transactions/payments is unnecessarily complicated, complex, and typically clouded by legal grey areas; smart contracts would provide verifiable proofs of ownership and allow for transparent transactions on a decentralized, tamper-evident blockchain network. This pivoted my foundation for looking at how blockchain is going to create new business models and new ways for content creators to monetize their creations. One of the most exciting new business models enabled by blockchain is usage-based payments. Going further down the rabbit hole of blockchain, usage-based payments, and incentives led me to the exciting world of smart city initiatives.
My interest in blockchain really took off from there. In 2017, I left the Getty to start DREAM — the Distributed Registry for Entertainment, Art, and Media. MOBI came shortly afterwards, in 2018.
2. You co-founded MOBI — What was that like? How did it all begin?
MOBI grew from a series of conversations. My interests overlapped with Chris [Ballinger]’s — I was focused primarily on smart contracts and smart cities, and his area of expertise was in smart mobility. MOBI was the ultimate product of that.
It was very organic. In fact, two weeks before MOBI launched, we realized that the website being built needed some major reconstruction — we were on vacation at the time, and I ended up spending the whole time in the hotel room, rebuilding the entire site from scratch. This led to a lot of frustration and, since I’d never built a website before, ended up being a steep learning curve.
But it was worth it: when we finally shared MOBI with the world on May 2, 2018, we were met with a genuinely welcoming and enthusiastic community — and, luckily, our website turned out OK.
3. What does the New Economy of Movement look like to you?
Urban populations are on the rise and cities need solutions to manage infrastructure demands. At the same time, the way people like to move around is also evolving. They want a seamless and efficient experience of integrated modals of transit. Current mobility platforms rely on a centralized operator — private or city-run. In centralized platforms, integration costs are high for providers; at the same time, retaining users’ and providers’ data controllability and privacy, along with fair business practices, is not possible. For these reasons, centralized platforms are not scalable.
It’s no secret that our current mobility systems and infrastructures need some work. New and smart mobility is a work in progress and continually evolving — now, with the convergence of technologies such as IoT, blockchain, AI, and digital currencies, it’s finally becoming possible.
At the end of the day, what people really want is a single, all-inclusive mobility platform with data privacy that allows them to get from Point A to Point B. An open and decentralized mobility platform that connects users with providers, giving way to seamless multimodal applications (planning, ticketing, and payment) and making mobility easier, more efficient, more sustainable, and more democratic.
4. What drives MOBI forwards?
Two things: our members and our team. There’s a lot of support within the MOBI community. We don’t rely solely on our members’ volunteered time — we know they all have their own projects and deadlines outside of MOBI, so we’re very intentional about maintaining a dedicated in-house MOBI team to generate technical and operational support from within.
5. What kinds of challenges exist for MOBI (and the smart mobility sector in general)?
Creating standards is the real hurdle. Before the adoption of any revolutionary technology, industries need standards and specifications to build the foundational infrastructure enabling the creation of products and services that can communicate and work together. Building a minimum viable community is a challenge — as you might expect, it’s impossible to ensure that everyone is happy all the time. We’re trying to do something that is unique and extremely difficult.
MOBI’s community is uniquely positioned to overcome this since we work from a neutral and democratic platform. Plus, as a nonprofit, MOBI is technology and vendor agnostic, therefore everyone is on an equal playing field — that’s always been one of our greatest strengths.
6. What’s next for MOBI? What can you tell me about upcoming projects?
The next step for MOBI is implementation. We’ve been writing standards for a while now, but a standard is only paper with writing on it. It’s time to start setting our work into motion.
MOBI Standards need to be adopted and implemented to create new business models and enable real-world changes in the mobility landscape. This means building out mobiNET, our technology-agnostic core services network; implementing use cases on Citopia, our decentralized mobility platform; and putting our standards to the test in our new DRIVES Program.
Read about DRIVES, our new implementation program!