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How mapping drives connected car to self-driving

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A self-driving vehicle is something that many think out of a science-fiction movie, but with the likes of TomTom’s self navigation solutions, fiction becomes more of a reality.

In a recent announcement, TomTom  revealed that its connected navigation solution will be available in the new Fiat 500 range in Europe. The embedded system features the freshest TomTom maps, with a superior routing engine and includes five years of TomTom’s live connected suite of services, tapping into the consumer’s need for a car that offers smart navigation solutions, real-time updates and more detailed mapping.

“Until now, cars have been quite isolated where navigation systems rely on dealing directly with dealerships, and involve DVD or SD card updates that the driver has to initiate,” says Etienne Louw, General Manager of TomTom Africa. “This is both time consuming and inconvenient for drivers. Consumers are craving a service similar to that of a smartphone, where information is instantly updated and easily accessible. This need has pushed the automotive industry to embrace the concept of the connected car more actively.”

According to Louw, TomTom’s view is that navigation systems that are able to provide critical live traffic information, as well as incremental map updates in real time, are a key feature of the connected car. This improves the driver’s experience behind the wheel, because being better informed means that motorists can avoid traffic congestion, adapt their driving behaviour and get to their destination faster.

“TomTom has been working constantly for almost 25 years, perfecting its map production and distribution processes,” says Louw. “With the use of the new Navigation Data Standard (NDS), we are reducing the time between the moment a road modification/incident is captured, and the moment it is pushed to navigation systems from months to days – even seconds in the case of incidents – and we do so without compromising on map quality. This is what real-time mapping is about.”

One recent example was a bridge collapse caused by a flash-flood on the I-10 Interstate highway in Southern California: the road was subsequently closed. This road closure showed up almost in real-time in TomTom’s products, which allowed connected drivers to immediately use alternative routes.

Creating a fully connected car is also an important step in achieving a completely automated car that drives itself. While the industry is still a long way off from this capability, TomTom recently concluded a partnership agreement with Bosch to develop Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) that use highly accurate map data to inform drivers about the road ahead.

As an example, a car can warn a driver if he is approaching a turn too fast or if he is unintentionally moving out of his lane. These types of features pave the way for Highly Automated Driving (HAD). Some examples of this include Mercedes trucks that are able to drive themselves along certain stretches of highway. More Recently, Audi made driving history when they had a connected concept car successfully drive itself from San Francisco to Las Vegas using high precision TomTom Maps.

“Anyone can build a basic map and put it on a smartphone, but producing the high-resolution, three-dimensional map data that the automotive industry requires, can only be done by professional navigation companies that collect data not only from aerial and satellite imagery, but also from millions of probes and extensive field surveys,” says Louw. “In South Africa as well, cars are getting more and more technologically advanced, with features such as lane assist or adaptive cruise controls becoming standard. TomTom Africa is preparing for that future by already producing high-precision maps of Southern Africa, where clients are welcome to use them for their own applications.”

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Gadget goes to Hollywood

Gadget visited the Netflix studios last week. In the first of a series, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK talks to CEO Reed Hastings.

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Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is no stranger to Africa. He has travelled throughout South Africa, taught maths in Swaziland for two years with the Peace Corps, and visits close family in Maputo. As a result, he is keenly aware of the South African entertainment and connectivity landscape.

In an exclusive interview at the Netflix studios in Hollywood, Los Angeles, last week, he revealed that Netflix had no intentions of challenging MultiChoice’s dominance of live sports broadcasting on the continent.

“Other firms will do sport and news; we are trying to focus on movies and TV shows,” he said. “There are a lot of areas that are video that we are not doing: sports, news, video gaming, user-generated content. We don’t have live sport.

Reed Hastings at the Netflix studios in Hollywood last week. Pic: ADAM ROSE

“We’re not replacing MultiChoice at all. Their subscriber growth is steady in South Africa. They serve a need that’s independent of the Internet, via low-price satellite. There is no intention of capturing that audience. If they’re growing, it’s because they serve a need.”

While Reed ruled out any collaboration with MultiChoice on its satellite delivery platform, despite its collaboration with another pay-TV service, Sky TV in the United Kingdom, he did not close the door. He stressed that Netflix saw itself as an Internet-based service, and would pursue the opportunities offered by evolving broadband in Africa.

