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Transporting customers through data analysis

It is not only the electricity domain that is challenged and impacted by the wave of transformation brought on by the fourth industrial revolution: water, transportation and waste management are changing too.

This article first appeared in ESI Africa Issue 4-2019.
Read the full digimag here or subscribe to receive a print copy here

With the 2019 edition of the AMEU Convention hosted by the Mayor of the City of Cape Town, ESI Africa asked Ald. Felicity Purchase, the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Transport, about the impact of the fourth industrial revolution on the transport sphere.

Ald. Purchase, how is the City’s transportation sector being affected and how are you responding?

For me one of the most significant aspects of the so-called fourth industrial revolution is the rapid increase in data collection, and manipulation and analysis capabilities, which enables a much more detailed and deeper understanding of all aspects of transport matters: from customer perception to quantifiable demand profiles.

This ultimately allows for an improved response to problems, which we are now able to understand better. A good example is the City’s Urban Development Index project, which is nearing completion and which uses large amounts of varied data to calculate indices relating to transport, land use and housing as a set of urban transformation metrics.

The availability of data also allows private tech companies to develop responsive products in the transport sector, such as travel applications for mobile phones.

This creates greater awareness of system operational characteristics and addresses the lack of understanding of how public transport systems work, which is often considered to be a barrier to entry for new users.

The City established the Transport Management Centre (TMC) in the suburb of Goodwood, which functions as the technology nerve centre for Cape Town. The TMC is unique and houses some of the latest available technologies. It also functions as a centre of excellence and innovation in the transport technology space. The services accommodated in the TMC are world leading and enable the City of Cape Town to welcome and manage whatever the future will bring.

Examples of functions accommodated at the TMC, which also houses three advanced data centres, include:

• Active Traffic Management

• MyCiTi bus service operations

• Freeway Managemen

• Metro Police CCtv operations,

• Emergency call taking and dispatching (107)

• Traffic Services

• Law Enforcement

• The Transport Information Centre (TIC)

The Transport Directorate has also embarked on a programme called TAMS (Transport Advanced Management System) that offers technology solutions for accurate and relevant live and historical information at its fingertips. The first phase of the TAMS programme is complete and as part of this initiative, we have created a world-leading asset and maintenance management solution. This solution won the most innovative new SAP product award recently as it makes use of the latest mobile technologies to manage road maintenance, crews and materials.

As part of TAMS, a central data warehouse and reporting solution was created to enable information scientists to make use of all data collected by the City and its data partners to come up with valuable decision-making information and innovations.

We are also working on a project to digitise the Public Transport Interchanges (PTIs), which uses Artificial Intelligence (AI), including machine learning and machine vision, to collect intelligence on how our public transport interchanges are being used so that the City can improve its services to commuters.

As part of this project, we are now installing high-tech CCtv cameras at various PTIs and MyCiTi bus stations across Cape Town. The cameras boast technology that will provide the Transport Directorate with information about the lengths of queues and waiting times at the PTIs with lane-designated destinations, commuter counting and Internet-of-Things (IOT) sensors to provide traffic data.

We are also testing a solution where the cameras can be used to count the number of passengers boarding a minibus-taxi. This is very important to prevent overloading, and will improve the safety of commuters, the drivers themselves, and other road users. Thus, this technology could be used to prevent an overloaded taxi from leaving a PTI.

Apart from the CCtv cameras, the rollout of digital technologies at the PTIs includes the installation of public Wi-Fi, Internet-of-Things Sensors, and access control. The public Wi-Fi provides the City with data about the movement of commuters at the PTIs.

By learning more about how people move in and around PTIs, and how they are making use of these facilities, we can plan better future upgrades and redesigns of the PTIs. Also, we get an indication of the modal transfers at the PTIs – the number of commuters making use of buses, minibus-taxis, and passenger rail. Access control provides us with data about the number of vehicles making use of the PTI.

The data mentioned above will be used to:

• Ensure that environmental factors do not affect commuters’ health negatively

• Monitor modal transfers at PTIs and to detect changes in commuter behaviour

• Monitor traffic conditions around PTIs

• Promote commuter safety

• Provide operational information about commuter and public transport for planning and regulatory purposes

We are currently connecting the on-site CCtv cameras to the Transport Management Centre via optic fibre to enable 24/7 monitoring of these cameras. Thus, when the TMC operators detect an incident at or near a PTI they can immediately send out a request for the appropriate response services via the various law enforcement agencies.

The cameras are all high resolution Static and Pan-TiltZoom (PTZ). Where access control is specified, we are also installing licence plate recognition cameras along with the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) readers, which will read the RFID-enabled rank tokens, at the booms, as part of the access control solution.

The City’s Area Traffic Control System is also continually improved to remain at the front-end of technologies. A substantial number of Cape Town’s intersections are controlled by a system that uses real-time data collected at the intersection to adjust traffic signal timings to fit actual in situ traffic patterns.

We are super excited about the prospect of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, but we are also very aware of other important matters involved, like the protection of privacy and personal information, and value for money. Technology must serve our residents in the most cost effective manner and has to be fit for purpose. A sober take on technology is essential. ESI