27 Jun 2014

Is Car to Car Communication the Future of Road Safety?

It’s fair to say that in the last couple of decades there have seen major advances in the automobile world. From intuitive satellite navigation systems, to hybrid, super energy efficient cars, and of course more recently, Google among others have explored the vast and powerful possibilities of driverless cars with inbuilt car to car communication systems.

These completely responsive cars have already been endorsed by major governments throughout the world, including Google’s home in the USA. The basic premise is that through V2V (vehicle to vehicle) communication, hazards could be intuitively avoided and traffic conditions anticipated. With reports stating that all cars could be fitted with this technology by 2020, it’s time to get familiarised with the notion of driving a much more intelligent motor car.

With extensive testing happening now in the USA, the next two years will prove vital to the future of V2V technology. Major parties involved in the project include the US Department of Transportation plus almost all the major car manufacturers across the globe, from Volkswagen to Ford. The idea is to literally road test the technology along major arterial routes in the US to determine its potential benefits and pitfalls.

The power of communication
Through a short-range wireless network and using standard GPRS data, these cars will effectively talk to each via a network of nodes on traffic signals, stationary roadside units and the cars themselves. This technology will provide accurate and up-to-the-minute reports on the road up to 1000 meters ahead.

Not only this, the idea is that everything within these cars would be interlinked, with a series of warning lights and receptors transmitting signals to neighbouring vehicles. This would prompt them to react accordingly in the event of a crash or incident. The technology works round blind bends, sudden stops, it can even anticipate dangers of changing lanes. 

Now, it’s worth stressing at this point that the first V2V communication cars will allow the driver a large degree of control, with the option to switch it off entirely if required. The intention is to provide a warning system for drivers rather than taking the wheel from them entirely.

Despite this, the possibilities V2V communication present, naturally reveal unprecedented benefits ranging from scenarios such as running late for that early morning business meeting, or en route to catch a flight. It has also been hailed as fast-track to dramatically improving road safety, allowing drivers a significantly increased amount of time to react to traffic conditions.

A controversial solution

In Africa traffic incidents remain a major cause for concern. Experts have explained that the potential such technology has to reduce accidents due to negligence or driving under the influence is massive. In South Africa alone alcohol and substance abuse accounts for the vast majority of collisions. With such hard facts, there is little wonder why a communication system such as this is a hot topic.
On the other hand, a critic may argue that treating the root cause of symptomatic problems like alcoholism and drug taking should be a primary focus, rather than employing the benefits of V2V communication to absolve ourselves of responsibility.

Relying on technology like this blindly also carries its own risk. Following the instructions of a system without critical appraisal of the information provided, rather than using instinct and initiative can open up a whole host of hazards. Not only that, with a limited reach, V2V communication cannot be fully effective. The ideal scenario is for every car to be fitted with the ability to communicate with each other. There is also the question mark hanging over privacy issues. What’s to stop someone for example, sitting by the side of the road and transmitting a false message?

The other query raised has been over the idea of insurance. Specifically because the basis of such agreements would certainly have to be revisited since the idea of comprehensively insuring a driver would no longer apply.

The game-changer V2V communication instigates is both deep and far reaching. Its invention is certainly a landmark in communication technology, even in its early stages. But it could be said that its possibilities are matched by the questions it raises. It seems that there are many hurdles to overcome and questions to answer before this becomes the way our roads are travelled. 

Contributed by reader Emma Pickles

26 Jun 2014

Mobile Money services, Mobile Music, Social Networks and Apps all covered on the last day of VAS Africa

It was standing room only at the start of the second day of VAS Africa, with an inspirational keynote speech by 18 year old entrepreneur Nadav Ossendryver.  Outlining the ideas behind Latest Sightings, an innovative app tracking wildlife in the Kruger, Nadav detailed his use of social media for building his community and developing activities around the app.

The youth market was a focus of the panel discussion featuring Cell C and Orange as they detailed their strategies for targeting the 16 – 21 year old segment.  What services will they pay for and what is truly relevant to them?
The conference went on to discuss Mobile Money services, Mobile Music, and Social Networks  and Apps in Africa. 

Speakers detailed clear trends on the need for higher speed, top quality networks to deliver the new, innovative content and apps, as well as the requirement for fair and accessible data pricing.  Strong partnerships are paramount, and win-win business models essential.

Arnauld Blondet, Innovation Director for AMEA at Orange, commented on the success of this year’s VAS Africa, and the growth and development on previous years “VAS Africa is definitely the great opportunity for mobile telcos to look at their growth, understand new trends, listen to vendors and seek new business models.  This is the great recipe of VAS Africa.  I am impressed with the bigger agenda, bigger number of people and quality of presentations.  VAS is clearly a big subject”.

We look forward to returning with an even bigger and better VAS Africa on 24th-25th June 2015 in Johannesburg.

24 Jun 2014

Strategic insights and content viewpoints from Huawei, TA Telecom, Virgin Mobile, Smile and 2Go on Day 1 of VAS Africa

For the first time this year VAS Africa was co-located with MVNOs Africa, and more than 250 delegates from the two events joined the opening keynote session on June 24th at the Maslow Sandton in Johannesburg.  

With strategic insight from Huawei and TA Telecom, together with operator and content viewpoints from Virgin Mobile, Smile and 2Go, the keynote session set the scene for a day discussing innovation in both technology and marketing strategies.

Panellists and speakers assessed the role of operators in the expanding digital ecosystem – dumb pipe/data channel or innovator, with emphasis placed this year on the importance of the role of pipe/channel.  The conference went on to discuss the opportunities available from partnerships with OTT players and content providers.  Operators should consider aligning their strategies with the likes of skype, viber and whatsapp – to maximise what these players are doing within the operators’ own strategies.  Alignment and partnership were deemed to be the way forward, not competition.

Focus on the customer is key.  Is the customer educated on the cost of data consumption?  Is the app/service easy to use?  Is the content relevant and local to the customer?  What services will create stickiness?  Where is the consumer and how do they prefer to receive the content/services?  Also important to remember is that while 154 million African customers use a smartphone, still 931 million use the feature hone.

The first day concluded with the Mobile Marketing and Advertising session, bringing case studies of new ways to target the consumer via mobile.  At the heart of the day was the reminder that the operator knows the customer best and thus retains a pivotal role in the expanding digital ecosystem.

Together with the key content take-aways, delegates enjoyed extensive networking opportunities across the VAS and MVNOs events - speed networking, one-to-one introductions and an informal drinks reception at the close of the day.  Join us for day two and a focus on Mobile Money, Mobile Music, Social Networking, and Key VAS for the African market.

 Join us for day two of VAS Africa to hear from MTN, Cell C, Safaricom, Nokia and many more.