“If you look in other markets like the USA, how Comcast carries us on set-top boxes with their other services, it could happen with MultiChoice, the same as with all the pay-TV providers.

“We’re really focused on being a service over the Internet and not over satellite. Our service doesn’t work on satellite. Where we work with Sky is on Internet-connected devices. We’re happy to work on Internet-connected devices. We tend to work on smart TVs, but need broadband Internet for that.

“Broadband is getting faster in Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa – we can see the positive trendlines – so it’s more likely we will work with broadband Internet companies.”

Hastings is a firm believer in the idea that one content provider’s success does not depend on pushing another down.

“HBO has grown at the same time as we have, so can see our success doesn’t determine their success. What matters is amazing content with which the world falls in love.”

Click here to read about Netflix’s international expansion, and how the streaming service selects content for its platform.

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Take these 5 steps to digital

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By MARK WALKER, Associate Vice President for Sub-Saharan Africa at IDC Middle East, Africa and Turkey.

Digital transformation isn’t a buzz word because it sounds nice and looks good on the business CV. It is fundamental to long-term business success. IDC anticipates that 75% of enterprises will be on the path to digital transformation by 2027. 

However, digital transformation is not a process that ticks a box and moves to the next item on the agenda – it is defined by the organisation’s shift towards a digitally empowered infrastructure and employee. It is an evolution across system, infrastructure, process, individual and leadership and should follow clear pathways to ensure sustainable success.

The nature of the enterprise has changed completely with the influence of digital, cloud and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), and success is reliant on strategic change.

There is a lot more ownership and transparency throughout the organisation and there is a responsibility that comes with that – employees want access to information, there has to be speed in knowledge, transactions and engagement,” he adds. “To ensure that the organisation evolves alongside digital and demand, it has to follow five very clear pathways to long-term, achievable success.

The first of these is to evaluate where the enterprise sits right now in terms of its digital journey. This will differ by organisation size and industry, as well as its reliance on technology. A smaller organisation that only needs a basic accounting function or the internet for email will have far different considerations to a small organisation that requires high-end technology to manage hedge funds or drive cloud solutions. The same comparisons apply to the enterprise-level organisation. The mining sector will have a completely different sub-set of technology requirements and infrastructure limitations to the retail or finance sectors.

Ultimately, every organisation, regardless of size or industry, is reliant on technology to grow or deliver customer service, but their digital transformation requirements are different. To ensure that investment into artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, knowledge engines, automation and connectivity are accurately placed within the business and know exactly where the business is going.

The second step is to examine what the business wants to achieve. Again, the goals of the organisation over the long and short term will be entirely sector dependent, but it is essential that it examine what the competitive environment looks like and what influences customer expectations. This understanding will allow for the business to hone its digital requirements accordingly.

The third step is to match expectations to reality. You need to see how you can move your digital transformation strategy forward and what areas require prioritisation, what funding models will support your digital aspirations, and how this tie into what the market wants. Ultimately, every step of the process has to be prioritised to ensure it maps back to where you are and the strategic steps that will take you to where you want to go.

The fourth step is to look at the operational side of the process. This is as critical as any other aspect of the transformation strategy as it maps budget to skills to infrastructure in such a way as to ensure that any project delivers return on investment. Budget and funding are always top of mind when it comes to digital transformation – these are understandably key issues for the business. How will it benefit from the investment? How will it influence the customer experience? What impact will this have on the ongoing bottom line? These questions tie neatly into the fifth step in the process – the feedback loop.

This is often the forgotten step, but it is the most important. The feedback loop is critical to ensuring that the digital transformation process is achieving the right results, that the right metrics are in place, and that the needle is moving in the right direction. It is within this feedback loop that the organisation can consistently refine the process to ensure that it moves to each successive step with the right metrics in place.

There is also one final element that every organisation should have in place throughout its digital evolution. An element that many overlook – engagement. There must be a real desire to change, from the top of the organisation right down to the bottom, and an understanding of what it means to undertake this change and why it is essential. This is why this will be a key discussion at the 2019 IDC South Africa CIO Summit taking place in April this year. With this in place, the five steps to digital transformation will make sense and deliver the right results.

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