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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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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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