With one interoperability event successfully conducted in 2011 and two already planned for 2012 the ITS sector is picking up on a deployment enabler that has so far been under utilised: interoperability testing. This is happening because suppliers need to ensure that their products communicate correctly with each other and interoperability testing events represent an essential step towards launching products on the market and towards commercial success.

Over the past few years interoperability events have become a well-known practice within several high-tech sectors such as telecommunication as they provide an exceptional opportunity to test a product and pledge its interoperability before placing it on the market. Even if interoperability events do not certify products and services they allow engineers to spot problems in the product development process early enough to limit financial consequences. Such events ideally take place early on in the progress of the implementation of a standard and have proven to create great excitement among participant operators equipment manufacturers standardisation bodies and interest groups.

Indeed interoperability events have a great deal of benefits for companies and standardisation organisations; they offer instant feedback on possible errors in a product and on ambiguity of a standard (often due to different interpretations of the same standard) allowing early corrections which if implemented without testing would cost extra time and money. The advantages of ensuring interoperability are undeniable and therefore the collaboration between participants prevails over the risk of sharing products and services among competing companies. The added value of the approach is demonstrated in the increasing numbers of participants at these events; each participant company can test its own product and technology against competitors and find errors that would have been impossible to find otherwise.

ITS Interoperability testing events are a recent success story. In November last year ERTICO – ITS Europe and ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) joined forces to launch the first ever ITS (Intelligent Transport Systems) interoperability event. The week was very important for ERTICO and it was closely followed via a live blog by Sébastien Mure which allowed the ITS community to participate virtually in the event.

This first 5-day interoperability event focused on cooperative mobility services and gathered over 50 people from 14 organisations (technology  providers research institutes car manufacturers and international organisations) who brought their ITS units and tested their interoperability. The early results of the event were shared and discussed at a workshop hosted by ERTICO Partner TNO Mobility in Helmond (the Netherlands) and supported by the European projects DRIVE C2X and eCoMove whose implementations were tested and successfully proved  to be interoperable.

The high attendance and  impressive results obtained (90% of the 750 executed tests confirmed interoperability) prove the maturity of the implementation of cooperative ITS devices and highlight the great interest of the ITS community in testing as well as the necessity for companies and institutions to certify the interoperability of products and services and their compliance with standards.

Additionally this first experience paved the way to future ITS interoperability testing events. The next milestone is the eCall Interoperability event the first of its kind hosted by ERTICO Partner innovITS ADVANCE in the UK (21-25 May) and supported by the eCall deployment project HeERO led by ERTICO.

HeERO is the pilot project co-funded by the European Commission under the ICT Policy Support Programme that addresses the pan-European in-vehicle emergency call service (eCall) based on the common European emergency number 112.

According to Andy Rooke HeERO project coordinator “the implementation of the eCall service at European level should take into account two major conditions: interoperability and cross border continuity and harmonisation”. Interoperability means that any vehicle from any European country can travel across Europe and use the eCall service in case of incidents and count on assistance. In order to make this possible interoperability needs to be accomplished not only from a technical point of view but it needs to cover all of the operational aspects. On the other hand the eCall service can work only if developed in a harmonised way in all European countries. The HeERO project will use the European standards as defined by ETSI and CEN – European Committee for Standardisation and with this project the European Commission is aiming to facilitate the deployment of a pan-European service by 2015.

The first eCall interoperability event planned in May is part of this harmonisation process. The organisers estimate that between 7 and 10 different companies will be represented with a total of 30 to 40 participants. The focus of this event will be on testing the end-to-end eCall chain (from In-Vehicle System – IVS – to Public Safety Answering Point – PSAP) following a defined series of test scenarios. For each test session couples composed of one IVS test device and one PSAP test device will be formed. The duos will then test the transmission of the eCall under different scenarios and verify that all information is properly transmitted and that the protocols are respected. The test descriptions and specifications have been written by a group of selected experts in collaboration with the participants in the tests. The tests will be performed via a mobile network provided and controlled by innovITS ADVANCE.

Additionally a workshop titled “From interoperability testing to certification” will be held during the testing operations where the first results will be shown. The workshop is open to a wide audience and attendees will have the opportunity to learn more about interoperability testing and eCall and to visit the testing area and meet the participants.

In terms of benefits for the standardisation process the event is expected to provide feedback to ETSI on the maturity of the standard to spot potential errors as well as providing some feedback on the testing procedures. For suppliers and manufacturers a feedback on the interoperability of their technologies against other suppliers will be given and according to the final results they can consider what can be done to improve them.

In the same way François Fischer Project Manager at ERTICO who is leading the organisation of the eCall interoperability event” acknowledged that these events are also pivotal for projects that have the unique opportunity of testing their products and technologies before they are actually implemented; “”the positive results obtained with the first interoperability event on cooperative mobility services convinced us that projects can greatly benefit from such events””.

A second interoperability testing event on cooperative mobility services is already planned to take place in June 2012 in Versailles (France).

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Original Publication Date: Fri” 06 Apr 2012