As much of South Africa’s transportation is still road-based, the country needs to ready itself to take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – doing so, will play a transformative role in future-proofing transportation in the country.
Transportation remains one of the most important sectors for its potential influence on most other industries and growth in the economy. As much of South Africa’s transportation is still road-based, the country needs to ready itself to take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – doing so, connectivity, data and analytics, and autonomous vehicles will play a transformative role in future-proofing transportation in the country beyond 2030.
“Effective implementation of the National Infrastructure Plan (NIP) should be considered in earnest that will see selected major infrastructure projects fast-tracked to get the backlog moving, which could help with increasing capacity in transport industries and, as a direct result, influence positive growth in the economy,” says Vishaal Lutchman, transport and infrastructure divisional director, WSP ∣ Parsons Brinckerhoff Africa. “Though it shouldn’t be thought of in isolation, but rather viewed as a starting point to get the country’s infrastructure and supporting networks ready for the technological advances we are seeing globally, and better enable the 5.5% GDP growth the country is said to be able to achieve with relative ease.”
In reality, 2030 is a medium-term planning timeframe for major infrastructure projects. “While it’s important to have this planning and set targets in place, we also need a long-term vision that encapsulates how people will live, work and play beyond 2030. This will enable us to design what the future demand of transport networks will be. If we look at the pervasiveness of mobile devices and the uptake of the Internet in the country as well, then the adoption of key technologies becomes crucial to this vision and its implementation,” adds Lutchman.
“The National Infrastructure Plan (NIP) will see selected major infrastructure projects fast-tracked to get the backlog moving, which could immensely help with increasing capacity in transport industries and, as a direct result, influence positive growth in the economy,” says Vishaal Lutchman, transport and infrastructure divisional director, WSP ∣ Parsons Brinckerhoff Africa. “Though it shouldn’t be thought of in isolation and it should be viewed as a starting point to get the country’s infrastructure and supporting networks up to scratch – to better enable and facilitate the 5.5% GDP growth the country is said to be able to achieve.”
In reality, 2030 is a medium-term planning timeframe for major infrastructure projects. “While it’s great to have this planning and set targets in place, what we really need is a long-term vision that encapsulates how people will live, work and play beyond 2030 – and thereby design what the future demand of transport networks will be. Also, if we look at the pervasiveness of mobile devices and the uptake of the Internet in the country, then the adoption of key technologies becomes crucial to this vision and its implementation,” adds Lutchman.
Grant Fraser, Product and Marketing Director at MiX Telematics (Africa) agrees: “Today, we live in a digitally connected society and the expectations of individuals and business, alike, is to remain connected. However, managing this usually requires mobile connectivity in the form of Wi-Fi, GSM, GPS and wireless technologies.”
In fact, according to Riaan Graham, sales director at Ruckus Wireless, sub-Saharan Africa; “Mobility goes hand-in-hand with travel and transport and the proliferation of mobile devices is certainly driving the adoption of wireless technologies – particularly Wi-Fi connectivity – in transportation. Whether it’s an individual, or a company transporting people or goods, there is a distinct desire and expectation from consumers, customers and business, alike, to be able to; communicate, do seamless and real-time route checking or planning for improved time management and productivity, manage safety and security from anywhere, as well as access certain application services while on route.”
Graham confirms that Wi-Fi is ideal to incorporate in transport planning. “It doesn’t require fixed infrastructure to establish, can handle offloading 3G/4G capacity – particularly in high user density areas – with reliable connections and ubiquitous coverage and, it can differentiate service and access by user and device. For instance, a bus can be transformed into a moving Wi-Fi hotspot, which will create great value for the passengers and become a unique selling point for the bus company. However, the potential of Wi-Fi in transport is not just about passengers – when with the amplification of the Internet of Things (IoT) – it can enable smarter lifestyles for everyone.”
“Passengers also need real-time access to schedules, gate and ticket information, maps and/or other guidance as they pass through the bus terminal. Wi-Fi not only provides an ideal method for these activities, it also provides a platform for new revenue generating services such as additional Wi-Fi access or 3G/4G offload, as well as support for bus terminal operational needs such as point-of-sale, digital signage and video security. From a commercial perspective, there is also a global trend for transportation cargo and fleet services to become more involved in value added activities such as cargo processing and logistics, which will require new processes, practices and technological advances around stock control and integration, as well as better wireless connectivity,” adds Graham.
