Soon after the commercialisation of vehicle tracking devices, South Africa became a leader in the field, given its success in tracking and recovering stolen vehicles. Since then, however, the country has fallen behind the rest of the world.
Experts speaking at the recent Telematics Innovation Conference say service providers, clients and government officials need to embrace the opportunities provided by this technology.
Telematics and traffic flow
Etienne Louw, MD of mapIT, says: “In Cape Town (South Africa’s most congested city), peak hours have increased from two to four hours in the morning and evening. This is affecting people’s quality of life, and the government’s solution has been to build its way out of trouble.”
At the same time, a lack of available funds for the maintenance, upgrading and development of new roads has delayed many projects. Louw says: “Traffic management in South Africa is based on assumptions and best guesses, even though we already have the information to direct more targeted interventions.”
Louw adds: “There is a much more efficient and available solution in floating car data, or floating cellular data.” This is based on the collection of vehicle data from active mobile devices in motor vehicles. These relay information about speed, direction of travel and time of travel to servers such as google maps.
“South Africa has 840 000 km of roads and all the information about traffic jams, roadworks and blockages is available worldwide. Our research has shown that if ten percent of drivers on the road use the information available to them, there will be a five-percent reduction in overall congestion,” explains Louw.
Offering more to customers
Phathizwe Malinga, acting CEO at Sqwidnet, says: “Right now, telemetry is being demonetarised. People are able to get information from free-to-use services like google maps. With this in mind, the industry will have to provide more to stay relevant.”
Information overload has been identified as having the potential to quickly overwhelm fleet managers, who don’t want to know everything; they just want to know when there is a problem. This is called event-based reporting.
Michael Walters, product engineer at Etion notes: “Dark data, or raw data, is useless and needs must be analysed and interpreted using algorithms to identify patterns and trends before going to a client.”
Louw explains: “Information means nothing without something to compare it against.” He uses relative and absolute speed to make his point. In other words, a driver’s speed relative to that of other drivers using the same piece of road at the same time.
“We have collected information about the average speed of traffic on a particular section of road, at any time during the day, over a two-year period. Let’s say the average speed at the Gillooly’s on-ramp in Johannesburg is 30 km per hour at 08:00 in the morning. If a driver is travelling at 60 km per hour, in isolation this is perfectly fine, but when compared with the rest of the data the problem becomes evident.”
Telematics can be optimised by:
- Setting tolerances in cold-chain refrigeration operations;
- Using geo-fencing to set parameters of travel;
- Predictive maintenance, where the location, speed and other external conditions are factored in;
- Scheduled maintenance that is proactive;
- Driver monitoring that is interpreted correctly; and
- Using route optimisation to drive organisational efficiency.