Theme World Telecom Day 2013: ICT’s and Improving Road Safety

Each day has its own Significance; many such are celebrated as ‘Women’s Day’ ‘Doctor’s Day’ and many more. On an optimistic note, the basic intention behind all this is to thank someone special, is to appreciate those who, in some or the other way, bring some positive change in your life. And this encourages me to bring it to notice the significance of ‘17th of May’ which since 1969, is celebrated as ‘World Telecommunication Day’ through out the globe.

Belonging from the ‘Stay Connected’ generation, we see that ‘Telecommunications’ rules every aspect of our lives, be it personal or professional. The purpose is to raise awareness of the likelihood that the use of the communication technologies brings to societies and economies in general and to our biggest concern these days, “Traffic” in particular.

The Theme 2013: ICTs and improving road safety

Road traffic safety is a global concern not only for public health and injury prevention but also to improve efficiencies in traffic management.

A lot is being done in the area of Intelligent Transport Systems, ensuring driver safety that utilizes a combination of computers, communications, positioning and automation technologies. It also includes in-car radars for collision avoidance, developing standardsfor safe user interfaces and communication systems in vehicles as well as optimizing driving performance by eliminating unsafe technology-related distractions while driving.

Mobile-to-Machine or Machine-to-Mobile (M2M) communication, an emerging area in the field of Telecom Technologies using a Sim Card, would make those things possible and affordable, which are currently not feasible to be delivered, in a vast country like India. M2M could bring about radical change in Agriculture, Healthcare, Auto Industry, rather practically all areas of out day to day life. Road Traffic being the Theme of this year’s World Telecommunications Day Celebration, the focus would be more on innovative solutions for traffic congestion, accidents and emergency services, the most critical areas faced by us daily.

Current State of M2M in Automobile

In this age of M2M evolution, the automotive sector represents one of the greatest opportunities. Technologically and economically advanced counties like China, USA, Japan and Germany, have already adopted this advanced technology and India on its way to be number 5th in the Automobile sector. Leading automotive companies such as BMW, Ford, Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Cadillac, Jaguar and many such more are extensively working on developing M2M in automobiles. The last two decades witnessed a radical transformation of the automotive industry as it is increasingly becoming digitized with computer-based control systems heading this change.

Telematics, the integrated use of telecommunications and informatics include, live traffic updates, smart routing and tracking or rapid roadside assistance in case of accidents or breakdown, automatic toll transactions, parking management, onboard entertainment, usage-based insurance and lots of other services. The working is very simple here. They transform existing automobile products into ‘services’ simply by connecting them to Internet.

In Asia, traditionally the market is driven by navigation and its associated services. The M2M market in India has now started evolving. The average age of Car buyers is decreasing to 25/26, India becoming more and more tech-savvy, a 3G and 4G-ready India is one of the fastest growing and second largest telecom markets in the world.

Telecom companies in India have realized importance of M2M market in the automotive sector.

Ashok Leyland, for e.g., has already come up with Fleet Management System for its trucks and logistics.

Bosch is building an application on its platform to predict accidents in cities.

HCL is making an application that will analyze daily driving habits to be shared with the Insurance firm or doctor

Google, through Toyota Prius, is modifying an experimental driverless car which drives itself using video cameras, radar sensors, a laser rangefinder, detailed maps and car-to-car communication.

BMW has developed a key that functions as a credit card with the help of which, consumers can get one bill at the end of the month for every car-related cost: their parking, their insurance, their lease, their roads, even full repairs coverage

Engineers have also developed a new robotic ‘traffic cop’ and ‘intersection controller’ to help automated driverless cars via M2M communication in future to cruise through intersections faster and safely. The proposed controller will allow vehicles to keep moving and reduce the delay between each vehicle compared to traditional intersection control.

Some other innovations in this field are:

Navigation Sense enabling a lane change automatically; use gesture to control car, get auto updates on the move, Book hotels, tickets using apps on connected devices, using Auto alert, automatically connect to ambulance services or police in case of crash, Car to Car Communication Talk to other vehicles and traffic systems to avoid Collisions, Networked Connect to internet Wi-Fi, get personalized offers from shops in the vicinity, Play music or videos from a hard drive at home Parking, Get information on parking slots and park automatically and so on.

Telecom companies in India have realized importance of M2M market in the automotive sector.

The Market is now dominated by security and tracking applications, particularly in markets where car theft and frequent accidents are common.

The best example of how this technology is working is that of a 100 per cent M2M focused largest independent wholesale GSM network service provider from Texas. It is working with 350+ application service providers today to deliver fast, reliable, business class service for applications from vehicle location. These apps are used for utility metering, payment processing, landfill monitoring, asset management, offender tracking and more.

It is also a breakthrough provider of remote asset management to cargo transportation companies. This service gives railroads the opportunity to see exactly what is happening to any locomotive equipped with a special transceiver. All information is delivered via the Internet. By logging into a password-protected site, dispatchers and other management personnel can tell, depending on the particular sensors installed, where a locomotive is; whether it is shut down, moving or idling; how much fuel it has on board, coolant and ambient temperature.

While this service is still in the early stages, its products and the market opportunity reveal a solution that promises to have a major impact on how success is measured in the railroad freight industry.

In spite of having tremendous opportunities, the Telematics, face a lot of challenges that constrain faster implementation. China, world’s largest Automobile manufacturing country hasn’t adopted telematics as it could have, as a result of the concerns around making detailed mapping data available as there will be risk exposure and national security issues

‘Creating Awareness’ is the need of the hour in case of India. Last couple of years have witnessed plenty of accidents on the Mumbai-Pune Express Highway, raising a cry of typical accident-prone zones, the emergency assistance device such as eCall in Europe will hence be the dominant type of services on the go. Unfortunately however, most of the high-end consumers are not aware of the available technology or don’t know full utilization of it. Thus, this is one of the greatest challenges, which need to be overcome, to have full-fledged utilization of immense market opportunities.

There is always another side to the coin, and how would the Telecommunication can be an exception? In case of Auto field, driver distraction which includes “text messaging” and interfacing with in-vehicle navigation or communication systems while driving, are among the leading contributors to road traffic. Extremes are always dangerous, if today’s customers can balance the acts, the latest innovations in technology certainly reduce the trauma, take faster steps toward what today’s generation is running after, ‘Greater results with lesser efforts’.

Dr. Milind Pande

Project Director, MIT Pune