By Ian Bearder
On 29 January 2013 I arrived at the office a little bit early so I could check my emails and help with last-minute arrangements for the launch of our exciting new project called MOBiNET.
I was given an important task. I was to arrange a taxi to take me and my colleagues from the ERTICO office in Brussels to the Volvo office on the other side of the city.
We needed to be at the venue for 10:30 so we could setup and prepare everything before the guests all arrived at 11:00. “No problem” I thought as I walked off to find someone who could help me call a taxi in French.
My optimism was short lived.
Just minutes later I discovered that Brussels’ taxi drivers were on strike from 10am – the exact time we needed a lift! In fact it was the exact time that all the attendees from our 34 project partners would also need a taxi. This was bad news.
Most if not all of the guests were arriving from other parts of Europe so they would already be in Brussels and I had no way to contact them. Furthermore most of them would be unfamiliar with the local transport network and unaware that they could get to the venue on the number 83 tram or bus number 84. If only there was an easy way to notify them…
As it was there was very little we could do so we set-off early and hoped for the best. We arrived OK and depite the taxi strike and atrocious weather our guests eventually found the venue. A little-bit wet but otherwise in good spirits our project team had arrived from across Europe and Project Coordinator Paul Kompfner was ready for business. The kick-off meeting could begin.
As mentioned we were about to launch a new project called MOBiNET. But you’re probably wondering what MOBiNET is right? Well let me explain…
MOBiNET is a new ERTICO-led project which plans to develop and run an ‘Internet of mobility’.
This ‘Internet of mobility’ is quite difficult to explain but put simply it will be a platform that links transport services and end users.
By developing a set of common tools and standards (collectively known as MOBiNET) the idea is make to mobile transport services such as journey planning automated ticketing billing and vehicle tracking more accessible and more usable.
As a ‘cloud based’ system MOBiNET will make it much easier for software developers to create new online transport services (good for business) and make it much easier for people like you and me to use them – which is good for consumers.
Is it necessary?
I think the travel problems we experienced at the start of our day highlight exactly why it is. Modern intelligent transport systems and services (ITS) use mobile communications networks and information technology (Smartphones GPS trackers etc.) to make travel safer smarter and cleaner. However developing deploying and using these services is still problematic.
If a simple interface existed that could harness the power of online communications multi-modal travel planners online mapping and automated ticketing – our unexpected taxi strike wouldn’t have been a big deal. Our guests could have been quickly informed and easily rescheduled their travel arrangements.
Let’s take telematics as another example. The telematics industry provides vehicle monitoring and information services. These services have been developed by insurance companies who may now offer products based on the way that their customers drive.
The problem is however that many of these systems have each been developed independently using different specifications and different standards. This means that its frustratingly difficult (not to mention expensive) to integrate them with other similar services. From a user’s perspctive this means added complexity and confusion and it often means that additional software applications (apps) are required to run each service.
Think about it. How would you currently find these apps? How would you pay for them? And would any single app be able to complete all the travel planning monitoring and billing required?
These are some of the problems MOBiNET will try to address. By creating a standardised platform MOBiNET would increase the compatibility of transport services. This increased compatibility means less duplication less duplication means less confusion and less confusion naturally makes life easier. ‘Ease of access’ sits at the core of MOBiNET.
The real project buzzwords are well known to software developers: compatibility extensibility and usability.
Jacques Amselem CEO of Allianz Telematics and a member of the MOBiNET project team explained the problems with the current market: “The issue we have with telematics is that all the solutions we have seen so far are very vertical and very propriety and this is causing some issues in terms of business development and customer perception. That is why we believe that MOBiNET is the right way to go and we believe that it is the solution for the future development of telematics”
Marco Annoni – Innovation Area Manager at Telecom Italia said his company had joined the project to help define a common set of standards: “In our view the project is innovative because it is a common approach which is not just targeting common interests. In the past we have seen many vertical deployments based on local requirements. With MOBiNET we are aiming to find a solution which is more general more flexible and more re-usable. Once we have a common view at a European level it will become an enabler for many different stakeholders.”
Breaking New Ground
As a research project MOBiNET is an interesting entity. Not only is it truly trans-European with project partners from across the continent but it also aims to continue as a working organisation at the end of the project. This means there are both technical and administrative aspects that need to be considered and the consortium will have to set out a viable business case for MOBiNET.
Project Coordinator Paul Kompfner Head of SmartMobility at ERTICO is under no illusion that this will be easy:“Our ambition is to establish MOBiNET as THE connected mobility and transport service platform for all of Europe’s travellers and transport service suppliers; it seems a staggering challenge but we are confident we can achieve this since we have the right solution features and partners to do it.”
To help deliver a working and useable system MOBiNET has adopted a method of accelerated development known as ‘agile’. This means that a fully operational first-generation system will be released just 16 months after the project is launched. Tests will take place at eight pilot sites across Europe and the feedback and results gained will then provide input for the development of the system ahead of the next product release. Testing will be conducted with businesses from both inside and outside the project consortium and potential users of the platform are thus invited to work alongside the project team to gain an early experience of MOBiNET’s advantages. If you are interested in this unique opportunity I would be happy to hear from you.
Finally I am pleased to say that despite bad weather and taxi-chaos our kick-off meeting in Brussels was a great success and everyone at ERTICO would like to thank those who attended. As always though – the real value of MOBiNET will be crafted over the coming months and years as the project progresses.
I look forward to following this process and reporting news and updates as the MOBiNET project develops. If in three years time we have integrated services which can transport me in the most efficient way from place-to-place despite heavy rain and a taxi strike – MOBiNET will be one ‘big cloud’ I am happy to see.
The MOBiNET platform
• An online B2B directory of Europe-wide transport data and services
• A unified mobile accounting payment and clearing system giving users a single account valid throughout Europe and simplifying roaming among providers
• An open business environment enabling providers to integrate third-party services with their own products
• A secure environment for in-vehicle and portable devices offering users a dedicated app-store and service providers access to MOBiNET-compliant user devices
• A business-to-business e-marketplace for the automatic negotiation of service agreements
• A Service Development Kit to simplify the creation of innovative MOBiNET services for end- and business users
Link to original Article
Original Publication Date: Wed 24 Oct 2012