Regulatory moves alone cannot promote telematics in Europe

Article contributed to TN by Stephen Longden from SBD.

Whilst regulators can provide a framework for collaboration between different technology suppliers, it is industry rather than regulators that will do the necessary work. The European Commission claims that relatively small investments will be needed from industry initially, and economic stimulus packages will be available to kick start projects.

The European eCall program has stalled, prompting Commissioner Viviane Reding to threaten legislation to force compliance by member states. eCall is part of the broader Europe-wide ITS (Intelligent Transport Systems) initiative, an ambitious programme for managing traffic and increasing the safety of road users across the continent. This in turn is part of the EC’s wider aim to bring the European Union into line with other parts of the world in terms of economic success, or risk being marginalised in the future.

Compared with the U.S. and China, Europe is made up of a multiplicity of states with different languages and regulations. To assist the growing number of cross border travellers and facilitate business, the existing diverse road messaging signs and real time travel information systems need to be replaced by a single one, and the same on-board telematics systems (including mobile devices) should work seamlessly across borders.

Regulation has not always been welcomed by the wireless industry, and is viewed by some as stifling competition and innovation. The GSM Association (GSMA) nonetheless recently signed an MoU with the Commission in support of eCall, confident that installing eCall-capable equipment in vehicles will open the door to introducing features that will afford new revenues for the operators. Electronic communication and navigation systems are becoming widespread in cars; hence once eCall is enabled in cars, it will be straightforward to add equipment to support future applications such as electronic toll collection and pay as you drive road charging.

Tracking the movements of motorists however has raised privacy concerns. Peter Hustinx, European Data Protection Supervisor, recently highlighted a potential clash between the need for information transparency and individual privacy as a result of the use of location technologies for the ITS. The implementation of a programme similar to eCall in Brazil (Stolen Vehicle Tracking) has highlighted a similar conflict of interest: whilst there was initial resistance from privacy groups, the endemic car theft problem in the country enabled the government to pass legislation which would enable stolen cars to be located.

The role of the EC in advancing M2M projects is to provide a legal and collaborative framework, but the rest is up to a wide range of participants – technology suppliers and also government and local authorities and jurisdictions and consumer groups. While progress is being made, regulatory moves alone will not shape the future of M2M projects across Europe and other issues need to be addressed in parallel. These include social issues (e.g., privacy, public mistrust) and business issues (e.g., new forms of collaboration, funding, making the business case) as well as technical issues such as availability of bandwidth, coverage and quality.

Courtesy: Telecom Magazine.

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