Internet of Things will streamline matatus

Increased use of technology could be a double-edged sword considering the fact that it may deny many citizens jobs. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Increased use of technology could be a double-edged sword considering the fact that it may deny many citizens jobs. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

I once bought a matatu (a public service vehicle) in the late 1990s. It was a horrendous experience.

Running it kept me awake all night. And I was not the driver. Dishonesty and outright theft forced my exit.

Today, technologies like Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are addressing some of the problems.

The application of IoT, the interconnection of various gadgets via the Internet, is growing.

Mobility in communications, and the ability to collect data across machines, cloud computing, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and mobile gadgets (mobile phone triangulation) portends significant solutions to transport problems and in many other sectors.


Major truck manufacturers are incorporating options in new models, making it possible for owners to passively gather extensive data.
It is now possible for vehicle manufacturers to inbuilt computing within their vehicles that provide such information as fuel consumption, travel time, traffic movements, and predictions on wear and tear and even driver responsiveness to road conditions.

These data provide useful information to militate against pilferage that is common with transport workers.

AI applications are under way in bid to reduce road carnage resulting from human error. Multiple vehicle manufacturers and tech companies are testing driverless concept.

Using sensors and computer processors with software and algorithms, vehicle manufacturers are increasingly seeking to improve on efficiency, productivity and safety. Some of the major brands, have incorporated AI into a number of vehicle parts.

Big Data is helping reduce congestion in some cities. Carl-Stefan Neumann in an article, Big data versus big congestion: Using information to improve transport, says, “Digitisation in infrastructure networks could improve forecasting, promote reliability, and increase efficiency.”

He also notes that “Israel has introduced a 13-mile fast lane on Highway 1 between Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Airport. The lane uses a toll system that calculates fees based on traffic at the time of travel.

To make it work, the system counts the cars on the road; it can also evaluate the space between cars to measure congestion. This is real-time pattern recognition of a very high order.

The information is then put to use in a way that increases “throughput,” or the amount of traffic the road can bear.

If traffic density is high, tolls are high; if there are few cars on the road, charges are cheap. This not only keeps toll revenues flowing but also reduces congestion by “steering” demand.”

While the Israel case may sound promising, behaviour patterns in developing countries undermine effective implementation.

It is perhaps the reason the traffic police override traffic lights.

The monitoring network system in place is an opportunity for creating jobs and, at the same time, can be used to shape behaviour.

Effective use of the system could improve traffic flow if the system was used to catch the offender, enforce tax and insurance compliance and create back end data analytic and monitoring jobs. Using the infrastructure to strictly enforce the law would deter misconduct.

Increased use of technology could be a double-edged sword considering the fact that AI may deny many citizens jobs. But experience from the past show that the jobs simply shift to another area.

These new technologies are creating massive new opportunities. Yet we spend more time complaining about what might happen forgeting that jobs have shifted elsewhere.

Developing countries will have a competitive advantage in exploiting these emerging technologies but the concepts are rarely understood in time to take advantage of opportunity.

These emerging technologies will productivity of investors but enable better governance if we use the systems in, for example, supply management. Let’s embrace them.