January 10, 2022

Benefits of Geofencing in Urban Areas

Delivering improved civil protection, reduced climate impact & improved transport efficiency

Geofencing is an innovative way to digitally control objects instead of building physical fencing. It’s easy to understand that it is much more flexible, less costly, and of course less intrusive in the environment – and it can be used in many creative ways, such as for managing live-stock as the company Nofence has been successfully doing in Norway for many years.

But what about geofencing of vehicles in urban environments? While the technology has been available for many years, efforts to apply it in Sweden increased following the 2017 terror attack, in which a truck was hijacked and used to kill five people on a pedestrian-only street. Since then, the Swedish Government has initiated a number of activities to look into how geofencing could improve civil protection, as well as reduce climate impact and improve transport efficiency in urban environments.

Many use cases in urban areas

A number of applicable use cases have been identified that inform or assign specific conditions to vehicles in a geographical area, including:

  • Speed: reducing speed close to schools, hospitals, or other sensitive infrastructure or dynamically reducing speed during construction work or accidents when there are a lot of unprotected road users
  • Powertrain: change from fossil to electric in hybrid vehicles in, for example, city centers
  • Access: control where a vehicle can drive or park, or prevent heavy vehicles on roads with restrictions
  • Information or warnings to keep track of vehicles, improve eco-driving, etc.

Not only wishful thing – it is already out there creating value

A number of geo-fencing tests and initiatives are underway in many parts of the world, and it is already used in commercial operations for the new last mile transportation concept – the e-scooter. This is not based on legislation but is instead based on negotiations between municipalities and e-scooter service providers – but there have been a number of challenges. One issue is the inherent inaccuracies of GPS, while another is the issue of the time lag – end to end from the vehicle to the backend cloud and back again. This is where the latency in the IoT connectivity solution is key when implementing geofencing for similar use cases.

Do we have a baseline? What works and creates value?

A joint program initiative (JPI) Urban Europe project has been funded by European Union´s Horizon 2020, under ERA-NET Cofund Urban Accessibility and Connectivity and gathered project partners from Germany, Norway, Sweden and UK. This project, GeoSence, elaborates on geofencing solutions aiming at improving urban traffic management and planning and it presented an interesting report “Current state of the art and use case description on geofencing for traffic management”. The report summarizes currently known use cases and solutions to four challenges in traffic management in particular: safety, environment, efficiency, and tracking and data collection. Some of the use cases even answer to several of these challenges, such as differentiated road charging, and the use cases in micro-mobility. That is great!

One concrete initiative is in the city of Göteborg where CCTV, the local traffic authority, and Volvo Buses collaborate in a project called “Digitaliserade infrastrukturzoner” (Digitalized Infrastruture Zones.)  A digital platform has been developed that enables the fast creation of new geozones which can be directly downloaded into buses.  The driver is notified, and the bus is updated to comply to new local traffic rules in the zone.

How can we take the next steps?

Another conclusion from the GeoSense report is that the existence of joint regulations or guidelines for the use of geofencing for different use cases is low – with some exceptions, while the digital representation of traffic regulation will be crucial for enabling geofencing.

So, what is the next step? In the end of 2021 the Swedish Government’s memorandum “The Issue of Responsibility for Automated Driving and New Rules to Promote an Increased Use of Geofencing” was published and it included the suggestion to enable Swedish municipalities to regulate local traffic regulations in order to, for example, allow vehicles with geofencing capabilities access to areas that do not allow traffic in general. This will allow more initiatives to be implemented as it simplifies the approval process dramatically.

IoT & 5G are part of the solution

Whether retrofitting geofencing solutions in existing vehicles or fully integrated in new vehicles, it is clear that the success of geofencing will rely on a high availability and secure IoT connectivity. Latency will in some cases be important, requiring 5G capabilities.

Its is great to be part of an industry that contributes to geofencing solutions that deliver sustainable value – improved civil protection, reduced climate impact, and improved transport efficiency!

Linda Ekener Mägi
Business Development Manager

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