'We strongly believe in collective optimization of our ecosystem representing everyone’s interest: from government to driver.'
With the continuous growth of the population and ongoing urbanization there are numerous mobility challenges. Sustainability, safety and societal impact are amongst our daily concerns. We need to speed up the mobility transition to keep up with the fast changing global dynamics, which requires inventive approaches and better solutions. In this series we share inspiring and innovative cases from all over the world. We talk about the most recent developments in data sharing with Jorn de Vries, Founder or Managing Meister of Flitsmeister, part of Be-Mobile. How does he speed up the mobility transition?
In 2009 my friends Sjoerd Perfors and Rick Waalders developed the first version of Flitsmeister in evenings and weekends. At the time we all worked for my father's software company. When the first IPhone arrived in 2011, I joined and we developed an app with a list of speed cameras and offered it in the appstore for € 2.39.
'It took only a short while before we changed our revenue model.'
The app informs drivers about the location of speed cameras. It took only a short while before we decided to make a change in our revenue model. We wanted to get as many users as possible and made the app free to use. Since we collected so much data, the best revenue model would be advertising. When you would pass a billboard, you receive a pop-up notification with more information. The client would pay per reach. And it proved to be a success. In one day we gattered more data than the entire year before. From that point on we started expanding step by step.
Drivers listen to the radio during their commute. Thus, we contacted several radio stations to start a cooperation. We provided them with location data of the speed cameras with brand awareness in return. In 2013 we started cooperating with BNR or Business News Radio. This gave us a massive boost. More radio stations followed and even floating car companies wanted our data.
‘With 1.7 million users, I can proudly say we make impact.’
Why I started all this? Well of course when I was young I loved cars and the idea of avoiding speed fines appealed to me. But today Flitsmeister is much more than that. It is a driver’s best friend making traveling safer, easier and more efficient. We provide realtime traffic information into everything you may encounter on your route. And people help us to improve our information by providing us with new information on speed cameras, accidents or traffic jams. Last February we celebrated our 10th anniversary. With 1.7 million users, I can proudly say we make impact. It means a lot to me to be able to work with a team of 30 mostly developers and as founders all three of us all still part of the team. A big milestone.
‘People describe us as the app that assists speeding, but we are a realtime digital traffic sign.’
All of this does not go without any challenge. First there’s our reputation. People describe us as the app that assists speeding. But some are less aware that in fact we are a realtime digital traffic sign that assists all drivers to arrive at their destination safely and in the best way. Making drivers aware of a speed camera, actually helps people to lower speed. We signal a driver when an ambulance is approaching for it to pass safely. And we inform the driver when he or she is approaching a traffic jam or a dangerous situation such as stationary cars or a traffic accident, obstacle or construction work. We recently added parking. The app recognizes when you are in a parking zone and will ask if you want to start a parking payment system. As soon as you start driving again, it will immediately send a notification to stop the parking promotion. That way the driver never pays too much.
‘We contribute to road safety, lower emissions and travel time.’
A project in which we contribute to road safety involves trucks. Research in the Dutch province of Noord-Brabant showed that 40% of all truck accidents are caused by incorrect tyre pressure. Together with Heijmans we started a project to inform truck drivers about their tyre pressure via sensors on the road in combination with our app to notify them. We also contribute to the reduction of emissions, for example around the Liefkenstunnel and Kennedy Tunnel in Antwerp, Belgium. Normally people pay a fee to drive through the Liefkenstunnel. So most drivers tend to choose the other one. When the Kennedy Tunnel attracts too much traffic, we advise drivers realtime to opt for the other one free of charge. Third, we can significantly reduce travel time together with smart traffic control systems (VRIs). It will soon be less likely to meet the red light, end up in start-stop situations with less CO2 emissions as a result. Therefore, I hope the number of intelligent traffic lights in the Netherlands will grow.
In the end, perception is all about communication. We decided to make better use of all the data we collect in order to show our impact. Through our own data, we recently shared that due to Coronavirus and the government requests to stay at home, roads have become empty and traffic accidents decreased by 60% in Belgium and the Netherlands.
‘We strongly believe in collective optimization of our ecosystem representing everyone’s interests.’
The future of Flitsmeister? Our mission is and will remain to make driving safer, easier and more efficient. We want to contribute to better traffic flow and fewer accidents on the roads. We strongly believe in collective optimization of our ecosystem representing interests of everyone: motorists, schools, local governments. We talk to provinces, municipalities and road authorities to contribute to more efficient traffic. That is why we call on road users and stakeholders to share as much data as possible. Anonymously and securely.
‘If we knew from everyone where we came from and where we want to go, you can achieve maximum utilization of asphalt.’
We give individual route advice on a collective strategic level. This way we can tailor our service to this and continue to improve. We help a mother while bringing her children to school, advising her to change route when certain parts of the city are too busy based on realtime information. If we knew from everyone where we came from and where we want to go, you can achieve maximum capacity utilization of asphalt.
We hope to be able to expand our business abroad. Up until today this proved to be quite a challenge. In Germany apps that provide information about speed cameras were recently prohibited for drivers. Privacy and law make our work challenging. Privacy rules are reluctant to change and differs in every country. Locally, we already work together with other parties to add to each other’s businesses.
‘I think we are creatures of habit and the preferred modal of transport for the Benelux remains the car.’
Something we cannot ignore is multimodal transport. More and more European cities apply environmental zones. Within two to five years we plan to offer the possibility to guide you to a P + R. From there you pay for your train ticket and bus ticket. At the same time I believe that the most preferred modal of transport for the Benelux remains the car. I think we are creatures of habit. I also believe charging for driving will contribute to our congestion problem. From my own experience I can tell that the Dutch are sensitive to incentives. We experienced similar when the electric cars were subsidized by the government.
‘We put our users first. If tomorrow our community of 1.7 million wants something different, we change direction.’
Most important is that we put our users first. If tomorrow it turns out that our community of 1.7 million wants something different, we will change direction. Should the desire for multi-modality become greater, we must respond to it. That is what I think real entrepreneurship is all about.