Kapsch declares E-ZPass IAG protocols open standard, and discusses sticker tags
By Peter Samuel
2012-10-24: Kapsch which owns the intellectual property rights to the E-ZPass IAG electronic toll system through the 2010 purchase of Mark IV IVHS says it is renouncing any proprietary claims to the protocols. They should now be regarded as an open standard for others to use and compete with. They plan to publish the specifications and code so that anyone can build to it.
Georg Kapsch chief executive officer of the Kapsch Group told us the company has a longstanding commitment to open standards as good for customers through improving competition and allowing choices of suppliers for a compatible product.
"We felt this was the right thing to do for our customers, for the industry and for the company," Kapsch said in our interview in Vienna this week (a trip kindly paid for by Kapsch - editor.)
Chris Murray head of North American operations had taken the initiative to make the IAG protocol an open standard Georg Kapsch said, but: "We fully supported it."
A statement out of the Tysons Corner VA offices says the move is a "contribution to support national electronic toll interoperability and industry compliance" with the US MAP-21 mandate for national interoperability by 2016.
Murray is quoted: "Open, non-proprietary technology benefits everyone and accelerates the adoption of the solutions these technologies enable. By opening the Kapsch TDM specification, Kapsch will enable developers and companies to provide agencies and concessionaires with optimized toll transactions based upon industry leading technology that currently provides greater than 99.9% accuracy for the E-ZPass Group. We are committed to accelerating the efforts of nationwide toll interoperability and providing all customers a choice of technology to ensure revenue assurance and business process optimization."
PJ Wilkins, Executive Director, E-ZPass Group is quoted in the statement: "We applaud the efforts of the Kapsch team in supporting the 24 member agencies of the E-ZPass Group with our interoperability strategy. The E-ZPass Group has and will continue to support the objective of nationwide interoperability and this specification is one important building block towards that goal."
23 million vehicles in the US have IAG protocol transponders. They are active transponders with longlife batteries and use time division multiplexing (TDM) to allow multiple tags to be dealt with.
Posting the IAG protocol specification to their website is to occur in the first quarter of 2013, the official statement says.
Kapsch officials told us it would help other companies to engineer more precise compatibility into their E-ZPass products.
An improvement on reverse engineering
TransCore, 3M/Sirit and others have already done reverse engineering of the IAG protocols into products.
TransCore's eZGo Anywhere two-protocol tag being sold in North Carolina can act as an IAG tag, while multi-protocol readers from TransCore, 3M and Raytheon include IAG as one of their protocols.
Kapsch clearly was faced with the prospect of a messy legal battle if it asserted that their competitors' products breached its patents. The lack of any claim of patent rights was leading toward the IAG protocols as a de facto open standard.
Georg Kapsch told us: "We have learned a bit about legal issues (that can arise) in the US and don't want to put our customers through that."
Why not sticker tags?
We pressed several senior Kapsch officials - Georg Kapsch, Chris Murray, Erwin Toplak COO - on their view of 6C sticker tags as a route to US national interoperability.
They said that the key is multiprotocol readers. And they reiterated their view that active hard case, battery powered transponders represent a better business case for customers over the long run.
They claimed read rates are higher, that portability is a convenience, and that the active device is a better proposition than sticker tags.
At $8.75 the Kapsch base price to the E-ZPass group the IAG tags are quite close to the TransCore price for their 6B+ sticker tags, they commented.
They also stressed that after all the advocacy, it is the customer decides. And if the customer decides for sticker tags, then at Kapsch they plan to fully support sticker tags.
North Tarrant TX first Kapsch venture into sticker tags
The first project where that's happening is the North Tarrant Express project in the Dallas Ft Worth area.
Kapsch has taken on integrating a system based on TransCore's 6B+ tags that are the basis for electronic toll collection in Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, North Carolina and elsewhere.
Test track at Teesdorf displays sticker tag readers prominently
Drive - or better, be driven - 20 miles or so south of Vienna on the 8-lane A2 autobahn with roadsigns 'Graz' and 'Venice'... at the Teesdorf test center they drive trucks and cars under four multilane open road toll gantries.
These test gantries are loaded with reader/transceivers of 915MHz, 5.8GHz CEN RF, 5.9GHz US WAVE RF, plus laser scanners, fixed cameras, pan-tilt-zoom cameras, and video imaging. And they have smart loops in the pavement, though they are quick to tell you that they don't recommend them....
Prominent and labelled in the Kapsch brochure are what they call in beerhall english complete with Germanic capitalizations of almost every noun "Transceivers to read out sticker tags. Common Technology in American Markets."
It screams: Texas, Florida here vee komm wiz Stickers!
And with ein neue senior VP sales and business development, Johann Freund.