Comment: Trackunit’s Soeren Brogaard responds to concerns about the EU Data Act
01 March 2023
Soeren Brogaard, CEO of Trackunit, responds to issues raised by CECE - the body representing construction equipment OEMs in Europe - about the EU’s proposed Data Act. CECE’s concerns are valid, he says, but let’s work with the Act.
Technology’s lifeblood is data, and how that is generated, used and stored for the majority of Europe is currently being debated, with the intention of bringing to law the EU Data Act set possibly for mid-2024.
The Committee for European Construction Equipment (CECE) has made its concerns about the EU Data Act clear.
I have sympathy with many of its points and believe there is a way to allay its fears and uphold the fundamental principle of sharing data at the same time.
I have an ideological position to defend here and much of the foundation of the model on which we believe the construction industry can prosper is premised on the principle that the transparent sharing of data is key to making the industry better.
So, when the CECE came out in October 2022 listing nine key concerns about the act, it might have looked like we were at opposite ends of the argument, but we’re not poles apart. Here I’ll try to explain why.
The Data Act was announced in February 2022 and builds on a series of data regulations that have, as one example, given consumers more control over their data through GDPR.
The new act will, according to the EU, makes it incumbent on the data holder to make it available to users without undue delay, cost, and, ideally, continuously in real-time.
That in turn will lead to savings of 10-20% in the transport and construction sectors and generate an extra €270 billion in the EU economy by 2028, Brussels adds.
I agree, but I do have caveats and, as it turns out, those caveats are echoed in the CECE statement. The CECE states as an example that “the definition of data should be narrowed and limited to data that is being generated by the use of the product, based on this original data set and linked to a related service.”
I couldn’t agree more. There is data that has to remain within the orbit of the generator, effectively protecting business data as the CECE also argues, and it’s not relevant to share it all.
But it is, nevertheless, relevant to share some and this may be one of those areas where there is a difference to some degree.
If we can set a bar at say, 20%, then the sharing of that much data should set a parameter that enables more efficient mechanisms in the after-market services area to develop.
This can be achieved without obliging the OEMs to give up information that they have generated at considerable investment cost (another of the CECE objections) without compensation.
Preparing construction for the EU Data Act
OEMs need to recoup their investment and their margins are getting slimmer and slimmer. If they are forced into a scenario where after-market services could see an influx of third-party providers utilizing the data the OEMs have generated at no cost, that would be counter-productive.
OEMs would potentially lose their competitive advantage they have worked hard to build.
There is also a different scenario that could unfold here. We have a data model that can create a digital twin which is effectively an expression of the physical machine that will remain entirely within the domain of the OEMs.
What do we mean by digital twin? For our purposes it can be where the OEMs are able to develop over time key insights that will benefit the industry and enable them to reorientate their business models towards predictive analytics that add value as a whole.
A digital twin can help develop key machine insights that benefit the end-user. This takes time. It also takes money. And it perhaps also requires a shift in mindset. Instead of occupying a ‘hold-what-we-have’ mentality, this propels the argument towards a ‘what-is-the-opportunity?’ way of thinking.
It’s why I’m also more than willing to endorse the CECE’s proposal for extending the Act’s passage from 24 to 36 months, giving them more time to prepare and put in the building blocks towards the creation of such insight-led models.
Don’t miss the opportunity
However, any delay in the process has to be used to get to that figurative platform. If all it does is result in kicking the can down the road, and a further retrenchment against the act, it will be a missed opportunity.
The EU is firmly committed to its drive on all aspects of data as the last decade shows and the act is almost certain to happen. That means, like it or not, finding the best solution for the OEMs is the key to making this work in their favour.
Moreover, they can turn it in their favour. By democratising innovation around machine insights, the OEM will emerge as the sole owner and beneficiary of the liberalised data, creating an ecosystem that will vastly benefit the industry and boost their market.
If we turn to other objections made by the CECE, it has valid arguments regarding ‘the right of ownership/managing access rights’ needing clarification, the one-size fits all model, and the blurring of the lines between what is a data holder and what is a user within the context of complex industrial relations. That doesn’t mean these can’t be worked through though.
And no-one argues that constructing this data architecture isn’t a daunting task and we have to allow for that if we are to get to such a position. But there’s a lot we can do here. And it’s why I haven’t altered my position that the act will ultimately be a good thing for construction.
The CECE’s objections are valid. They do need to be addressed. But the more we work with the act, the better the outcome will be.
The author: Soeren Brogaard, CEO, Trackunit.