This is particularly true when we consider the significant advances in telematics technology and the future of smart vehicles. Fraser says: “The combination of connectivity, IoT and on-board technologies continues to drive the use of Big Data, which now lies at the centre of telematics technology. While the on-board computer is still an important component, advances in IoT and analytics provides the opportunity to access much richer data about the vehicle, its movements, the driver, etc. – and being able to effectively utilise this data to provide added value.”
The proliferation of Big Data and IoT are certainly two of the most significant change agents that continue to shape the future of telematics, however, when converged with leading-edge thinking into connected and autonomous vehicles (AVs) we can recognise the potential to truly transform transportation in the country.
Lutchman adds: “Autonomous vehicles or AVs are coming. A number of countries are already investing in supporting infrastructure and undertaking successful case studies. South Africa has the most sophisticated networks of transport infrastructure on the continent, and with the right planning and investment into required supporting infrastructure for connectivity, we could be ready for AVs post 2030.”
Global research* undertaken by WSP ∣ Parsons Brinckerhoff in the UK, in association with Farrells, found that AVs have the potential to support a better quality of life, economic growth, health, safety and social connections. They offer convenient and safer mobility, regardless of the driver’s capabilities, and could also help to improve the way that existing spaces and route networks work.
“Imagine a connected network of vehicles on our major highway, freeway and city centre routes. Because the vehicles will be pre-programmed to abide by the laws of the road, and able to connect to and access the latest in GPS mapping and data from other sources, these vehicles will be safer, more sustainable and more efficient than the vehicles of today,” adds Lutchman.
The company’s research also shows that in time AVs will be able to move around without direct driver input to transport people and goods, on demand, from door-to-door using the most efficient routes. Added to this, road transport systems of the future will interact seamlessly with other transport systems, offering end-to-end journey connectivity and resilience.
“Having networks of automated vehicles capable of completing journeys safely and efficiently – in normally encountered traffic, road and weather conditions – could significantly reduce collisions caused by driver error on our roads. Sophisticated telematics will still have a key role to play in ensuring visibility and, in the future, to monitor what will be known as the ‘robo driver’ (which too can come with its own set of challenges). If we consider that road fatalities cost the country billions of Rands every year – with the majority being caused by irresponsible driver behaviour – this should certainly be motivation for the country to adapt to these sophisticated transport modes in the future. Telematics data will remain an invaluable source of real-time insights when automation is present,” says Fraser.
Meet Aston Martin F1’s incredible moving data centre
The Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team faces a great deal more IT challenges than your average enterprise as not many IT teams have to rebuild their data center 21 times each year and get it running it up in a matter of hours. Not many data centers are packed up and transported around the world by air and sea along with 45 tonnes of equipment. Not many IT technicians also have to perform a dual role as pit stop mechanic.
The trackside garage at an F1 race is a tight working environment and a team of only two IT technicians face pressure from both the factory and trackside staff to get the trackside IT up and running very fast. Yet, despite all these pressures, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing do not have a cloud-led strategy. Instead they have chosen to keep all IT in house.
The reason for this is performance. F1 is arguably the ultimate performance sport. A walk round the team’s factory in Milton Keynes, England, makes it abundantly clear that the whole organization is hell bent on maximizing performance. 700 staff at the factory are all essentially dedicated to the creation of just two cars. The level of detail that is demanded in reaching peak performance is truly mind blowing. For example, one machine with a robotic arm that checks the dimensions of the components built at the factory is able to measure accuracy to a scale 10 times thinner than a human hair.
This quest for maximum performance, however, is hampered at every turn by the stringent rules from the F1 governing body – the FIA. Teams face restrictions on testing and technology usage in order to prevent the sport becoming an arms race. So, for example, pre-season track testing is limited to only 8 days. Furthermore, wind tunnel testing is only allowed with 60% scale models and wind tunnel-usage is balanced with the use of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software, essentially a virtual wind tunnel. Teams that overuse one, lose time with the other.
In order to maximize performance within uniquely difficult logistical and regulatory conditions, the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team has had to deploy a very powerful and agile IT estate.
According to Neil Bailey, Head of IT Infrastructure, Enterprise Architecture and Innovation, their legacy trackside infrastructure was “creaking”. Before choosing hyperconverged infrastructure, their “traditional IT had reached its limits”, says Bailey. “When things reach their limits they break, just like a car,” adds Bailey.
The team’s biggest emphasis for switching to HPE’s hyperconverged infrastructure, SimpliVity, was performance. Now, with “the extra performance of SimpliVity, it means it doesn’t get to its limits,” says Bailey. HPE SimpliVity has helped reduce space, has optimized processing power and brought more agility.
