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SA transport app gets £1.165m funding for API

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WhereIsMyTransport, a South African transport technology company, has announced an investment of £1.165 million from Goodwell Investments.

The investment has been secured to fund WhereIsMyTransport’s transit API, which launches today. The API offers a new open information platform which, for the first time, collates transit data for formal and informal (i.e. demand-based and relatively unregulated) services, and combines it with analytics capability and communication tools.

The journey-mapping capability the platform provides is taken for granted in the developed world, but it has the potential to transform transport in emerging cities where monthly commuting costs can be up to 46% of an individual’s monthly income, and where delays and changes to journey routes are common. The company estimates that transport uncertainty in South Africa alone costs the country $104bn every year.

The transit API has been built on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, to leverage Microsoft’s Platform-as-a-Service solutions, and combines data on formal and informal transportation from static and real-time sources. This means that any transportation mode can be mapped and analysed through the API – whether it’s city buses, metro systems or privately owned buses and minibus taxis. The platform will support the development of journey-planning applications for websites and smartphones, fare estimators, analytics for more informed infrastructure investment and city planning, and messaging capabilities to help optimise journeys affected by delays and cancellations.

At launch, the platform contains formal transport information for South African cities Johannesburg, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, George, and East London. It also contains the data for the new Dar es Salaam BRT system, and the Cairo Metro. Informal transit modes are being added to the platform, starting with the matatu system in Nairobi, Kenya, with this capability to be extended to other cities and agencies over the coming months.

To date, WhereIsMyTransport has added almost 10,000 stops along 40,000km of routes to the platform, which has involved cleaning and plotting half a million data points. The API is designed to be intuitive (including a developer portal that makes it simple to get started), flexible (to accommodate individual developer needs), extensible (forming a sound base for developers to build on ) and scalable (capable of handling data from tens of thousands of agencies). It is a REST API, built in .NET CORE and uses OAuth 2.0 protocol and OpenID Connect.

Speaking of the funding round, Devin de Vries, co-founder of WhereIsMyTransport, commented: “The platform that we are launching today is the first open platform for integrated transit data in the emerging world. It creates a foundation for cities and innovators to bring much needed access and information about mobility to millions of people. It’s also just the beginning for us at WhereIsMyTransport as we work to empower people to get where they want to go.”

“We are delighted to welcome Omidyar Network to the WhereIsMyTransport family. Their experience and commitment to the social impact of innovation is inspiring and aligns with our own purpose. We also could not be happier that Goodwell Investments has joined us for another round, and now that we have launched our open transit data platform, we look forward to re-opening the round.”

Dave New, Solutions Architect and co-founder, added:

“We’ve focused intensely on every detail of the platform, its architecture, and its documentation to make it seamless and enjoyable to build on. As developers ourselves, we wanted to solve a significant problem, in a beautiful way. This is only the beginning of an incredibly ambitious project to lay a foundation to connect public transport across cities and countries around the world.”

“Having spent over a year tirelessly focused on every detail of our platform, we were obsessive about making this platform flexible and useful in the different contexts our users might find themselves in. Although this is a huge moment for us, we’re already looking ahead to what integrated transport data can enable in the future.”

Developers can sign-up and access full documentation and tutorials on the WhereIsMyTransport Developer Portal (developer.whereismytransport.com). The portal also contains the latest information on which services and cities are currently in the platform. For more information about WhereIsMyTransport please visit:  http://www.whereismytransport.com/

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The myths of microwaves

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We all know microwaves make cooking a breeze and it helps save those minutes, we rarely have enough of these days. However, some people do have those lingering doubts about whether microwaving food destroys nutrients or that it emits harmful radiation. However, the truth is a lot more comforting and positive.

“The microwave makes life so much easier,” says Tracy Gordon, Head of Product – Home Appliances at Samsung South Africa. “It’s human-centred technology at its most helpful. The Samsung Hotblast for example, has revolutionary functions, which are tailor-made to create fast, tasty and healthy meals in minutes.”

