Scenario three: Hypr-local bike tours

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Hypr-local” bike tour – a bike that is preprogrammed with various tours people can take through a holiday community. The tours are based on data provided by the local community, hosts and renters, as well as the visitor’s own preferences

Hypr-local bikes are more than your usual cycle-sharing scheme. Adopted in 23 cities across the world, they are your gateway and your guide to visiting and experiencing true local life.

All Hypr-local bikes come with a touch screen and – safety first – a voice-activated assistant that will lead you through the best routes, pointing out hidden details and telling you the unknown stories, all gleaned from the expert, intimate knowledge of the local communities.

Each of the communities that live here would like to show you something special, something unique, something they love and think you’ll love.  But don’t take our word for it, take their word. The word on the street. The word of the street.

What is it?

In this scenario we explore how somebody might interact with a network of multiple local community platforms, with the traditional peer-to-peer accommodation platform operating as a broker of access and trust. In this scenario we imagine that a visitor to an area could join a local network by porting their profile data to one or many local platforms for the duration of their visit. During the visit the local platforms would act as a tour guides, providing their own perspective on the area in which they live and work.

We thought of how this guide could manifest itself, from an interactive map to a device held in the hand or attached to a typical object found in areas travelers and tourists may want to discover.

We settled for the idea of a cycling tour of the area they’re visiting, allowing them to explore the different aspects of their temporary community. The tours are created and curated to provide the guest with a different ‘slice’ of the community in a given area: the Turkish community, the artist’s community, the young parent’s community, etc.

How does it work? How is it related to portability?

This scenario shows a system that could complement – by way of data portability – the existing peer-to-peer accommodation sector. It could also support other parts of the tourism sector, like hotels.

We considered a number of data flows in this scenario. The central concept being that the community is the local repository of data. For Hypr-local to work best, people or businesses port data from local review platforms, whether they are specialised for restaurants, or more generalist. Preferences and profiles for hosts and guests are also ported – at the behest of the user – from peer-to-peer accommodation platforms to the Hypr-local community for the duration of their stay, allowing some personalisation of the guides based on accommodation location, and taste predictions based on history.

This service also benefits from open data, such as maps, addresses, transport data and other data key to the logistics of being and moving in an urban environment. It makes use of other data (some of which may be open), including community based notice boards and events listings.

Benefits and risks

Peer-to-peer accommodation platforms already act as brokers of trust. They vet the identity of both guests and hosts for reasons of safety and to manage payments. However, if the platform starts to suggest places/businesses to visit based on recommendations from hosts and the platform’s product design decisions, there is a risk of catering only to the kind of guests the platform and hosts would like to attract, which could ultimately distort local markets. What if instead platforms were to devolve knowledge of the local area to the local community, which operates a complementary community-based platform?

As a guest, I may appreciate that a P2P accommodation platform provides an aggregated and consistent search interface, and that it stores my history, host references, personal profile and preferences.

What if as a guest I could temporarily join local community platforms by porting my preferences and profile to them? In this way I could explore a community before I visit, and the people who live in a local area might give me recommendations based both on my profile and what they would like to promote for an authentic and community-enhancing experience.

Conversely, as a host I am motivated to use a peer-to-peer accommodation platform as a broker of trust and to advertise my availability, but I may want to associate myself primarily with a community platform and port information about myself to one or more traditional peer-to-peer platforms. By simultaneously participating in a hyper-local community platform, I hope to become more connected to the members of the communities I am part of, and discover the other communities with whom I share my neighbourhood.

We can also extend the idea of hosts to include local businesses, guides and others who are passionate about their local area. Together they form a network of intersecting and interacting communities on their own platform. They can port in details from other platforms such as a register of independent businesses, although ideally this would be available as open data.

This scenario comes with a number of benefits for a variety of actors in the ecosystem. For instance:

  • Communities self-describe and paint their own picture of how they experience their lives and see themselves
  • It frames a visit differently for prospective guests – people might feel like a guest in a geographical community, not just a hotel or rented room in someone else’s house
  • A hyper-local community is more likely to support small businesses and they have the local knowledge to verify a business’s local credentials
  • Both guests and hosts are more aware of the richness of their local area   
  • A record of the profiles of visitors will form a community guest book
  • This platform becomes a (geographical) community resource of its own and could be used by anyone who wants to explore a local area, not just platform guests
  • The platform can focus on what it does best – matching guests to hosts, adding new locations, and managing the transactions, while developing a relationship with a community via complementary platforms

We like to imagine this leads us to a future of better relationships between guests and hosts and better inter-community understanding.

There may of course be risks and unintended consequences to such a service. If the community platform can see and identify the visitor as a tourist they could become a target for fraud, theft, suspicion or backlash.

The scheme as we explored it also relies heavily on the time, effort and goodwill of local communities. Having communities self-declare could also make them targets for harassment. Conversely, communities could choose to boycott a platform, or make it difficult for visitors to an area to discover local amenities. And finally, insufficient funding or time for the community to build and support the platform might result in substandard – or even unsafe – guidance for visitors.

How far in the future could this be?

In theory the technology exists to do this now, although it would require some kind of standard to enable data portability from the accommodation and review platforms to this guiding service. It would also require support and funding for the community platforms for it to work well.