SANRAL develops knowledge economy with all-weekend Hackathon for youth

    Darawees Taliep from ETC (left) congratulates the members of Team "On the Road Again" for their winning mobile solution.

    SANRAL understands the importance of and is fully committed to developing South Africa’s knowledge economy, built of the pillars of knowledge sharing, skills transfer, collaboration and innovation. This past weekend, SANRAL and Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) have partnered with WherIsMyTransport to host the ETC Hackathon in Cape Town.

    With the theme of Collaborate & Innovate, participants in the Hackathon were invited to create innovative smart mobility applications utilising both Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) toll gantry data and WhereIsMyTransport public transport related data

    SANRAL, who manages the world’s 10th largest national road network, has for some time been operating in the digital space, with the use of its Freeway Management System that deploys dedicated cameras on 520km of the busiest freeways across the country. Here real time traffic data is collected and used to determine how best to respond to an incident, dispatching the relevant response entity and ultimately saving lives on our roads.

     

    Randall Cable, SANRAL’s Western Region Manager, officially opened the Hackathon on Friday evening, challenging the participants to use the data and technology available to them to come up with tangible solutions to the road user.

    “It is encouraging to see the low average age of the participants (under 25 years) and how committed these young South Africans are to being part of the change they want to see in our country,” said Cable.

    The Hackathon was sponsored by ETC, who was established in 2009 to supply and manage an integrated tolling system on behalf of SANRAL. According to Darewees Talliep from ETC, the system handles 550 000 transactions per hour, which equates to 155 transactions every second.  ETC made a random selection of transactional data available to the participants, with which they could work with to create a mobile solution that aids safe and improved road user experiences. Some of the proposed avenues include drawing usage/behaviour patterns, analysing traffic volumes, customer service centres and identifying foreign vehicles.

    “It is believed that 90% of the world’s big data was gathered in the last two years only. Big data analytics and building solutions using this data, is definitely where the world is headed,” said Talliep in his briefing session to the participants.

    In Cape Town, 50% of all public transport trips occur in minibus taxis, and involve primarily women and children under the age of 13. They do so without a schedule or the ability to plan according to a timetable, yet they have to get to work and to school on time. This according to WhereIsMyTransport, who facilitated and provided expert tech and data support during the course of the weekend.

    The role of innovation in mobility for our emerging cities was the background against which they encouraged the participants to think out the box when developing public transport solutions that would make life easier for the ordinary man on the street, to navigate from point to point.

    Through their public transport API, they gave participants access to all the main public transport platforms, i.e. bus, taxi, train, walking routes, etc, and these could be integrated to best achieve usable public transport solutions for the public.

    The Hackathon which kicked off with registration and team selection on Friday evening, ran all weekend and participants presented their solutions to a panel of judges yesterday. The winning team, who conceptualised a mobile solution that delivers turn by turn public transport directions via SMS or WhatsApp, walked off with a R20 000 cash prize and a year’s worth of free access to the WhereIsMyTransport Public Transport API.

    “SANRAL firmly believes in the ability of the youth to add value to the broader transport industry. We have invested in a Technical Innovation Hub, which is thriving with young engineers exploring the extent to which technology can improve road user experiences, particularly as we head in the direction of smart cities, which demands smart mobility, and disruptive thinking. We are incredibly excited about the different solutions that the Hackathon participants came up with to challenge the status quo, and we look forward to seeing some of these ideas come to fruition,” concluded Cable.