Tag: transport

Think tanks predict enormous boom in machine to machine comms

Ignoring the threat of Skynet and the inevitable Judgement Day it brings about, a report from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) is predicting that Machine to Machine (M2M) communication is approaching a tipping point.

The EIU’s opinion is that M2M communication will offer a way to drastically change the way in which critical services are delivered over the next ten years, touching on topics from healthcare, to transport, to energy. The barriers in the way, according to the EIU, are the technical complexities involved and “regulatory hurdles” that act as a blockade for the next wave of innovation in M2M.

Although the market forecasts are varied, the EIU said, they all agree that there is an enormous opportunity for growth. The more optimistic analysts are putting the amount of connected devices as high as 50 billion by the time 2020 rolls round. This compares to 1 billion in 2010. Others are marking in potential revenues of up to $948 billion by 2020, up from $121 billion in 2010. 

Established technologies will continue to scale to smaller sizes and cut down on costs – so M2M, the EIU predicts, will be driven largely by sensors, microprocessors, and wireless technologies that, once enormously expensive, now cost relatively little. 

The EIU pointed to a Yankee Group forecast which said that markets intent on cutting costs will see some of the largest growth in M2M applications. Think: energy, automotive, healthcare, retail, and manufacturing, which are already using M2M based technology. Companies that are looking for efficiencies in, say, automatic fleet tracking, will contribute heavily to investing in M2M communications.

In the report, sponsored by SAP, the EIU said that the industry faces a number of complex challenges. Telcos will need to develop their own business models, it said, while firms must innovate in a range of sectors if the many sceptics are to be convinced.

Although a “complex ecosystem” does benefit certain providers at the moment, ultimately, this will need to take a simpler approach if widespread adoption is going to be realised sooner rather than later. This will include providers agreeing on standards, along with developing their own open protocols and building network technology which is able to survive deployment times over a long period of time. 

Citing Ovum and Vodafone, the EIU detailed the complex route to market for M2M when working with the supply chain. British Gas, for example, is rolling out smart meters, but with the deployment comes working with a long list of partner companies – from manufacturers to telco providers to data management. According to the EIU, utilities operators are lobbying energy regulators like Ofgem to create centralised systems. 

Governments will have to look at freeing up spectrum and “consider streamlining regulations” if they want to boost innovation, the EIU said. For their part, customers will need to be convinced that M2M applications are robust in terms of privacy and security, which is likely going to mean a plethora of trials from businesses to gauge customer feedback, and to learn their boundaries.

Google funds futuristic monorail pod project

Google is to provide funding for a number of new projects, including a human-powered monorail pod project, which looks like something out of Futurama.

A New Zealand company called Shweeb has developed an interesting solution to traffic congestion and travel with a monorail system with attached plastic pods which people move along the track by pedalling.

The intriguing project is in its early stages, but already Shweeb has developed a working prototype, which sees numerous people cycle around in the pods at low heights. Plans showcase it among skyscrapers for public transport and through caves and forests for tourism and attractions.

It’s not quite as good as being sucked into a tube and spat out on the other side of town like our good friends Fry and Leela are used to, but it’s definitely a step in that direction. It could also be employed as a recreational thing, as the pedalling will be sure to keep us pretty fit. The problem for transport, however, is when someone gets tired and holds up the entire line until they get some energy back – but then it’s probably more of a Shelbyville idea.

Schweed is one of five companies who won $1 million as part of Google’s Project 10^100, which called for companies to submit their futuristic ideas to Google with the reward of substantial investment.

The other companies who won are working on things that are not quite as futuristic, but are nevertheless useful to humanity. Khan Academy is working on moving edution online, FIRST is a non-profict organisation focused on science and engineering education, Public.resource.org is attempting to make governments more transparent, while the African Insitute for Mathematical Sciences provides education to African students. All of these were awarded funding.

We’re not sure how successful the project will be, but it’s good to see Google investing in things like this. What’s it called? “Mono… doh!”

TfL can't handle data strain of live tube feed

It was only last month on the 15th of June, that Transport for London opened up its data to the public for developers to toy around with. 

