_the gift of time_

I’m sitting waiting at the traffic light. There is no one else anywhere in sight. I am already running late on my way home from a meeting. When is this light going to change? Why is there a camera that can see me and fine me for running the light, but it can’t see that I’m the only one waiting here!

Our project started with the belief that we can change the way we move through a city. The red, the green and the amber lights we have been long accustomed to, should not control the flow of traffic, the traffic should control the lights. All we need to achieve this, is to believe in a new future that is powered by intelligence and data.

A lot of stories relating to “tech” are impersonal. The downside of technical innovation can result in efficiencies that replace people or devalue one-on-one relationships. What we believe is special in our project is that Hamba was created by people from very different walks of life to bring value to what we all hold dearest - time. Time to be together as a family or do the things in life that hold the greatest meaning.

It happened around a children’s birthday party… I seldom go to these events and not sure why I wanted to go to this 7 year old celebration... but it was there I met Kartik Mistry who’s eldest son, Bali, is a friend of my son Oliver. Immediately it became evident that Kartik understood traditional business and the opportunities of technology but more importantly he is driven by solutions that have meaning and value people, not simply the bottom line. I was from the other side of the experience spectrum, spending many years filming wildlife, remote villages in Africa and around the World. I was fortunate enough to be involved in scientific discoveries together with the Government of South Africa. I believe the future of successful business will be led by similar minds... folks who realize that the ecological, emotional, and financial bottom lines are not mutually exclusive or choices that will result in winners and losers. So even though Kartik and I were from different ends of the life experience spectrum, we both shared this common mindset.

Why can’t we all win? What would it mean to both of us if we could spend less time in traffic and more time with our kids?

Like so many resources, “data” is worthless unless you craft it into something special, something of value. Grant Grobbelaar and his team at Opti-Num Solutions are futuristic sculptors of a commodity that can be as valuable as gold or as worthless as dust.. it’s what you are able to imagine in your “mind’s eye” with the raw material that allows one to unlock its intrinsic value. Kartik instinctively realized Grant would give our product a distinct advantage, and was also able to convince Clinton Holroyd who had spent many years running the financial affairs of large corporations to join our team. Like some opening line to a corny joke, “there was a business exec, a story teller, an accountant and a maths professor who... walk into a bar... all thought they could change the way the people move..” The Opti-Num team partnered with us to make our idea a reality. We didn’t know if it could be done, but they artfully sculpted a lot of available data into a smart simulation that manages traffic lights for the quickest flow of traffic through a grid. One of the developers who worked on the core algorithm had this to say: “Extracting accurate information from data is tricky at best, but attempting to simulate human behaviour from a very large, multi-dimensional dataset (that has been obscured to protect privacy) is a whole new ball game”. In the end, the Opti-Num team showed us how they were able to build a simulator that shows how a driver can halve their waiting time in traffic through Sandton and Cape Town. This simulator is a real-time dynamic system which changes the traffic lights to create optimal flow. The system allows the actual real time traffic flow to control the timing of the traffic lights. The way it works, is that it views the entire traffic light network in a city as a single entity, which is a fundamental shift from the traditional “blind timing” networks, where intersections are not part of the whole and cant pre-empt the impending build-up of congestion.

Through the exercise of developing this simulator, we have uncovered many further benefits to smart traffic modelling, which contribute to the smart city sustainable development goals. It’s shown us that smart traffic modelling has the potential to change the world. Reports indicate, such as the one from the McKinsey Global Institute on Smart Cities [ref], that there is significant implications to quality of life in dimensions such as time savings, health and safety, environmental impact, social connectedness and civic participation that may touch millions of lives. What’s amazing about this project, is that it takes the individual threads of data which each and every one of us leave in the wake of our daily lives, and artfully weaves those threads into something beautifully valuable.

Damon Foster

The Team

Damon Foster

Damon is an author, storyteller and media expert with over 25 years of experience. He has created media experiences for global communities, with a voice of Africa. He has attracted over 60 international awards. He has also been recognized as one of the “top 100 world class South Africans”
His role in Hamba focuses on business growth, strategy & brand

Kartik Mistry

Kartik has an IT and Business background, with 15 years in banking and 5 years in telecommunications. He has held multiple, internationally recognized awards, for innovation and product design. He was key (as COO) in delivering South Africa’s first data only network and Africa’s first 5G network.
His role in Hamba focuses on business strategy, growth, product design, implementation & business sustainability.

Grant Grobbelaar

Grant is also a Director at Opti-Num solution, a partner to Hamba. Prior to starting Opti-Num grant was a lecturer at Wits University. He holds a PhD in Electrical Engineering. He has a broad range of skills and has consulted in numerous industries.
His role in Hamba is to develop our machine learning frameworks and data strategies that enable our products. Grant and his team at Opti-Num developed our current solution.

Clinton Holroyd

Clinton, a qualified CA. He was appointed as CFO for iBurst a telecommunication company for 14 years, and another 2 years as CEO. He was key in the acquisition of iBurst and the business transition to Rain Telecoms. Clinton also co-founder Levergy Marketing Agency.
His role in Hamba is to ensure financial responsibility, governance and fund raising.

Justin Coetzee

Justin Coetzee is founder and CEO of GoMetro. Justin is a civil engineer by training, with a Masters Degree in Transportation Engineering. Justin has served as Project Director for a large number of public transport planning, optimization, and technology projects in cities of Africa and Latin America.
With his vast experience in this industry, Justin's role at Hamba is to help deliver international expansion, strategic advice and technical governance.