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Making Project Bloodhound possible

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Project Bloodhound would not have been possible without the local community, a mobile operator and a software giant, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

Project bloodhound is more than just about a car. Software from a global organisation, connectivity from a  South African mobile operator, and the support of a local community have all been critical to the project, says its director, Richard Noble.

“It’s astonishing what the team in Kimberley has done with minimal resources. They got going with the local people from Rietfontein, where there was 90% unemployment, and made them part of the project. It’s brought a tremendous amount of resources into the area, and given the community an economic lifeline.”

Key elements of the project included MTN putting up radio masts in the area, and the Department of Water Affairs bringing forward a water pipeline project.

“MTN has given the community masts with better 3G than in London. The water pipeline means they can make bricks, which previously had to be transported from Upington at very high cost. So development is accelerating. And now, when we get there, the world will descend on Hakskeen Pan, and they are all going to need looking after. Local people will benefit big time.”

Bloodhound Project director Richard Noble

Bloodhound Project director Richard Noble

The radio masts are critical to the project.

“MTN has put up full radio masts as a result of an agreement it made back in 2012. It’s a truly wonderful thing to happen, because it means data from the car can be bounced across Kalari dessert to Upington, where we have a portal, and is beamed across the Internet.

“We have 550 data channels coming from car, and have to get it to Upington, to the Web, and then worldwide. We believed fervently we could do it, but everyone took it with a pinch of salt. Two things happened to make it possible, starting with the MTN mast.”

The second was the backing of global database software giant Oracle. They agreed to provide all the technology needed for data transfer, storage and distribution to 230 countries. This includes cutting edge software platforms like Oracle’s Internet of Things cloud service, data visualisation using augmented reality, and advanced analytics using artificial intelligence.

“It’s raised the tide of the whole project,” said Noble.

See: Bloodhound ready for South Africa

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EV charging becomes reality across SA

Electric vehicles (EV) are becoming increasingly feasible to use, as a nationwide charging infrastructure has been rolled out to charge electric vehicles along main routes.

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Nissan, BMW, and Jaguar Land Rover, in conjunction with the Department of Transport and Gauteng Provincial Government, recently took part in a road trip between Johannesburg and Cape Town using electric vehicles to demonstrate the feasibility of the charging grid.

The electric vehicles used on the trip were the Nissan Leaf, BMW i3, and Jaguar I-Pace. These vehicles use the same charging socket, as they all conform to the same electric vehicle charging standard.

“Nissan’s participation in embracing a safe and reliable mode of transport in October Transport Month is both, a pledge and vision for EVs to one day be a holistic reality to transition to smarter and electric mobility for all South Africans,” says Kabelo Rabotho, Marketing Director, Nissan South Africa.

EVRT Africa embarked on the road trip on October 3 to October 10, on the back of the Smarter Mobility Africa conference which kicked off on October 1 and 2. 

The road-trippers embarked from the Sun Arena at Time Square, Pretoria, on 3 October, and headed for Bloemfontein, and then on to Gariep Dam, Graaff-Reinet, Port Elizabeth, Knysna, and Worcester, ending in Cape Town.

The event was opened by Roger Atkins, Founder of Electric Vehicles Outlook (UK), and Azania Mosaka, 702 host and presenter. They were joined by more than 100 experts talking pertinent issues throughout the summit.

For example, Tim Abbott, CEO: BMW Group South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, and Jacob Mamabolo, MEC: Public Transport and Roads Infrastructure – Gauteng Provincial Government, discussed how rapid urbanisation has created a need for smarter mobility solutions to address congestion, pollution and traffic accidents.

Rabotho said: “Intelligent transport systems and services form the backbone of smart mobility and a cornerstone of a smart city which works to harness the power of technology in order to improve service delivery and quality of life through the use of sustainable solutions.”

Ben Pullen, CEO at Generation.e said that it is vital for the country to start minimising the challenge of EV drivers not being able to find charging points as it is now more important than ever to start promoting the use of EVs in order to reap the benefits that they provide.

Pullen said: “It is for this reason that South Africa’s first electric vehicle road trip (EVRT), has rolled out EV charging stations powered by ACDC Dynamics, effectively creating a stronger charging network to support the EVRT Africa initiative.”

“These systems and services use technology as a means through which to improve performance, safety, mobility and environmental sustainability. With the correct information and support, the expansion of this industry can create opportunities for local entrepreneurs to develop their skills in a variety of areas such as the manufacture of lithium battery components, the installation of charging stations which can be increasingly powered by renewable energy such as wind and solar.”

