A group of university students and lecturers are on a road trip of a different kind as they travel over 4 000km to test out their solar powered car – the Ilanga II fuelled only by the sun, writes JENNI EVANS.
Solar panels? Check. Ion batteries? Check. 3D printer for spares? Check. A group of university students and lecturers are on a road trip of a different kind as they travel over 4 000km to test out their solar powered car the Ilanga II fuelled on nothing by good old sunshine.
“It can do up to 140km/h,” says Nickey Janse van Rensburg, who lectures mechanical engineering at the University of Johannesburg’s Energy Movement lab.
“Because we don’t have a lot of sun today we are doing 90km/h,” she said from the convoy snaking toward the Northern Cape town of Kimberley to show off the vehicle named after the Zulu word for sun.
And every time they stop, they draw a crowd of people keen to see what can be done by a group of bright sparks looking for clean green alternatives.
Resembling a cross between a space pod and a yacht, the aerodynamic lines of the orange and white Ilanga II draws delighted crowds wherever she pulls up. And that is exactly what the university wants – for people in the towns and rural villages along the route to see how green technology can be used in every day life.
Says Janse van Rensburg, the Ilanga II could even be plugged into a wall like a cellphone, if needed, to charge.
The Solar Car Project promotes the study and development of efficient energy use, environmental awareness, energy management and innovative engineering.
On Thursday the residents of Klerksdorp who arrived with their children at the team’s leg-stretching and system-tweaking stop at the Mitsubishi garage were intrigued by what they saw. Her “engine” is 300 lithium ion batteries which work almost like cellphone batteries, and almost 1 000 business card-sized thin solar panels.
Along the route, even mayors have come out to welcome the team which is happy to explain how everything works and tell people about other ways of using “green” technology in their every day life.
And of course, everyone wants to see some laps and they are not disappointed. And then it’s go time again.
Warren Hurter, engineering project manager at the university’s manufacturing research centre, is one of the three drivers taking turns on the test run.
He explains that the solar panels on top of the vehicle convert the energy from the sun into power in the battery packs.
The solar panels are similar to the solar cards that powered the Mars Rover which wheeled around the red planet looking for signs of water activity, its solar panel “wings” capturing enough energy during the four-hour Mars day to enable it to explore, and communicate with the team on Earth.
The Ilanga II’s tool box is a 3D printer which will be used to replace parts it might need for running repairs. The 3D printer has already produced the steering interface, the buttons, the battery holder and the brackets for the roof panel.
“We haven’t needed to use it as yet,” said Hurter.
They have had a small suspension problem so far, and when they started their journey in Johannesburg the telemetry system which measures the car’s performance was playing up.
“But that’s all part of the experience,” says Hurter who says he was the kid who played with Lego and pulled things apart to spend hours figuring out how to put it all back together again.
Camping along the way they have a support team which stays up until late making adjustments to the vehicle.
The Ilanga II is their third solar-powered car after the Ilanga and the Ilanga 1. Their team hopes to take her to next year’s Sasol Solar Car Challenge where the Ilanga 1.1 scooped the Technology and Innovation Award previously. Local and international solar car developers compete in that race between Pretoria and Cape Town as part of their work on improving the technology and to share ideas.
The race to find energy efficient alternatives has already given rise to the electric hybrids already on the consumer market.
Because the Ilanga II is built around efficiency, it only takes one driver. The team scanned the shape of one of the drivers, placed it into the vehicle and built it around his shape. So only drivers with his shape will fit into her.
The department partnered with UJ’s Prof Vivian Alberts at PTiP Innovations, who developed and internationally patented the thin film photovoltaic technology used on the car. These are very thin solar panels which they hope to pilot in rural communities in the near future, according to the university’s website.
Hurter says the car does not have any luxuries apart from indicators and headlights. The only radio is the two-way radio the team uses to communicate. It is a bit noisy on the inside because it does not have the sound padding that cars usually have, but from the outside, it is very quiet, and has no emissions.
The project has sponsorship from companies such as Eskom and Siemens, and a support convoy provided by Mitsubishi which also wants the crew to log their vehicles’ fuel efficiency for its own studies.
And when will be able drive one? Not in the near future. The Ilanga II Solar Car Project is not being built for sale, but for now is being used to research and develop sustainable and green engineering that can be used in the real world.
They already have plans to introduce the technology to power village pumps.
Spectators can look forward to seeing Ilanga II at pit stops and lectures along its route which will include a trip through Namibia and Botswana.
Her itinerary is: Friday, June 19: Kimberley – Upington (Public Lecture)
Saturday, June 20: (Upington) – Hakskeen Pan – Rietfontein Border Control – KeetmansHoop
Sunday, June 21: Keetmanshoop – Mariental – Rehoboth
Monday, June 22: Rehoboth – Windhoek (Public Lecture)
Tuesday, June 23: Windhoek– Swakopmund – Walvis Bay
Wednesday, June 24: Walvis Bay – Swakopmund
Thursday, June 25: Swakopmund – Windhoek – Buitepos
Friday, June 26: Buitepos – Kang
Saturday, June 27: Kang – Sekoma – Kanye – Gaborone
Sunday, June 28: Gaborone Day (Public Lecture)
Monday, June 29: Gaborone – UJ Solar Lab.
Like UJ Solar Car on Facebook or follow them @UJSolarCar on Twitter.
VoD cuts the cord in SA
Some 20% of South Africans who sign up for a subscription video on demand (SVOD) service such as Netflix or Showmax do so with the intention of cancelling their pay television subscription.
That’s according to GfK’s international ViewScape survey*, which this year covers Africa (South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria) for the first time.
