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Traffic must get smarter

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As our cities grow and get smarter, our streets in turn get busier. TEDDY DAKA, Group CEO, Ansys Limited, believes that in order to control traffic, we have to become smarter.

Without wanting to be accused of national stereotyping, one thing that strikes me every time I visit a new country is how subtly unique each place is when it comes to the way people drive. Sometimes it’s because the rules are simply different – South Africa’s four-way stops are as incomprehensible to some northern Europeans as roundabouts seem to be here. In other ways, it’s just customs that have developed over time – the National Road Traffic Act is very specific about when and where hazard lights should be used, and it’s certainly not to show that you’re slowing down or to say thanks.

One thing everyone involved in traffic management knows, however, is that we have to get smarter. As our cities get bigger and our citizens more mobile, our roads will become more congested and gridlocked unless we can find better solutions for everything from parking to car sharing to public transport. The Gauteng City Region Observatory says that population and population density around Tshwane and Johannesburg is growing faster than the rest of the country, and will soon be on a par with the world’s most packed places.

We know that smart cities and the internet of things (IoT) will be an integral part of our effort to reconcile urban growth with quality of living. But we’re right at the start of figuring out how these ideas will be effectively applied in a country like South Africa.

One area that is relatively unexplored, for example, is the area of in-car telematics. Outside of logistics and the tags used for eTolls, our cars are still pretty dumb and traffic management principles haven’t changed for decades. That’s not to belittle investments made in adding mobile SIM cards to traffic lights, for example, but thanks to the falling cost of data communications and the development of low-bandwidth technologies such as Random Phase Multiple Access (RPMA) radio networks, it’s now entirely feasible to develop large scale, two-way machine-to-machine (M2M) communications for vehicles on our highways and byways.

Such technology can provide traffic managers with real-time data and analytics to optimise the transport network at the macro and micro levels. Predicting congestion and instant accident detection is one part, but so is the ability for commuters to get up-to-the-minute recommendations on routes and the most efficient mode of transport.

M2M communications are a pre-requisite for future transport models such as self-driving cars, which have the Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities to organise themselves for optimum travel. Right now at Ansys we’ve been working with international vendors and municipal and national enforcement and roads authorities to understand the kinds of solutions that are possible today.

Through utilising Ingenu’s M2M network technology we’ve developed an in-car IoT device that plug into the diagnostic port on any recently manufactured vehicle and can be used for fleet management, customer safety,  accident alerts, driver behaviour monitoring or law enforcement. Today, insurance companies using this kind of technology can reward the best drivers, while at the same time improving their recovery rates for stolen vehicles.

The next applications for in-car M2M devices will be to build on the kinds of features we see in today’s smartphones. Google Maps can alert you of a traffic incident ahead and advise you to take a different route. Integrating the same kind of location-aware devices into a smart city network will give city authorities the grid-wide ability to dynamically change routes and speed limits.

Law enforcement, too, is an active area of development. We’re using the same devices and our Connected Car platform to create “virtual pounds” for traffic cops in the Middle East. When a vehicle is ordered off the road, the current costs of storing it at a police lot and being liable for damage are much higher than most people realise. Like ankle tags for offenders, on-board devices can put a vehicle under “house arrest”, alerting authorities if an engine is started or the vehicle is moved and reducing the costs of transport, storage and insurance to zero.

There are many other things that are possible – including automating fines for not fastening seatbelts or breaking the speed limit, for example – but also a lot still to be learned and understood. Can we balance smart traffic solutions with the driver’s right to privacy, for example, and is the security of the underlying platform strong enough?

What we do know is that all solutions will be driven by local needs, and with road-related fatalities and commuting times among the worst in the world, South Africa has desperate needs that need innovative solutions.

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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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