By Sami J. Anteroinen
This article was published in NORDICUM 1/2010
Maintaining profitability in the midst of a global recession is difficult for any industry, but in the field of logistics the challenge seems almost insurmountable. The flow of goods has been severely damaged and recovery will take time. This is apparent also in Finland who stands removed from the main markets – and has to deal with long distances also domestically.
There is no knight in shining armour in sight, but there is some sort of digital relief on the way. The Government of Finland wants to promote smart traffic as means for improved logistics and safety. In January 2010, the Ministry of Transport and Communications set up a national smart traffic committee which will monitor and guide the implementation of the national smart traffic strategy.
The committee is also charged with composing a detailed smart traffic action plan for 2010–2015, by the end of May.
The wheels have been turning rather quickly in this issue, since it was only in the spring of 2009 that the Government decided on the drafting of a national smart traffic strategy. The strategy proposal was delivered to the Ministry in November. The launch of the new committee was one of the measures suggested in the paper.
Permanent Secretary Harri Pursiainen was appointed to head the committee. He has no illusions about the present state of affairs in digi-transport in the land: Finland’s development in the field is only mediocre and the top international rivals are getting away. Still, Finland nevertheless has some tools in her disposal.
There is a lot of solid expertise in the telecommunications cluster and success stories have emerged from marine e-solutions, for example. Public transportation is flirting with wireless communications and demand responsive transport. Furthermore, Finnish research and development has made advances in delivering weather updates directly into the vehicles.
With this arsenal, it should be viable to upgrade the status of Finland from also-ran to a contender. The vision for Finland is ubiquity: data flows between vehicles and infrastructure, helping people and goods go where they need to be.
Smart traffic is both green and safe. As an added bonus, the utilisation of digital information gives birth to new business models and opportunities. Export prospects for such solutions are already significant.
Furthermore, smart traffic must be seen in a broader context. Finland boasts itself as a world-class information society and traffic is a key element in the everyday lives of the citizens. Fortunately, such solutions as electronic payment and ID services are already common to most Finns and the emerging e-traffic is likely to benefit from this.■