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Joburg wins TomTom kudos

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TomTom’s latest report has revealed that although Johannesburg is the most densely populated city in Africa, it has stood out to be one of the best in terms of traffic management.

TomTom has released the results of the TomTom Traffic Index (TTTI) 2017, the annual report detailing the cities around the world with the most traffic congestion. In a study of 390 cities around the world, Johannesburg – South Africa’s most densely populated city – has stood out for its implementation of effective traffic management systems across the city, earning special recognition from an international panel of traffic experts.

For the first time, this year, TomTom is celebrating those cities that deserve special recognition for their efforts to beat traffic congestion with the introduction of the TomTom Traffic Index awards.

Using data from 2016, the TomTom Traffic Index looks at the traffic congestion situation in 390 cities in 48 countries on six continents – from Rome to Rio, Singapore to San Francisco. TomTom works with nearly 19 trillion data points that have been accumulated over nine years. This is the sixth year of the TomTom Traffic Index.

Six cities have been chosen for special recognition by an international panel of traffic experts. Each expert nominated three cities and subsequently all experts voted to determine the award-winning cities from the nominated cities. Along with Johannesburg, winners include Moscow, Stockholm and Rio de Janeiro. The full list of winners can be found here: www.tomtom.com/trafficindex/awards.

While Johannesburg has long been considered South Africa’s most traffic-congested city, the TTTI shows a marked improvement in the biggest metropolitan municipality’s ranking since 2009. Johannesburg has also surpassed Cape Town’s traffic congestion rating on the Index, ranking 70th globally with Cape Town positioned in 48th place.

Johannesburg has, however, experienced a 3% increase in traffic congestion since 2015 and currently sits at a congestion level of 30%. Traffic congestion has also worsened in Cape Town by 5%, to a new average level of 35%.

“Infrastructure development is a major contributing factor to Johannesburg’s improved ranking in the TomTom Traffic Index,” says Megan Bruwer, Project Coordinator for the Stellenbosch Smart Mobility Laboratory. “The Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, Open Road Tolling and numerous ITS applications implemented along freeway corridors have also had a positive impact on traffic congestion, not to mention the establishment of the Gautrain.”

Global rankings

Cities that are experiencing the worst traffic congestion as per the TTTI global rankings include Mexico City (66%), Bangkok (61%), Jakarta (58%), Chongqing (52%) and Bucharest (50%), making up the top five most congested cities in the world.

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In Europe, Bucharest (50%) knocked Moscow (44%) off last year’s top spot, with Saint Petersburg (41%), London (40%) and Marseille (40%) making up the top five.

North America’s top five most congested cities remained the same as the previous year – Mexico City (66%), Los Angeles (45%), San Francisco (39%), Vancouver (39%), New York (35%) – although congestion levels were up across the board.

Looking at TomTom’s historical data, traffic congestion is up by 23% globally since 2008 and 10% on 2015. The TomTom Traffic Index also provides useful comparative information between South Africa’s major metropolitan municipalities, with both Johannesburg and Pretoria indicating a decrease in traffic congestion between 2009 and 2012 and maintaining a relatively even traffic congestion rating in the following three years.

“Throughout South Africa, TomTom is empowering traffic authorities and key decision makers at all levels of government with highly-accurate historical and real-time insights into traffic flows and incidents,” explains Etienne Louw, TomTom South Africa’s Managing Director.

“Coupled with the real-time traffic information provided by TomTom’s navigation solutions, existing road infrastructure can be utilised with increased efficiency to counter rising traffic congestion.”

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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By 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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How load-shedding is killing our cellphone signals

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Extensive load-shedding, combined with the theft of cell tower backup batteries and copper wire, is placing a massive strain on mobile network providers.

MTN says the majority of MTN’S sites have been equipped with battery backup systems to ensure there is enough power on site to run the system for several hours when local power goes out and the mains go down. 

“With power outages on the rise, these back-up systems become imperative to keeping South Africa connected and MTN has invested heavily in generators and backup batteries to maintain communication for customers, despite the lack of electrical power,” the operator said in a statement today.

However, according to Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive: Corporate Affairs, at MTN SA, “The high frequency of the cycles of load shedding have meant batteries were unable to fully recharge. They generally have a capacity of six to 12 hours, depending on the site category, and require 12 to 18 hours to recharge.”

An additional challenge is that criminals and criminal syndicates are placing networks across the country at risk. Batteries, which can cost R28 000 per battery and upwards, are sought after on black markets – especially in neighbouring countries. 

“Although MTN has improved security and is making strides in limiting instances of theft and vandalism with the assistance of the police, the increase in power outages has made this issue even more pressing,” says O’Sullivan.

Ernest Paul, General Manager: Network Operations at SA’s leading network provider MTN, says the brazen theft of batteries is an industry-wide problem and will require a broader initiative driven by communities, the private sector, police and prosecutors to bring it to a halt.

“Apart from the cost of replacing the stolen batteries and upgrading the broken infrastructure, communities suffer as the network degrades without the back-up power. This is due to the fact that any coverage gaps need to be filled. The situation is even more dire with the rolling power cuts expected due to Eskom load shedding.”

Loss of services and network quality can range from a 2-5km radius to 15km on some sites and affect 5,000 to 20,000 people. On hub sites, network coverage to entire suburbs and regions can be lost.

Click here to read more about efforts to combat copper theft.

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