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Huge tech potential will ride on public transport

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Technology-enabled public transport systems have the potential to become far more than merely ways to get people from the proverbial ‘A to B’, writes Harry van Huyssteen at T-Systems South Africa.

With innovations like high-speed connectivity, sensors, big data, geolocation and mobile services, transit routes can become the connective tissue that creates stronger communities and flourishing local economic development.

These various forms of technology can help stimulate ecosystems of trade and development alongside important commuter routes – uplifting local communities and improving the lives of millions of South Africans.

Using transport routes as a catalyst for economic development, a concept known as Transit Oriented Development (TOD), has a few clear benefits:

•             Access to economic opportunity… employment and entrepreneurship opportunities from businesses that operate at public transport nodes – like bus stations, train terminals, and taxi ranks.

•             Social spaces… where people can connect, network, and share knowledge. Just by creating a safe environment for people to interact, a myriad of opportunities can emerge.

•             Easier movement of labour… integrated and efficient transport routes reduce wasted time (such as waiting time, and walking between a train and a taxi station, for instance) – meaning that people can be more productive, and get home to their families in the evening with less hassle.

For TOD to be possible, gathering and intelligently using masses of commuter data is a critical starting point. Data-driven transport planning can ensure public services infrastructure – like schools, parks, hospitals and police services – are integrated into the major nodes of a region’s public transport infrastructure.

If we are to implement a new bus network in Soweto, for example, data collected from millions of daily commuters would reveal the ideal bus routes, times, and frequencies, to serve the maximum number of passengers.

But in developing economies, TOD strategies often have to be creative, fitting within the existing informal transit services and considering local culture, geography, and practices. Case-studies from first-world countries don’t always work everywhere in the world.

The remarkable Gondola-style cable cars in Columbia’s sprawling mountain city of Medellin is a great example of this. WiFi-equipped capsules transport residents between the upper- to the lower-regions of the city, connecting them with bus networks at ground level. At all of the major nodes you’ll find locally-owned restaurants and shops selling a variety of products to both locals and tourists alike.

In South Africa, we have a unique blend of formal and informal transit mechanisms. Considering local context means using technology to augment and incrementally improve the existing systems, rather than to outright replace them.

Even the most simple technology, like free Wi-Fi, could make a massive difference to commuters in our cities – giving access to those currently on the wrong side of the ‘digital divide’, helping to stimulate local business, and making communication far easier for travellers.

In fact, better communication is one of the clearest ways that we could improve our public transport. Commuters would be able to enquire about schedules and routes – through mobile apps, or USSD sessions, or web portals. Operators could communicate relevant information to passengers likely to be affected by, for instance, a late train (instead of bulk groups of travellers all receiving the same alerts).

Public transport operators could dramatically improve efficiencies with modern transport management systems – which link everything from ticketing to customer counting, from predictive maintenance to driver management and weather alerts. These comprehensive systems enable the optimal resource allocation, and the ability to respond in near real-time to isolated events, such as large entertainment events, unusual weather, strikes, or accidents.

Serving communities and applying technology in a way that benefits all requires deep partnerships between local government and specialist IT partners – to not only improve the levels of mobility and accessibility for commuters, but also stimulate new commerce, services, and tourism opportunities in the districts surrounding the transport hubs.

* Harry van Huyssteen, Transport Industry Subject Matter Expert, at T-Systems South Africa

 

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Welcome to world of 2099

The world of 2099 will be unrecognisable from the world of today, but it can be predicted, says one visionary. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK met him in Singapore.

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Futuristic structures tower over the landscape. Giant, alien-looking trees light up with dazzling colours amid the hundreds of plant species that grow up their trunks. Cosmetic stores sell their wares via public touch-screens, with products delivered instantly in drawers below the screens.

This is not a vision of the future. It is a sample of Singapore today. But it is also an inkling of the world we may all experience in the future.

Singapore was the venue, last week, of the World Cities Summit, where engineers, politicians, investors and visionaries rubbed shoulders as they talked about the strategies and policies that would enhance urban living in the future.

As part of the Summit, global payment technologies leader Mastercard hosted a small media briefing by one of Singapore’s leading thinkers about the future, Dr Damian Tan, managing director of Vickers Venture Partners. The company’s slogan “We invest in the extraordinary,” offers a small clue to Tan’s perspective.

“We look as far forward as 2099 because, as a venture capital firm, we invest in the long term,” he tells a group of journalists from Africa and the Middle East. “Companies explode in growth because there is value in the future. If there is no growth, they won’t explode.”

The big question that the Smart Cities Summit and Mastercard are trying to help answer is, what will cities look like in the year 2099? Tan can’t give an exact answer, but he offers a framework that helps one approach the question.

“If you want to look at 81 years into the future, and understand the change that will come, you need to double that amount and look into the past. That takes us to 1856. The difference between then and now is the difference you can expect between now and 2099.”

Click here or on the page link below to read on: Page 2: Soldiers and Health in 2099.

  •    Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

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Street art goes electric

Kaspersky Lab and British street artist D*Face have unveiled the first-ever “art helmet” design at the Formula E finale for electric cars in New York.

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The ‘Save The World’ helmets will be raced by DS Virgin Racing’s drivers, Sam Bird and Alex Lynn, as they traverse the New York street circuit during the final races of the Formula E season.

The announcement signals the first art helmet by a Formula E team, continuing the heritage of art in motorsport and the cybersecurity brand’s commitment to contemporary art, creativity and innovation. D*Face took inspiration from Kaspersky Lab’s tagline, “A Company To Save The World”, and hopes that his colourful work will inspire people to take positive action.

D*Face will announce his first-ever art car design with a custom-made livery for the DS Virgin Racing Team. Its design will be released at the “Art Goes Green” event after Saturday’s race. The helmets and art car are the latest installations in the “Save the World” collection, following a major permanent public mural that was installed in Brooklyn, New York, in May.

D*Face, whose real name is Dean Stockton, said: “It is exciting to work with Kaspersky Lab on this project and create art with a real message of hope for a better future. After all, this is our world and we need to look after it. It will take every one of us to make a real lasting, impactful change. I love the mentality of the DS Virgin Racing Team and that of Formula E by showcasing sport in a way that doesn’t harm the environment, but is still just as exhilarating and fun.

“It is time for us all to stand together and make a change… be that stopping data steals, climate change, plastic waste or using damaging fuels. I want everyone to make a pledge to do one thing that will help make a change.”

As a sponsor of DS Virgin Racing Team, Kaspersky Lab is responsible for protecting the team’s devices against cyber threats. The company sees the technical environment in the global sport of Formula E as the next frontier in furthering its research and development of new technologies to keep vehicles secure in the digital world.

Sylvain Filippi, Managing Director at DS Virgin Racing, said: “The whole team fully supports this great initiative and our thanks got to Kaspersky and D*Face for their collaboration. It’s an honour to have such an innovative artist bring his talents to bear in our team ahead of the season-finale; the car, drivers’ crash helmets and mural all look amazing.”

Aldo Fucelli Pessot del Bo, Head of Global Partnerships and Sponsorships at Kaspersky Lab added: “There is a need for innovation on a global scale, both in contemporary art and in the fast-growing sport of Formula E. Now, for the first time ever, Kaspersky Lab is proudly bringing together the two sectors in an effort to Save the World and unleash creativity, encourage freedom of expression and further innovation.”

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