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Move over, Segway: The rideables are coming

So-called electric ride-ons are commuting devices and sports equipment rolled into one. DW looks at newcomer Jyro, which has built prototypes of several new models.

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is over, but smart mobility technology has just begun to take off. 16 years after the introduction of the Segway, so-called ride-ons, or "rideables," are becoming increasingly popular, useful and affordable thanks to advancements in battery technology and electric motors.

One of the budding brands building smart scooters, skateboards and unicycles is Jyro, a Dublin-based subsidiary of kids' scooter company Yvolution. Started in 2014, Jyro has half a dozen prototypes ranging from a single-wheel, self-balancing ride-on with a top speed of 20 km/h (12 mph) to a self-balancing board with a range of 17 kilometers. DW spoke with Jyro spokesman Brandon Yamawaki about the allure of rideables and the evolving market.

DW: For those who have never heard the word ride-on - how would you describe it?

Brandon Yamawaki: Just like it sounds, ride-ons are small electric vehicles you ride on - anything from a skateboard to a scooter. Our prototypes have gyroscope accelerometers in their GPS, are app-controlled and intuitive to use. Smart ride-ons take skateboarding and scootering to a whole new level.

Brandon Yamawaki

Jyro's Brandon Yamawaki says his company's products are completely safe

How long has the smart ride-on trend been around, and when did it start accelerating?

We started seeing it a few decades ago when the hoverboard, a fictional levitating board used for personal transportation, was popularized by the "Back to the Future" films. For example, our portfolio includes an electronically stabilized skateboard and the "Roam," our own version of the hoverboard. We also have an electronically stabilized skateboard, the Jyro Roll, on which you can ride for 15 to 20 kilometers on a two-hour charge. And our smart scooter, the Jyro Flow, which comes without a throttle, is equipped with push-assist technology. If you push it at 5 kilometers an hour, it keeps you moving at that speed. But you can also go 20 kilometers an hour. All our other ride-ons are hands-free - the software helps with the balance.

What's the appeal of ride-ons, and which demographic are you catering to?

My 60-year-old father has never been on a skateboard, a surfboard or a snowboard, but I was able to teach him to ride on the Jyro Roll in two minutes. Our neighbor told my father: "You must be a really good surfer." The software makes riding very easy. Rideables aren't just addictive, they help you lead a more active lifestyle. In terms of demographics, we are addressing everyone from their teens to their 70s. We've had young girls and boys at our booth as well as people in their 60s and 70s that have never used a board in their life. They were able to take off just like their grandchildren, thus getting the snowboarding or skateboarding feeling they've never had before.

What makes smart ride-ons smart?

In our case, all of the ride-ons come with a smartphone app, which allows users to customize and shape the way they ride, from the tilt factor to the speed. When using one for the first time, the difficulty level is set to beginner by default. It also comes with an anti-theft device: the accelerometer informs our customers via push notifications whether their board is moving.

Did you face any regulatory issues as a company?

We use lithium-ion batteries, which are currently not allowed to be shipped as cargo on passenger planes. But the battery management system on all our products is very safe - the power is cut as soon as the battery is fully charged. So there's no overheating or chance of an explosion.

How important is it to gain insights from customer data, and will you be selling that data to third-party companies?

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Collecting data from our riders is very important. We encourage them to interact through the app. We also try to listen to our riders to deliver what they need and what they feel is missing. Smart ride-ons have the advantage of receiving updates through the app as our customers request them. That way, we don't have to create a new product.

We don't want to sell the data to third parties, but we're open to partnering with them, for example if a developer were to create an app, we could integrate it with ours. It's going to help build the community.

How soon will your products become available, and which country do you anticipate to be your biggest market?

Now that we've launched, we will be going into manufacturing in about four months and are looking to ship around September. All of our manufacturing is done in Shenzhen, China. The United States and Europe, with millions tuned into action sports and snowboarding, are going to be huge markets for us. But rideables are truly a global opportunity.

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