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MaaSive Win for Open Data Standards?

The regional government of Flanders has developed and launched a new data standard for MaaS in the city of Antwerp. [1]

Antwerp is the first city in the Flanders region of Belgium to implement this new data standard. Efforts to develop the standard was spearheaded by the regional government and was done in conjunction with the mobility sector, the research institute Imec, and a smart-mobility NGO called Intelligent Transport Systems. The aim is to expand the implementation of the standard beyond Antwerp to the whole Flanders region by 2021. The new data standard will apparently be mandatory and apply to public transport, taxis, shared cars, bikes, and ‘e-steps’ (as e-scooters are referred to in Belgium).  

Before this announcement, there were already several MaaS apps active in Antwerp, such as Skipr, Whim, Mobiflow, TimesUpp, and KBC Mobile – just to name a few [2]. However, each app offers a different combination of mobility services, for example, some may be integrated with the regional train network whilst others only offer trams and buses within the city. Some of them include both e-scooters and bikes, whilst others may be limited to just one of the two. So the overall MaaS landscape is still somewhat of a patchwork. The new standard is intended to make it easier for these MaaS operators to include more comprehensive mobility offerings. 

 

Personal comments

Is this a prime example where a European government steps in and coordinates the development of a shared data standard and then make the standard mandatory for all mobility operators to adopt across a whole region? The importance of open and standardized data is perhaps best summed up by the following sentence from another recent article “High-quality data, supported by interoperability between different systems and connected to booking, payment, ticketing, identity and security systems glues the entire MaaS application together so that it performs what it is supposed to do. No data no MaaS!” [3]. 

However, the perennial question when it comes to implementing standards is where you draw the boundaries. Will this standard be workable with standards that might arise in neighbouring regions of Belgium, or even the Netherlands (with which Flanders share its border and language with)? Unfortunately, the article does not include any details on how the Flanders standard relates to other notable standards and tools already in use in the industry, such as the MaaS Alliance’s MaaS-API (Application Programming Interface).  

It may be worth noting that similar efforts are underway in the Nordics to develop open data standards for new mobility services. For instance the ODIN project, bringing together public transport actors in the Nordics to harmonize and publish high-quality open data that is key to the backbone of MaaS [4]. Another angle for public transport is proposals of a national ticket system or platform, already existing in Norway, and recently was presented to the Swedish government by an Inquiry of such a system [5].   

 

Written by Bobby Chen, RISE.

 

Sources

1. 2020-04-30. Flanders develops data standard for smart mobility.

2. 2020-05-07. Smart mobility apps for personal use.

3. 2020-02-13. No Data No MaaS.

4. 2020-05-07. Open Mobility Data in the Nordics.

5. 2020-04-28. Utredning om nationellt biljettsystem för kollektivtrafik lämnas till regeringen.