Making smart choices for a future connected life

Does EU legislation relating to 112-based eCall have the potential to support integration of mobile devices into the built environment, i.e. smart cities?

Be smart - think outside the black box

Does EU legislation relating to 112-based eCall have the potential to support integration of mobile devices into the built environment, i.e. smart cities?  In 2018 IMR Technologies’ Sentinel In-Vehicle-System received certification of compliance with the EU ruling that all new cars and light commercial vehicle models sold in the EU from 31 March 2018 be fitted with 112-based eCall (Pan-European cellular emergency system for motor vehicles) technology that is free to use.  

This accolade is good news not only for occupants of vehicles fitted with the mobile device but also for IMR Technologies, which invested millions of dollars and many years in development of the Sentinel. The driver or passengers of a vehicle fitted with IMR Sentinel can activate a 112 eCall or, if they are unable, the compliant device will make the eCall when vehicle sensors register a collision, for example when the airbags deploy. The device will share the vehicle’s precise geo-location, its make and model details and its circumstances.

What if one was to think outside the box of the potential of the black box device beyond its eCall safety function?  Consider the big picture, particularly the commitment to and rise of smart cities. Here in Britain, these include Coventry, Greenwich, Manchester and Milton Keynes.  Organisations are investing significant amounts of resource – time, money, intellectual property – in their development programs but do they tend to be specific in terms of function?

There are technologies for smart motorways, smart traffic lights, camera networks to monitor traffic, road sensors, systems for driverless vehicles, smart heating and intelligent fire extinguishing sprinklers etc, but do the designers collaborate and make systems that will speak to others or do they only focus on their own briefs?    

Where there is an existing technology which has the capability to perform multiple functions, e.g. the IMR Sentinel In-vehicle-System that serves the EU eCall requirements, surely it would be commercially sensible to consider integrating it into the smart city network?  Having raised that, in fairness to the minds and strategists behind smart cities, the legal requirement for compliant, certificated eCall technology and, indeed, 112-based eCall, were not factors until relatively recently.

Vehicle OEMs, however, have been aware for some years that a deadline was looming for eCall but many were mindful of costs.  Unless connected cars were to be a legal requirement, manufacturers might seek to offer connectivity as an option rather than a standard fit.  Meanwhile, the smart city teams will demand that vehicles connect to whatever service, e.g. GSM and thence to the Internet of Things (IoT) for traffic management, pedestrian safety and so on.

Maybe we should consider the notion that the EU legislation for eCall means the legal requirement for development of a device that allows for universal fitment to all new models of car and light commercial vehicle might also be interpreted as a legal requirement for connected cars, just connected in a different way.  Therefore, it may be possible to argue that an unintended consequence of the EU 112-based eCall legislation is a population of vehicles able to connect to their smart urban environments.  

“Picture the scene,” says Steven Warner, Commercial Manager of IMR Technologies (UK) Ltd.  “A car fitted with the IMR Sentinel In-Vehicle-System is involved in a collision. As demanded by eCall, the data package the Sentinel automatically shares with the emergency services could also be shared with the smart city’s smart traffic management system. The Smart City Transport Manager would be aware of the vehicle’s location and status, e.g. it has overturned.  Appropriate action could then be taken to allow for smooth traffic flow and minimal delay to journey times.  What is more, the Transport Manger could ensure that the way is clear for the emergency services to readily reach the vehicle and occupants to take whatever steps are required to care for their wellbeing.”  

The good news for OEMs is that they do not need to invest in developing an alternative technology to enable vehicles to talk to their surroundings as a proven, compliant, certified system, the IMR Sentinel, already exists. Developed by IMR Technologies of Perth, Western Australia, the IMR Sentinel In-Vehicle-System was subjected to a series of gruelling tests, including surviving a 75g impact and continuing to transmit data, before being ruled compliant with the EU standard EN16454. Compliance and certification means that the Sentinel is recognised and deemed appropriate for fitting to new vehicle models.  

The EU legislation is based on the recognition that providing the emergency services with relevant information, including a precise location, the instant a collision occurs, could slash the services’ response time by 50% in rural and 40% in urban settings. It is anticipated that this time-saving element arising from the eCall and its data will offer those involved and injured more chance of treatment with the Golden Hour – the first sixty minutes following an accident.