Simacan from Amersfoort is always open to the opportunities held out by technology. Together with their thirty-member team, “data fans” Rob Schuurbiers and Felix Faassen make traffic information available, applicable and shareable for primary business processes. Traffic info on the radio? Supplied by Simacan. The supermarket’s home delivery service? Supported by Simacan. No surprise, therefore, that its two founders need to pinch themselves sometimes.
Felix Faassen breaks off mid-sentence and points to the boulevard circling Vathorst outside. “And there we have a delivery van we’re tracking.” And less than thirty second later: “You see that big lorry there? We’re tracking that one too. It’s heading for the mail distribution centre.”
Welcome to the world of Simacan, a world full of data, predictions and useful applications for road traffic. Never mind waterways or railways: the Simacan founders stick to what they know and to what they do exceptionally well. Roads are their domain and their focus. These are the data that they master completely. At the outset of the new millennium, these two were working for TomTom, where they had the opportunity to apply big data in consumer products. Pioneers, they were, even back then. Together with their colleagues, these two helped initiate the connected TomTom satnav with real-time traffic information.
These were instructive and agreeable times, but deep down they had an urge to develop interesting products and services independently. This day finally arrived, after several detours to other companies and a period of forging plans, on the very first day of 2013, when their company Simacan was officially launched. Their mission: combining real-time traffic data from private and public sources and making them available, applicable and shareable in a cost-efficient way.
It’s all done digitally
Five years on, Simacan is making a lot of companies and people happy with traffic data. Faassen: “Sometimes we’re joking: so many Dutch people benefit from our technology without being aware of it, we should be making a commercial.”
Schuurbiers: “Hauliers and shipping agents can act on our date-driven software. We track them from the moment of their departure, and our traffic information allows them to adjust their cargoes or vehicles. They can make adjustments or improve their understanding . The logistics sector is growing enormously and so are their operations, which may involve no fewer than 500 vehicles being on the road all at once. It used to take a complete department working on their phones to make sure that an operation was running smoothly. Now though, thanks to our Control Tower, in which we have clustered our software, it’s all done digitally and you only need to monitor the things that actually go wrong. Predictability and transparency: that’s what we’re offering to the transport industry.”
A pivotal role
Introducing the right information into the chain, Simacan software is increasingly playing a pivotal role amongst a wider group of logistics parties. What with planning, environmental zoning and lorry control schemes, you cannot simply drive lorries into town; all such data, together with existing planning and transport management systems, have been clustered in the Simacan Transport Cloud, an open and supplier-independent cloud platform that makes countless data sources accessible for digital collaboration amongst logistics partners.
Felix Faassen of Simacan: “In this way, we’re smoothing out the edges of the smart city. If we’re sitting at this window in five years’ time, home deliveries will be one hundred percent electric and autonomous. Big lorries that are not running on electricity yet because of their operating radius will be stopping at an area on the edge of a district for transfer. Then cargoes will be transported into these districts in zero-emission ways. Now it’s each to their own; then, it’ll be a shared resource. One thing is a certainty: you need a lot of data to share transport in sound and easy ways. That’s what we’re doing. We’re a data- and supplier-independent intermediary.”
In their offices in the Vathorst Business Park, they are literally facing what is potentially the first smart city in the Netherlands. This is what makes Amersfoort feel like a natural home base to them. “We’re always working on the next step. Our services matter to the smart city, and so we love to be part of that. There couldn’t be a more ideal testing site than Amersfoort in general and Vathorst in particular. It’s for good reason that online supermarket Picnic chose Vathorst as its first pilot location: a lot of people live and work here, providing a nicely mixed population; there’s a lot of business interest in the area; there’s a railway station close by; and there’s a unique ring road. It’s a controlled area that allows for a lot of testing and trying.”
“The Amersfoort local council is making an active contribution to the development of the smart city,” Faassen continues. “The smart city concept also involves improving quality of life. We might be able to do our bit here as logistics happens to have a great impact. We’re interested in accomplishing such an improvement.”
Silicon Eem Valley
The Amersfoort region has the potential to grow into “Silicon Eem Valley,” says Faassen. “There are many IT companies here, and many companies involved in geo-information. Combine the two, and anything is possible.”
Amersfoort is the Simacan home base in more ways than one. “It’s just the most convenient. This is the center of the country. Everything is equidistant from here. We’re right next to the highway. All we need to tell visitors is: take the exit at Loods 5 and Ikea, and everyone knows where we are. Many of our staff have moved to Amersfoort, so that’s saying something about this city as a residential environment.”
Born and bred in Rotterdam, Schuurbiers and his family have now lived in Amersfoort for ten years. He’s not planning on leaving: “We’re perfectly happy here. You can’t improve on the level of amenities, and so we’re enjoying all the comforts of urban living.”