Unfortunately, there’s been so much demand that TFL’s systems have been put under a great deal of strain. They couldn’t take the pressure anymore for the London Underground feed and totally folded. So now TFL is having to close its data again, for now, until it sorts out its tech.

Data had been made freely available on buses, tubes, river services and all the rest of it (think Croydon Tramlink) with our favourite example being all tube lines and running services being overlaid, live, onto Google Maps. 

However, Public Technology reports that far from being miffed, it has been hugely encouraged by its first attempt at crowdsourcing. TFL said demand had been way higher than it originally anticipated, and it proved that there is a demand for knowing when the tube’s going to bloody arive. Well, doi. 

In a sense it’s pretty shocking that it’s had to pull the plug so quickly. Other countries with metro systems can manage it – so why can’t we? If there’s anyone from TFL reading take no notice – we’re just annoyed because you still haven’t managed to get proper ventilation or mobile signal on the underground either.

It seems that only the tube feed has been affected.

IBM, European Union sign deal to strengthen infrastructure

Big Blue said it will cooperate with the European Union and other organisations to design tech that will help prevent important infrastructure computer systems from falling over.

The areas the EU is concerned about include nuclear power plants, transport, electric grids, and water.

IBM somewhat understates this saying “the consequences of a glitch in system upgrades can be global and costly”. As these infrastructures are more and more governed by digital systems, detecting potential bugs in the software before disaster happens would be jolly useful.

IBM and the EU will build technology and share its research with the open source community.

The project is called Pincette, French for tweezers, the idea being that the tech will pick out small software bugs and cut on the cost of maintaining system software by auto testing software.

Parners in the venture include IBM Research in Haifa, the University of Oxford, Universita della Svizzera Italiana in Switzerland, Universita’ degli Studi di Milano Bicocca, Valtion Teknillinen Tutkimuskeskus (VTT) in Finland, Israel Aerospace Industries, and ABB.

The EU will fund the Pincette venture although how much it is contributing doesn’t seem to be clear. VTT in Finland will use Pincette to guarantee robots monitoring thermo-nuclear reactors will work properly. This is a 30 year project also funded by the EU with the aim of replacing nuclear reactors with “clean” machines using atomic fusion. Pincette is here.

IBM congratulates itself over London transport

IBM has given itself a huge pat on the back in a statement issued today titled “IBM Global Commuter Pain Study Reveals Traffic Crisis in Key International Cities” – we don’t know why PRs have to Stick Capitals All Over The Place, But They Do. 

According to IBM’s study, it surveyed 8,192 motorists in 20 cities on six continents. The commuter pain study highlights how rubbish international cities are when it comes to travelling around, including problems such as commuting time, traffic getting worse, traffic affecting work, traffic so bad driving has stopped, time stuck in traffic and cost. It says it ranked each city on a pain scale of one to 100, with 100 being the very worst.

IBM won a contract from Capita to take over running London’s congestion charge. Private Eye, issue 1264, 11-24 June 2010, reports that since IBM has taken over, the Auto Pay system has been fining registered cars tens of thousands of pounds in error, and the system has been plagued with errors since IBM took over in November 2009. Despite this, it still happily plonks London’s rating slap bang in the middle of the index of twenty cities, giving London a pain scale of 36 and ranking it at number ten.

According to the report, the most pain free cities to drive around in are Stockholm taking the number one spot with a pain ranking of 15, followed by a tie between Melbourne and Houston which got pain ratings of 17, then New York at 19.

The three worst cities to drive in are Beijing, Mexico Coty and Johannesburg, which got 99, 99 and 97 respectively. 96 percent of respondents in Beijing said that roadway traffic has negatively affected their health. Despite this and the awful traffic, according to drivers surveyed in Beijing, conditions have improved over the last three years after initiatives have been improved to increase transport networks. 

Here’s the full list:

Beijing: 99, Mexico City: 99, Johannesburg: 97, Moscow: 84, New Delhi: 81, Sao Paolo: 75, Milan: 52, Buenos Aires: 50, Madrid: 48, London: 36, Paris: 36, Toronto: 32, Amsterdam: 25, Los Angeles: 25, Berlin: 24, Montreal: 23, New York: 19, Houston: 17, Melbourne: 17, Stockholm: 15.