With mainly highway authorities, automotive companies and engineers as customers, Be-Mobile is a typical B2B and B2G company. However, our best-known products are B2C, e.g. the parking application 4411 and the route planner Slimnaarantwerpen.be. In Hasselt, we provide a dynamic system for free parking spaces, while in the Netherlands we run the app Flitsmeister, a counterpart of Coyote and Waze with an impressive 1.45 million users. In this exclusive interview with Datanews, CEO Jan Cools elaborates on the activities of Be-Mobile.
You supply traffic data to different players but also run Flitsmeister. Is that the odd one out in your offering?
It’s our showcase for the new traffic management system, a place where we can pilot applications. For example, we’re in the process of linking a thousand smart traffic lights to moving vehicles in the Netherlands, something we ultimately also want to bring to our automotive services. Flitsmeister is a radar detector that’s seen incredible growth. We invested in it three years ago and since then it’s doubled in use.
Cools shows the app’s dashboard, a map of Western Europe map showing little dots that are mainly active in and around the Netherlands.
Right now (at 4.30 pm on a Wednesday) there are 45,000 people who have their Flitsmeister app on. If we compare that with other apps, the density is a lot higher than that of Coyote. Our app is used an average of 21 times a month with an average session length of 31 minutes. That’s almost every working day.
Be-Mobile is also involved in various data solutions connected with mobility. Does that make you a competitor of TomTom or Google/Waze?
I see them more as customers. We’ve often worked with TomTom, sometimes bundling our data into their automotive offer and at other times using data from them. Google is the odd one out here, and has its own policy for both maps and traffic. It’s a competitor to all navigation operators, but for us it’s only a rival to Flitsmeister. But we’re seeing Flitsmeister growing, despite the arrival of Waze. Once you’re known and trusted as a local player, your users stay with you. We’re also adding new features to our app, with speed trap detectors and warnings for ambulances.
You talk about linking information of this kind to traffic lights. Is that already happening in Belgium today?
This is done via our C-ITS platform – Collaborative Intelligent Transport System. It’s vehicle-to-vehicle or vehicle-to-infrastructure communication. Initially traffic management was carried out using cameras or road sensors. For the last three or four years, the infrastructure operator has also been able to look at data from connected vehicles for this purpose. But instead of a sign above the road with a recommended speed or a traffic light that remains green for longer, the information can also be sent back to the vehicle.
How does this work in concrete terms?
A De Lijn bus can drive towards a traffic light and request priority. We have an algorithm for this where we look at if the bus is on schedule, but you can also link it to factors such as how full the bus is. A full bus that’s behind schedule gets higher priority than an empty bus that’s running on time.
Is this already being applied in Belgium?
We’re currently in the test phase for rolling this out, initially in the Netherlands as they’re a bit further ahead. But we’re also working on a pilot project with De Lijn. Another use case is letting vehicles know when the light will turn green. This is nice for cars, but it’s particularly helpful for trucks. Stopping and moving off again costs an average of one euro for an HGV. With ten thousand trucks driving around and stopping all day, such information is particularly useful. A third example is adjusting the traffic lights themselves more efficiently. Today this is done with road sensors or a camera that determines how heavy the traffic is for the light. In the longer term, we want to be able to adjust the lights’ settings more effectively with data from connected cars.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Curious to read more about fleet management, toll collection and our vision on autonomous driving? Jan Cools, CEO, and Hans Van Winckel, Director Strategy & Partnerships, love to tell you more about Be-Mobile.