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Success of ITS Belgium's annual congress

First publishedin ITS International
2007 November December
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men at ITS Belgium congress

In October, ITS Belgium staged its most successful annual congress to date. However, as Stijn Van Cauwenberge outlines, the association is not going to rest on its laurels in 2008

This last year has been an important one for ITS Belgium. That may seem like a cliché. However, with Peter Van der Perre being appointed as Managing Director of ITS Belgium almost one year ago (after a career with Ertico - ITS Europe for the past 10 years); a first commercial spin-off; a successful ITS Congress; and a number of ambitious projects initiated for the coming two years, this opening cliché almost seems an understatement.

Since its foundation in 2003 as an association of companies active in the vehicle telematics market (called Telematics Cluster), the ITS Belgium network has evolved into an organisation representing the three Belgian regional governments responsible for transportation and around 60 industry members active in both the vehicle telematics and traffic technology sectors.

Technology development

When it comes to ITS, for many years Belgium could be associated with successful indigenous companies active in the traffic technology sector, such as Barco and Traficon. This, combined with a very mature vehicle telematics market including global players such as TeleAtlas and Transics, has created the perfect ingredients for innovative R&D projects and commercial breakthroughs.

In 2007, ITS Belgium generated its first commercial spin-off. As the result of an earlier trial project Be- Mobile was founded. Be-Mobile collects and aggregates traffic information from different data sources: floating vehicles, jam busters and government-owned roadside equipment. It offers the highest-quality traffic information on Belgian roads, based on its unique traffic data acquisition process, and successfully launched its commercial services just a few weeks ago. In collaboration with the Flemish IBBT (Interdisciplinary Institute for BroadBand Technology) a couple of research-intensive projects have also been successfully initiated by ITS Belgium, one of them being the Vialis-led Flexsys project. This is nearing completion and will have developed a flexible traffic management system to be deployed during roadworks and major events.

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Stijn Van Cauwenberge
Stijn Van Cauwenberge

Public-private cooperation

But where R&D activity has been strong, on the deployment side things are also moving. In order to sustain Belgium's ambitions to remain one of the leading logistical centres in the world, intelligent transport systems should reach their breakthrough.

In a broad sense, intelligent transport systems can be seen as the marriage between traffic technology and vehicle telematics systems. The latter have undergone particular development in Belgium. Indeed, according to figures from Mobistar (the Belgian cellular network operator which is the European competence centre for M2M communication within the France Telecom Group) the installed base for telematics in Belgium is comparable to markets such as France and the UK. Consequently, possibilities for market developments are increasingly opening up.

A recent example of the convergence between these two markets is the establishment of a traffic sign database by the Flemish government. At the ITS Belgium Congress in October, Flemish Minister for Mobility Kathleen Van Brempt launched this project in which TeleAtlas and Navteq will work together with the public administration to exchange traffic sign data. This project, initiated by ITS Belgium, is a first step for the government towards using vehicle telematics as an instrument to support their mobility policy.

Enabling public-private cooperation and innovation through partnerships between government and industry is what ITS Belgium is all about. As the responsibility for mobility is shared between police, towns and municipalities, public transport operators and three regional road operators, there are challenges for stimulating cooperation between different public entities.

But with the need for the development of a strategy for the use of traffic technology, as well as ambitious projects such as the introduction of a kilometre-based road charging system, along with the development of a unified ticket for different public transport modes and operators on the horizon, the need for cooperation will be bigger than ever. That is why ITS Belgium's annual congress was held to be so important and made such an important stride forward in building this cooperation. Of the 250+ participants who took part, 60 per cent were from public institutions.

The aim now is to build on that success during 2008.

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