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Wi-Fi will transform transport

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Faster, more dependable Wi-Fi connectivity that works even in a crowded train or bus station or terminal is critical to meeting passenger and operational needs, says MICHAEL FLETCHER of Ruckus Wireless.

Michael Fletcher, sales director for Ruckus Wireless sub-Saharan Africa says; “Each day, thousands of people pass through transportation hubs such as airports, train and bus stations, and with business and leisure travelers carrying smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, the demand for high capacity high performance Wi-Fi connectivity has not just become a ‘nice to have’ amenity, but rather an expected service, like electricity and running water. The City of Tshwane’s Bus Rapid Transit system, A Re Yeng, is a perfect example of this.”

Tshwane’s bus system began operations in December 2014 and with it came a world-first in mobile connectivity, with the rollout of uninterrupted free WiFi along the trunk route for commuters on board as an expansion of the City of Tshwane’s free WiFi network. Since inception, a total of 163,126 unique users have used the Tshwane Free WiFi service, with a total of 6,461,327 sessions being accumulated, with a total usage of 21242.3GB being uploaded and downloaded.

Says Zahir Khan, COO of Project Isizwe, which has been integral to Tshwane’s free public WiFi efforts; “The A Re Yeng busses come equipped with a connection to Tshwane’s WiFi service, offering 250MB of free WiFi access per device per day, giving travelers the ability to do things like look for jobs, access learning materials online, and keep in touch with their friends while on the move around the city. Looking at the statistics and growth of the system, it is evident that the demand is growing in South Africa.”

Passengers need real-time access to schedules, gate and ticket information, maps and/or other guidance as they pass through the bus terminal. WiFi not only provides an ideal method for these activities, it also provides a platform for new revenue generating services such as additional WiFi access or 3G/4G offload, as well as support for bus terminal operational needs such as point-of-sale, digital signage and video security.

Continues Fletcher; “From a commercial perspective, there is also a global trend for transportation cargo and fleet services to become more involved in value added activities such as cargo processing and logistics, which will require new processes, practices and technological advances around stock control and integration, as well as better wireless connectivity.”

Steven Sutherland, Sales Director for MiX Telematics, agrees that WiFi plays a crucial role here. “WiFi is critical, especially when it comes to companies that are using Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model to run and/or keep an operational eye on their businesses. In the fleet sector specifically – across Africa – WiFi enables constant, reliable connectivity for managers that are on-the-go – offering them the opportunity to remain connected when they might not be otherwise. This enables real-time access to their fleet and their business data at any given time.”

As drivers and remote workers become more and more included in day-to-day processes through the application of smartphone and tablet based applications, so too does the reliance on WiFi networks and coverage.

“Essentially, it’s about smart transportation management, which facilitates the management of fleets in real-time, remote access to in-cab video, efficient user connections, real-time alerts and geo-location of all vehicles,” adds Sutherland.

Transportation hubs – both from a consumer and commercial perspective – are often very large facilities that require wireless connectivity everywhere, both inside and out. Getting reliable and complete WiFi coverage across a facility can be expensive and time-consuming. Because density of client devices over the course of the day can dramatically impact demand – it can result in poor connections, low user satisfaction, and unacceptable network quality.

“This isn’t acceptable anymore, and as infrastructure and transportation hubs develop across the regions and cities move towards becoming smarter not only in terms of operational processes and service delivery, but also connecting citizens – we are likely to see high-density WiFi take it’s rightful place more and more as a critical enabler,” says Fletcher.

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Kenya tool to help companies prepare for emergencies

After its team members survived last week’s Nairobi terror attack, Ushahidi decided to release a new preparedness tool for free, writes its CEO, NAT MANNING

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On Tuesday I woke up a bit before 7am in Berkeley, California where I live. I made some coffee and went over to my computer to start my work day. I checked my Slack and the news and quickly found out that there was an ongoing terrorist attack at 14 Riverside Complex in Nairobi, Kenya. The Ushahidi office is in Nairobi and about a third of our team is based there (the rest of us are spread across 10 other countries).

As I read the news, my heart plummeted, and I immediately asked the question, “is everyone on my team okay?”

Five years ago Al-Shabaab committed a similar attack at the Westgate Mall. We spent several tense hours figuring out if any of our team had been in the mall, and verifying that everyone was safe. We found out that one of our team member’s family was caught up in the attack. Luckily they made it out.

At Ushahidi we make software for crisis response, including tools to map disasters and election violence, and yet we felt helpless in the face of this attack. In the days following the Westgate attack, our team huddled and thought about what we could build that would help our team — and other teams — if we found ourselves in a similar situation to this attack again. We identified that when we first learned of the attack, nearly everyone at Ushahidi had spent that first precious few hours trying to answer the basic questions, “Is everyone okay?”, and if not, “Who needs help?” 

People had ad-hoc used multiple channels such as WhatsApp, called, emailed, or texted. We had done this for each person at Ushahidi (their job), in our families, and important people in our community. Our process was unorganised, inefficient, repetitive, and frustrating.

And from this problem we created TenFour, a check in tool that makes it easier for teams to reach one another during times of crisis. It is a simple application that lets people send a message to their team via SMS, Slack, Voice, email, and in-app, and get a response. It also works for educational institutions, companies with distributed staff, as well as part of neighbourhood networks like neighbourhood watches.

This week when I woke up to the news of the attack at Riverside, I immediately opened up the TenFour app.

Click here to read how Nat quickly confirmed the safety of his team.

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Kia multi-collision airbags

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The world’s first multi-collision airbag system has been unveiled by Hyundai Motor Group subsidiary KIA Motors, with the aim of improving airbag performance in multi-collision accidents.

Multi-collision accidents are those in which the primary impact is followed by collisions with secondary objects, such as other vehicles, trees, or electrical posts, which occur in three out of every 10 accidents. Current airbag systems do not offer secondary protection when the initial impact is insufficient to cause them to deploy. 

However, the multi-collision airbag system allows airbags to deploy effectively upon a secondary impact, by calibrating the status of the vehicle and the occupants.

The new technology detects occupants’ positions in the cabin following an initial collision. When occupants are forced into unusual positions, the effectiveness of existing safety technology may be compromised. Multi-collision airbag systems are designed to deploy even faster when initial safety systems may not be effective, providing additional safety when drivers and passengers are most vulnerable. By recalibrating the collision intensity required for deployment, the airbag system responds more promptly during the secondary impact, thereby improving the safety of multi-collision vehicle occupants.

“By improving airbag performance in multi-collision scenarios, we expect to significantly improve the safety of our drivers and passengers,” said Taesoo Chi, head of the Hyundai Motor Group’s Chassis Technology Centre. “We will continue our research on more diverse crash situations as part of our commitment to producing even safer vehicles that protect occupants and prevent injuries.”

According to statistics by the National Automotive Sampling System Crashworthiness Data System (NASS-CDS), an office of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in USA, about 30% of 56,000 vehicle accidents from 2000 to 2012 in the North American region involved multi-collisions. The leading type of multi-collision accidents involved cars crossing over the centre line (30.8%), followed by collisions caused by a sudden stop at highway tollgates (13.5%), highway median strip collisions (8.0%), and sideswiping and collision with trees and electric poles (4.0%). 

These multi-collision scenarios were analysed in multilateral ways to improve airbag performance and precision in secondary collisions. Once commercialised, the system will be implemented in future new KIA vehicles. 

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