Data management makes or breaks smart mobility

We are about to face the revolution of smart mobility. The development of self-driving vehicles, electric motors and various digital transport services, for example, will revolutionize the mobility of people and goods. The long-term financial, social and legal impacts of the revolution come with a number of questions yet to be answered.

Smart mobility heavily relies on the efficient digital collection and sharing of information, such as geographic data and traffic behaviour. Therefore, smart mobility also entails the question of how various personal data related to mobility is processed and utilised.

For privacy protection, information related to the mobility of individuals is sensitive. Hardly anyone would want information related to their movements used without express permission, appropriate reason and supervision.

All the information collected in mobility is managed somehow. Data management can be centralised, decentralised or something in between.

Centralised data management could mean that an authority-driven, centralised system used to collect mobility-related personal data would be created in Finland. This approach is used for health care in the service, for example. A centralised system might entail some benefits, for example from a data protection perspective, but in other respects, it is poorly suited for ecosystem-based, quickly developing business operations.

An opposite extreme would be based on deregulation, meaning that the model would allow the market to manage the processing and utilisation of data. However, it seems that completely excluding the collection and utilisation of data from authoritative direction is quite difficult, as seen when, for example, the United States Congress heard Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook.

Finland has chosen a data sharing model based on the distribution of information and open interfaces. Operators joining the ecosystem of smart traffic must open their data for the use of others so that the data is machine readable and generally available, based on existing technology.

This operating model also comes with its issues that must be settled in the near future.

One key conflict has to do with the ownership of data. Is information related to mobility the sole property of an operator or does the shared use of information based on legislation considerably narrow the traditional concept of ownership where the owner is entitled to use their property as they see fit?

Some comments start by stating that shared information is not owned by anyone. On the other hand, companies that use money and resources to collect, manage and utilise data are not too excited about a model that turns shared data into public assets.

The ownership of data is closely connected to its pricing. If the market is allowed to control the exchange of information, a certain price is formed for cooperation between businesses and for opening one’s own interface. In that case, we face the risk that the smart mobility operators with a strong position in the market and especially monopolies overprice their cooperation and knowingly hinder the arrival of new businesses in the market. This has also occurred in other sectors.

In fact, other industries have observed that there has been reasons to take action against the pricing of companies with a strong market position. This has taken place for instance in the telecommunications sector.

As the ecosystem of smart mobility will have an extremely large number of operators and contractual relationships, the policies related to contracts should be updated to a new level. It is not efficient to create a modern ecosystem for smart traffic by relying on traditional document or meta keyword-based contract management systems. It would be more advisable to use data-based -even standardised – contracts that can automate processes related to data management and payment.

Smart mobility is a great opportunity for Finland. However, utilising it in practice requires us to reconsider and settle a number of issues, in a new, innovative way.


Published in Finnish in Kauppalehti 2018


Pekka Raatikainen
HPP Attorneys Ltd

Vesa Silaskivi
Executive Advisor
HPP Attorneys Ltd

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