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Are you ready for 112 eCall?

24 March, 2014

112 eCall is coming to the UK. Are you ready? This is the core message behind Andy Rooke’s presentation at 11am today.

Andy, who works on the EU eCall programme at ERTICO ITS-Europe, will be addressing the key issues and opportunities facing the UK and its public safety community in the face of eCall’s imminent arrival, and how they can best take advantage of the data it will provide.

For those not familiar with the 112 eCall project, Andy will provide an overview of the work so far and an update on the current situation, including legislation, highlighting what he calls the ‘disconnect’ between the UK’s current stance and the reality of the situation.

Whether the UK likes it or not, eCall is coming,’ he explains, ‘and there is an obligation on Member States, mobile network operators and vehicle manufacturers to do something about it.’

As Andy will explain, at some point between October 2015 and December 2017, the first new vehicles equipped with 112 eCall will start to appear, and they will come to the UK. The UK’s infrastructure and network operators – in this case BT and Vodafone – need to be ready to handle that, and that means updating their systems to be able to receive the data from an eCall activation.

Yes, there are cost implications to being able to deal with eCall along the stakeholder chain from the vehicle makers to the mobile network operators and finally the PSAP and the first responders – which is one of the UK government’s current objections to the project along with the additional cost to UK motorists – but this is by no means prohibitive. What’s more, says Andy, there is actually funding available to help with the upgrade process, ‘if the UK government decides to get involved’.

No one is denying, he will say, that there are issues in the way of eCall, not least the complexity of organisation required to make it a reality. In the UK, for example, five government ministries need to work together to make it happen, and this situation is repeated across Europe. Difficult or not, however, the rest of Europe is committed to making eCall a reality and many member states are in great need of this system. ‘Which means, for the UK, that it’s time to get serious about this.’

And it’s not just 112 eCall that the emergency service and network operators need to be prepared for, says Andy. From vehicle manufacturers pushing paid-for eCall services through development to after-market fitted devices that can be installed in existing vehicles, whether 112 eCall is here or not, these calls will start coming in.

One such device is from the UK made by Geneva Micro, which Andy will have with him at the presentation. ‘It’s a very good piece of equipment and competitively priced – just the kind of thing an organisation could use as a loss leader to its members. If that happens, the floodgates could open; no one is prepared for that.’

What’s important, however, is that the emergency services see the potential benefits of eCall, not just the challenges, says Andy. From the point of view of the police, an eCall-equipped vehicle will contain information that will affect and assist with any investigation into an incident; for the fire service, eCall can provide crucial information such as vehicle type, where and when it was made and whether it has airbags, allowing them to plan an extraction before they arrive on the scene; and the Ambulance service will be provided with an accurate location, reducing response times.

So, while there are challenges, technological and political, standing in the way of eCall, it’s important to focus on the benefits of a system that has become an inevitability for all EU Member States. ‘This is a wake up call to the emergency services in the UK,’ Andy concludes. ‘The UK might have some of the safest roads in Europe, but people are still dying and there is still a need for a system like eCall. It’s time for the emergency services, the Home Office, the Ministry of Health, the Department for Transport and all the other agencies and organisations involved to engage with the project and start talking to people. There is a lot of help out there, including money to help organisations upgrade, if we decide to take advantage of it.’

In short, says Andy: ‘eCall is coming. Do you know about it? If not, come along to the presentation, find out, and ask questions.’

Andy will also be present at the exhibition in the afternoon should any delegates wish to talk in more detail. Andy’s presentation takes place at 11am today.

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