The study—which surveyed 1,250 people representative of urban South African adults with Internet access—shows that 90% of the country’s online adults today use at least one online video service and that just over half are paying to view digital online content. The average user spends around 7 hours and two minutes a day consuming video content, with broadcast television accounting for just 42% of the time South Africans spend in front of a screen.
Consumers in South Africa spend nearly as much of their daily viewing time – 39% of the total – watching free digital video sources such as YouTube and Facebook as they do on linear television. People aged 18 to 24 years spend more than eight hours a day watching video content as they tend to spend more time with free digital video than people above their age.
Says Benjamin Ballensiefen, managing director for Sub Sahara Africa at GfK: “The media industry is experiencing a revolution as digital platforms transform viewers’ video consumption behaviour. The GfK ViewScape study is one of the first to not only examine broadcast television consumption in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, but also to quantify how linear and online forms of content distribution fit together in the dynamic world of video consumption.”
The study finds that just over a third of South African adults are using streaming video on demand (SVOD) services, with only 16% of SVOD users subscribing to multiple services. Around 23% use per-pay-view platforms such as DSTV Box Office, while about 10% download pirated content from the Internet. Around 82% still sometimes watch content on disc-based media.
“Linear and non-linear television both play significant roles in South Africa’s video landscape, though disruption from digital players poses a growing threat to the incumbents,” says Molemo Moahloli, general manager for media research & regional business development at GfK Sub Sahara Africa. “Among most demographics, usage of paid online content is incremental to consumption of linear television, but there are signs that younger consumers are beginning to substitute SVOD for pay-television subscriptions.”
New data rules raise business trust challenges
When the General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect on May 25th, financial services firms will face a new potential threat to their on-going challenges with building strong customer relationships, writes DARREL ORSMOND, Financial Services Industry Head at SAP Africa.
The regulation – dubbed GDPR for short – is aimed at giving European citizens control back over their personal data. Any firm that creates, stores, manages or transfers personal information of an EU citizen can be held liable under the new regulation. Non-compliance is not an option: the fines are steep, with a maximum penalty of €20-million – or nearly R300-million – for transgressors.
GDPR marks a step toward improved individual rights over large corporates and states that prevents the latter from using and abusing personal information at their discretion. Considering the prevailing trust deficit – one global EY survey found that 60% of global consumers worry about hacking of bank accounts or bank cards, and 58% worry about the amount of personal and private data organisations have about them – the new regulation comes at an opportune time. But it is almost certain to cause disruption to normal business practices when implemented, and therein lies both a threat and an opportunity.
The fundamentals of trust
GDPR is set to tamper with two fundamental factors that can have a detrimental effect on the implicit trust between financial services providers and their customers: firstly, customers will suddenly be challenged to validate that what they thought companies were already doing – storing and managing their personal data in a manner that is respectful of their privacy – is actually happening. Secondly, the outbreak of stories relating to companies mistreating customer data or exposing customers due to security breaches will increase the chances that customers now seek tangible reassurance from their providers that their data is stored correctly.
The recent news of Facebook’s indiscriminate sharing of 50 million of its members’ personal data to an outside firm has not only led to public outcry but could cost the company $2-trillion in fines should the Federal Trade Commission choose to pursue the matter to its fullest extent. The matter of trust also extends beyond personal data: in EY’s 2016 Global Consumer Banking Survey, less than a third of respondents had complete trust that their banks were being transparent about fees and charges.
This is forcing companies to reconsider their role in building and maintaining trust with its customers. In any customer relationship, much is done based on implicit trust. A personal banking customer will enjoy a measure of familiarity that often provides them with some latitude – for example when applying for access to a new service or an overdraft facility – that can save them a lot of time and energy. Under GDPR and South Africa’s POPI act, this process is drastically complicated: banks may now be obliged to obtain permission to share customer data between different business units (for example because they are part of different legal entities and have not expressly received permission). A customer may now allow banks to use their personal data in risk scoring models, but prevent them from determining whether they qualify for private banking services.
What used to happen naturally within standard banking processes may be suddenly constrained by regulation, directly affecting the bank’s relationship with its customers, as well as its ability to upsell to existing customers.
The risk of compliance
Are we moving to an overly bureaucratic world where even the simplest action is subject to a string of onerous processes? Compliance officers are already embedded within every function in a typical financial services institution, as well as at management level. Often the reporting of risk processes sits outside formal line functions and end up going straight to the board. This can have a stifling effect on innovation, with potentially negative consequences for customer service.
A typical banking environment is already creaking under the weight of close to 100 acts, which makes it difficult to take the calculated risks needed to develop and launch innovative new banking products. Entire new industries could now emerge, focusing purely on the matter of compliance and associated litigation. GDPR already requires the services of Data Protection Officers, but the growing complexity of regulatory compliance could add a swathe of new job functions and disciplines. None of this points to the type of innovation that the modern titans of business are renowned for.
A three-step plan of action
So how must banks and other financial services firms respond? I would argue there are three main elements to successfully navigating the immediate impact of the new regulations:
Firstly, ensuring that the technologies you use to secure, manage and store personal data is sufficiently robust. Modern financial services providers have a wealth of customer data at their disposal, including unstructured data from non-traditional sources such as social media. The tools they use to process and safeguard this data needs to be able to withstand the threats posed by potential data breaches and malicious attacks.
Secondly, rethinking the core organisational processes governing their interactions with customers. This includes the internal measures for setting terms and conditions, how customers are informed of their intention to use their data, and how risk is assessed. A customer applying for medical insurance will disclose deeply personal information about themselves to the insurance provider: it is imperative the insurer provides reassurance that the customer’s data will be treated respectfully and with discretion and with their express permission.
Thirdly, financial services firms need to define a core set of principles for how they treat customers and what constitutes fair treatment. This should be an extension of a broader organisational focus on treating customers fairly, and can go some way to repairing the trust deficit between the financial services industry and the customers they serve.