One year ago, Transport Minister Blade Nzimande together with his Deputy Sindisiwe Chikunga launched and signed the Green Transport Strategy into law.

Nzimande said the strategy aimed at promoting an environmentally friendly transport system and help boost economic growth as well as creates jobs.

The minister has continued to urge both the public and private sector including the automobile manufacturers to work together with government in reducing the ever-increasing carbon dioxide emissions.

“Through this strategy, we aim to promote green mobility to ensure that the transport sector supports the achievements of the economic growth targets whilst protecting our environment,” says Nzimande. “As we know, transport is the driver of socio-economic development, but of course, our carbon footprint continues to grow at a highly unacceptable level.”

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Perimeter fences get smart

The use of the Internet of Things (IoT), and access to low-bandwidth solutions have meant that fencing isn’t just fencing, not anymore. It’s a defence.

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Imagine being able to detect if an intruder is attempting to breach the perimeter of a property in a remote location? Imagine knowing that your fence can detect the intrusion, notifying the authorities and preventing the intruders from getting any closer to their end goal? In many sectors across South Africa and the world, it has become increasingly difficult to protect and monitor remote areas, preventing unauthorised access to protect both the employee and the intruder. People break in, sometimes without realising the danger, and the business bears the cost and the risk. But this scenario is starting to change. Low-cost technology, the inventive use of the Internet of Things (IoT), and access to low-bandwidth solutions have meant that fencing isn’t just fencing, not anymore. It’s a defence.

“The first line of defence for any physical security system is the perimeter,” says Phathizwe Malinga, managing director of SqwidNet. “It can be extremely expensive to build extra infrastructure around the perimeter to protect it – a fence to protect a fence if you will. This often means you have to pay for extra services designed to support the security provided by the boundary and it starts to feel like a redundant circle of cost and complexity.”

The problem is that often companies don’t know that their perimeters have been breached until it is too late. They can remain undetected and put people at risk. This is particularly true in remote, rural locations across South Africa where vast distances and limited communications make it difficult to consistently monitor perimeters and access. Recently, SqwidNet collaborated with Teqcon, a South African mechanical and electronic design company, to address the problem at the point of origin.

Teqcon specialises in the design and development of perimeter detection devices and they have worked with SqwidNet to launch an intelligent, wireless perimeter solution that uses Sigfox to communicate. Called Wi-i, the solution is ideally suited to adding on that extra intelligent layer to sites that need extra security such as prisons, airports, nuclear facilities, military bases, residential estates and industrial complexes.

“The Wi-i Tremoli and the Wi-i Deflexi are battery-powered, wireless, and simple to install,” says Francois Snyman, Teqcon. “They need zero infrastructure to be installed and their batteries last up to four years, so they are resilient and reliable as well. The Tremoli unit measures the amount of energy that a structure experiences when someone is trying to cut a fence or climb over it. The Deflexi unit is designed to monitor the cutting or spreading of electric fences.”

Both solutions basically sit at intermittent points along the fence and alert the relevant authorities when there is unusual activity along the perimeter. Each one works in a different way, so they are suited to different applications and installations, and each one uses the Sigfox network to communicate across the system. In the past, they could only connect their devices using Teqcon’s proprietary wireless network, or GSM (when available). Now they can use Sigfox for completely independent communication, especially in remote areas where other networks are not available.

“When Teqcon started work on the project, Sigfox wasn’t available in South Africa,” says Malinga. “Now, using the Sigfox network, they can completely eliminate the need for base stations out in the field and the need to implement and maintain a GSM network. This means no unnecessary GSM network subscription costs or coverage limitations, and fewer base station installations, significantly reducing the cost of the solution to client and potential use cases.”

The Sigfox network has reduced the operating and installation costs, improved the accessibility and capabilities of the system, and allowed for deeper integration across different sites and applications across the country. The solution helps to address a challenging issue in South Africa – the remote control of rural sites – and helps the business protect their assets against intruders. Some sites are protected by perimeter fencing because access is dangerous, and this ensures that people are prevented from making a life-threatening mistake. It also allows for the business to minimise investment into extra layers of external infrastructure as it can be simply added onto existing fencing and adapted to suit specific requirements.

“Collaborating with SqwidNet in embedding the Sigfox solution into both Wi-i Deflexi and Wi-i  Tremoli has ensured that we can provide smart, relevant and absolutely secure solutions to the market,” says Snyman.

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