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08/11/2016
Massimo Brunamonti

Standard Protocol for garage equipment: Asanetwork’s proposal

The need to connect garage equipment has been the on-going object of analysis, studies and proposals. Some results have already been obtained, think, for example, of the MCTCNet2 system and its French equivalent OTClan, both designed and created for MOT tests and connected to National Control bodies. On the other hand, Asanetwork GmbH, a company founded by a pool of German garage equipment manufacturers, offers the car repair and maintenance sector a network, Asanetwork to be precise, able to interconnect different items of equipment as well as connecting them to local and external computing devices, not to mention the possibility of including a variety of multi-purpose software packages.

Asanetwork is now proposing its own solution dedicated to MOT inspection tests at a European level.

The Asanetwork standard protocol has already been adopted, for some time now, by a number if inspection bodies such as GTÜ and DEKRA; using Asanetwork, they can cover more than 90 percent of the different protocols present on the German market, thus saving time and money in programming equipment. Another important aspect, according to Asanetwork, is that all test results can be managed by a single inspection organization or Traffic Authority, as in Italy or France, so much so that the Asanetwork protocol has been made mandatory in MOT test centers in Austria. Once Asanetwork has been installed on each test station, these will be immediately connected with all other devices, machines and equipment present in the network. Other testing organizations, such as TÜV SÜD, TÜV Hessen, TÜV Rheinland, KÜS, SGS Switzerland as well as inspection bodies in Ireland, are installing or considering Asanetwork for their inspection systems.

EGEA’s 10th Working Group, as reported during the previous General Assembly, performed an in-depth study on the various options on the market. The conclusion of the study was that a tool such as Asanetwork has the characteristics to fulfill the needed tasks provided it goes in the direction of an "open source" standard and can be adapted to future technological developments.

As a result of this, Asanetwork submitted its own protocol to the attention of EGEA and other national associations such as AICA, proposing it as the EU standard, especially now that many European countries are in the process of introducing vehicle inspection test programs complying with the EU Directive 2014/45 with centralized result management. For those countries, in particular, using a protocol that is already operative, and thus easier to implement, would be the ideal solution.

Beyond the simple choice of a protocol rather than another, which is certainly important, the thing that mostly concerns the industry relates to a pressing need of providing “connected equipment”, drawing from the now famous “connected car” slogan, not for the purpose of sounding trendy but for what appears to be a clear need that stems from technological developments and lifestyles. The size and updating rate of all technical data, specialization and complementarity of functions between the various tools and items of equipment as well as the automatic data management in the workshop are now forcing this step. Not to mention the programmed entry in the sector by some of the web’s giants: Google, Amazon, car manufacturers and mobile operators. It is unthinkable that automotive equipment should be left out. The question is who will dictate the rules of the game? Garage equipment manufacturers have a great opportunity in front of them, and if they play their cards right, they will undoubtedly fill an important role in the connected world.

 

European manifesto for fair vehicle data access in a united digital market                 

Following the mandatory adoption of the “eCall” on all new vehicles in Europe starting in 2018, a group of European associations, led by EGEA, representing the automotive aftermarket, launched a European Manifesto to promote the fair and unbiased access to vehicle data in a united digital market.

The eCall digital platform, in fact, will speed up the process towards the “smart connected car”, and this digital opening will considerably and directly affect the whole automotive sector, including activities such as car maintenance and repair.

Each car will be equipped with an internet connection and all the basic eCall functions which can be easily extended to provide an almost unlimited range of remote services such as information on traffic, parking, insurance services based on the actual use of the vehicle, road rescue services, and so on, not forgetting remote diagnostics, scheduled maintenance, and, above all, the garage network.

The various associations that signed the manifesto are certainly not opposed to the progress of technology, but, at the same time, they wish to draw the attention of European regulators to the need of facilitating free and fair competition in the sector, in order to guarantee capillarity and quality of service to the citizen.

To date, in fact, digital platforms are designed to allow direct access to vehicle data only to the manufacturers themselves. This inevitably creates an atmosphere of unfair competitive advantage much to the detriment of consumers, small and medium enterprises, the European economy and society as a whole.

The European institutions seem to understand the problem, so much so that in the eCall Regulation the European Commission is required to "assess without delay, all options for promoting and ensuring such an interoperable platform, standardized, secure and open-access". Unfortunately, until June 2017 we will not know exactly how the Commission will fulfill the assignment. Meanwhile, it is necessary that all national authorities have a full view of the problem in order to have a say in the proper institutional arenas.

One of the solutions, proposed by car manufacturers, considers channeling remote communication for independent operators through the manufacturers’ proprietary servers (so-called 'Extended Vehicle'). This solution, though, would still guarantee manufacturers the exclusive control over access to data and in-vehicle information, at the expense of free competition.

With the slogan “Competition neutrality by technical design”, EGEA and the other associations involved in signing the Manifesto are asking to preserve entrepreneurial independence, so precious in Europe, and maintain a level playing field in the digital era. True innovation and the opportunity to develop new business models will only be possible through free and direct access to data through an interoperable, standard and secure platform.

We cannot see any alternative if the intention is to ensure a competitive scenario: currently the only guarantee for the average motorist in freely choosing his own auto repair service provider is the coexistence of technologically advanced independent garages, next to equally advanced dealers and authorized garages. The two together will ensure quality and competition.

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