One of the first and most important use cases they switched to hyperconverged infrastructure was post-processing trackside data. During a race weekend each car is typically fitted with over 100 sensors providing key data on things like tyre temperature and downforce multiple times per second. Processing this data and acting on the insights is key to driving performance improvements. With their legacy infrastructure, Bailey says they were “losing valuable track time during free practice waiting for data processing to take place.” Since switching to HPE SimpliVity, data processing has dropped from being more than 15 minutes to less than 5 minutes. Overall, the team has seen a 79% performance boost compared to the legacy architecture. This has allowed for real time race strategy analysis and has improved race strategy decision making.
Data insights helps the team stay one step ahead, as race strategy decisions are data driven. For example, real time tyre temperature data helps the team judge tyre wear and make pit stop decisions. Real time access to tyre data helped the team to victory at the 2018 Chinese Grand Prix as the Aston Martin Red Bull cars pitted ahead of the rest of the field and Daniel Ricciardo swept to a memorable victory.
Hyperconverged infrastructure is also well suited to the “hostile” trackside environment, according to Bailey. With hyperconverged infrastructure, only two racks are needed at each race of which SimpliVity only takes up about 20% of the space, thus freeing up key space in very restricted trackside garages. Furthermore, with the team limited to 60 staff at each race, only two of Bailey’s team can travel. The reduction in equipment and closer integration of HPE SimpliVity means engineers can get the trackside data center up and running quickly and allow trackside staff to start work as soon as they arrive.
Since seeing the notable performance gains from using hyperconverged infrastructure for trackside data processing, the team has also transitioned some of the factory’s IT estate over to HPE SimpliVity. This includes: Aerodynamic metrics, ERP system, SQL server, exchange server and the team’s software house, the Team Foundation Server.
As well as seeing huge performance benefits, HPE SimpliVity has significantly impacted the work patterns of Bailey’s team of just ten. According to Bailey, the biggest operational win from hyperconverged infrastructure is “freeing up engineers’ time from focusing on ‘business as usual’ to innovation.” Traditional IT took up too much of the engineers’ time monitoring systems and just keeping things running. Now with HPE SimpliVity, Bailey’s team can “give the business more and quicker” and “be more creative with how they use technology.”
Hyperconverged infrastructure has given Aston Martin Red Bull Racing the speed, scalability and agility they require without any need to turn to the cloud. It allows them to deliver more and more resources to trackside staff in an increasingly responsive manner. However, even with all these performance gains, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing has been able to reduce IT costs. So, the users are happy, the finance director is happy and the IT team are happy because their jobs are easier. Hyperconvergence is clearly the right choice for the unique challenges of Formula 1 racing.
Body-tracking tech moves to assembly line
Technology typically used by the world’s top sport stars to raise their game, or ensure their signature skills are accurately replicated in leading video games, is now being used on an auto assembly line.
Employees at Ford’s Valencia Engine Assembly Plant, in Spain, are using a special suit equipped with advanced body tracking technology. The pilot system, created by Ford and the Instituto Biomecánica de Valencia, has involved 70 employees in 21 work areas.
Player motion technology usually records how athletes sprint or turn, enabling sport coaches or game developers to unlock the potential of sport stars in the real world or on screen. Ford is using it to design less physically stressful workstations for enhanced manufacturing quality.
“It’s been proven on the sports field that with motion tracking technology, tiny adjustments to the way you move can have a huge benefit,” said Javier Gisbert, production area manager, Ford Valencia Engine Assembly Plant. “For our employees, changes made to work areas using similar technology can ultimately ensure that, even on a long day, they are able to work comfortably.”
Engineers took inspiration from a suit they saw at a trade fair that demonstrated how robots could replicate human movement and then applied it to their workplace, where production of the new Ford Transit Connect and 2.0-litre EcoBoost Duratec engines began this month.
The skin-tight suit consists of 15 tiny movement tracking light sensors connected to a wireless detection unit. The system tracks how the person moves at work, highlighting head, neck, shoulder and limb movements. Movement is recorded by four specialised motion-tracking cameras – similar to those usually paired with computer game consoles – placed near the worker and captured as a 3D skeletal character animation of the user.
Specially trained ergonomists then use the data to help employees align their posture correctly. Measurements captured by the system, such as an employee’s height or arm length, are used to design workstations, so they better fit employees.