If you spent any time in a major European city this summer, you were able to experience a whole new way of getting around. With the help of a new app called Free Now you could find within seconds the best and fastest way to reach your destination, using any combination of transportation, taking into account traffic conditions, train delays and even the weather.
On a sunny day in Berlin perhaps Free Now would have recommended taking the W-scooter to the S-Bahn, the S-Bahn to the city limit, and then a car share to your friend’s house in the country. On a rainy weekday in the late afternoon, you might have combined a taxi service with the S-Bahn on a route that avoids rush hour traffic.
The app is not only a convenience to users; it is also a huge boost to solving inner-city traffic problems and making transportation more sustainable. The development of the app however was an immense logistical challenge. It required data sharing and compatibility from an array of sources as varied as public transportation, police updates, bike-share providers, car rentals and even the weather service.
In collaborating with so many different data-generators, Free Now has become a proud model use case for IDS. It’s a unique demonstration of how data sharing across varied markets and sectors can translate into the scale for entrepreneurs and real value for customers.
“This is a true breakthrough for data sovereignty,” said Karl Heinz Streibich of Acatech, the German Academy of Technological Sciences that supports and advises use cases such as Free Now within the European mobility data space.
Common European data spaces
The European mobility data space is one of nine data spaces that the European Commission has designated for rapid development across the continent. Among the nine, the mobility data space, based on the IDSA reference architecture, is the most developed.
IDSA board member Reinhold Achatz said that the mobility data space is the blueprint for all other data spaces, including finance, agriculture, manufacturing and energy.
Within the mobility data space that enables applications like Free Now, the advantages of an IDSA based model of data sharing become apparent. While hyper scalers, as Achatz calls tech giants such as Google, may offer similar services, an IDSA-based data space has several advantages built-in.
Participants in the mobility data space like Free Now, car rental companies or even public transportation providers, can take advantage of full data standardization and compatibility—a feature, that, for example, enables Free Now to work with over 100 different cites whose data gathering and presentation can range from highly sophisticated to very basic. Also, participants do not have to worry about compliance with privacy or anti-trust regulations. Finally, they can be certain that partners are chosen and vetted by a neutral operator. If, for example, Free Now recommends a car share, you can be certain that it has been chosen solely because it is the option that best meets the individual transportation needs.
IDSA Mobility Community
This neutral oversight is performed by Acatech, a technology academy funded mainly by the German government. Acatech has been instrumental in building the mobility space and will continue to support its growth by providing services and support to members from a variety of sectors.
The crucial next step for the success of the mobility data space is growth. The more participants the space has, the better the data pool will be. And the better the data are the higher the quality of the services that providers will be able to offer.
In order to accelerate growth, IDSA has formed a mobility community, that already comprises such high-profile partners as VW, Deutsche Telekom, FIWARE and TNO. Chris Langdon, mobility expert at Telekom, sees the group’s approach to promoting growth as two-pronged. “There is the push, which is classical marketing, talking about what we do,” he said. “But there is also the pull that comes with delivering value.”
The key to achieving such tangible results is a fast internationalization of the mobility space as well as the other data spaces following in its footprint. “We need to take the good message from Germany and spread it across the continent,” said Sebastian Pretzsch of the Fraunhofer Institute for Transportation and Infrastructure Systems, which has been instrumental in the implementation of the mobility data space.
Tim Wiegels, founder and CEO of Free Now can testify to that need for internationalization. Ultimately, he would like to be present in every major city in Europe. For him, a common data infrastructure across the continent cannot come quickly enough.