A recent article by Harvard Health Publishingclaims stated that “microwave ovens cook food using waves of energy that are remarkably selective, primarily affecting water and other molecules that are electrically asymmetrical. Microwaves cause these molecules to vibrate and quickly build up thermal (heat) energy.” The article debunks two common myths about microwaving food.

Myth 1: Microwaving kills nutrients

Whether in a microwave or a regular oven, some nutrients, including vitamin C, do break down when exposed to heat. However, the fact is, cooking with a microwave might be better when it comes to preserving nutrients because it takes a shorter time to cook. Additionally, as far as vegetables go, cooking them in water robs them of some of their nutritional value because the nutrients seep out into the cooking water,” states the report by Harvard Health Publishing. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), food cooked in a microwave oven is as safe and has the same nutrient value, as food cooked in a conventional oven.

Myth 2: Microwaving food can give you cancer

The American Cancer Society (ACS) says that microwaves do not make food radioactive. Microwaves heat food but they do not change the chemical or molecular structure of it. In fact, there is absolutely no evidence that microwaves pose a health risk to people when used appropriately, the organisation added.

With those myths well busted, it’s comforting to know one can make full use of the convenient kitchen appliance. And when the time comes to use a microwave to heat up a tasty meal in no time, one can trust the Samsung Hotblast to do the job. The HotBlast has multiple air holes blowing out powerful hot air, which reduces cooking time. Samsung claims the Slim Fry technology ensures that food is perfectly crisp on the outside and delicious and juicy on the inside. Additionally, this versatile microwave has a wider grill, making it easier to brown food fast and evenly. The turntable is wider, measuring 345mm, making it possible to prepare bigger portions of food. And with its Eco Mode power, it significantly reduces energy consumption with its low standby power. Its intelligent features and stylish design makes it very useful and as we now know – a safe, healthy way to enjoy a meal.

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New BMW 3-series ushers in autonomous future

The new BMW 3-series is not meant to be an autonomous car, but it is so close, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK discovers.

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It was not meant to be a test-drive of an autonomous vehicle. But the Driving Assist button on the steering wheel of the new BMW 330i was just too tempting. And there I found myself, on Sir Lowry’s Pass near Cape Town, “driving” with my arms folded while the vehicle negotiated curves on its own.

Every 10 seconds or so, yellow or red lights flashed to alert me to put my hands back on the wheel. The yellow lights meant the car wanted me to put my hands on the wheel, just to show that I was in control. The red lights meant that I had to take over control from the artificial intelligence built into the vehicle.

With co-driver Ernest Page, we negotiated a major highway, the bends of Sir Lowry’s pass, and the passes of Hell’s Heights (Hel se Hoogte) above the Cape Winelands.

As the above video of the experience reveals, it can be nerve-racking for someone who hasn’t experienced autonomous driving, or hasn’t been dreaming of testing it for many years. For this driver, it was exhilarating. Not because the car performed so magnificently, but because it tells us just how close true autonomous driving really is.

There was one nervous moment when the autonomous – or rather, Driving Assist – mode disengaged on Hell’s Heights, but fear not. A powerful sense of responsibility prevailed, and my hands hovered over the steering wheel as it took the curve. Assist disengaged, and the car began to veer towards the other side of the road. I quickly took over, and also sobered up from the giddiness of thinking I was already in the future.

In reality, Driving Assist is part of level 2 of driving autonomy, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers. A presentation on the evening of the test drive, by Edward Makwana, manager of group product communications at BMW Group in South Africa, summed up the five stages as the driver having Feet Off, Hands Off, Eyes Off, Mind off, and finally, only being a Passenger.

However, the extent to which the hands-off mode of Driving Assist mimics self-driving, and easily shows the way to eyes-off and mind-off, is astonishing.

Click here to read about the components that make the Driving Assist work.

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