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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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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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