Ikhwezi Bus Service deploys Africa’s first AI-driven wireless network
Ikhwezi Bus Service (Ikhwezi) has solidified its position as one of the most advanced transport businesses in South Africa by choosing to deploy an AI-driven wireless network from NEC XON based on Mist Systems, a Juniper Networks company.
Ikhwezi needs fast and reliable wireless operations to manage its bus fleet more effectively at its main depot at Richard’s Bay. The 40-year-old, 100% B-BBEE (broad-based black economic empowerment) bus service has fitted cameras to vehicles to monitor payments and vehicle, driver and passenger safety. The footage is stored on SD cards while the vehicles are away from depots, then automatically downloaded as they enter within range of the WiFi at the depots.
“We need to support the vehicle and passenger safety and operational monitoring system with a reliable and fast network that lets us rotate the buses through the depots as rapidly as possible,” says Abubaker Mahomed, senior manager at Ikhwezi Bus Service. “Idle assets do not generate revenues, nor do they serve our passengers, which is their primary purpose.”
Ikhwezi turned to Mist on NEC XON’s recommendation. Mist uniquely combines AI and cloud operations. It learns and adapts to ongoing conditions with proactive notifications and prescriptive actions, and in some instances is completely self-driving to proactively autocorrect issues. Trials demonstrated the solution saves Ikhwezi time and money while adding additional business value.
“Juniper has been a trusted supplier of ours for more than a decade,” says Anthony Laing, GM of Networking at NEC XON. “We choose to partner with them because they continue to invest in new technologies that lead the market. The Mist Systems solution uses AI to create some of the most automated and resilient networking technology. It uses the AI to overcome the traditional challenge of offering ubiquitous access while providing highly secure environments to connect people and operations seamlessly.”
The technology also applies all the benefits of WiFi 6 technologies, such as signal reliability and high-speed throughput. The system at Ikhwezi must transfer 200GB to 300GB of video footage daily from about 140 buses to servers at the depot. The Juniper Mist solution combines WiFi 6 with AI to maximise the speed and reliability of these transfers.
“Juniper Mist has changed the way Ikhwezi Bus Service operates with AI-driven workflows and programmable automation,” says Riaan Thuynsma, MD of Telemetry Concepts, which supplies the optical safety monitoring system and operates both its and the Mist network on behalf of Ikhwezi. “We can now automatically identify buses as they return to the depot, download the data and monitor how long the buses are idle without tedious and manual processes. This gives us higher quality data to maximise operational efficiencies at a much lower cost.”
“In the past, that required one access point per vehicle, but now we blanket an area of about 180 000 square metres using several access points at the depot, can now handle multiple vehicles per access point, and turn them around in a fraction of the time,” says Rob Nelson, MD of KZNIoT, an NEC XON agent. “The new system improves revenue-earning potential but also reduces the IT overhead and costs because we need fewer access points, which also reduces the management overhead. It is faster, better by providing more comprehensive data, and more cost-effective than mobile data options.
“The AI backend on Mist is next level. They’ve created a machine learning (ML) engine with AI that learns the network. It knows how many and which devices should be connected and it knows how it should be optimised to cater for factors such as signal loss and range,” says Nelson.
He adds that besides the many other features and benefits of the Mist equipment, its OFDMA scheduling and channel colouring eliminates signal interference.
“That’s one of the reasons why it’s so reliable,” he says.
Yarob Sakhnini, VP of Sales for Emerging Markets across EMEA at Juniper Networks, says: “The wireless network has become mission-critical for businesses such as Ikhwezi Bus Service. In order to increase business efficiencies, Juniper Mist’s AI-driven wireless solution automates access switching to reduce errors and simplify deployment and management, transforming the business experience for Ikhwezi to derive real-time and event-driven, per-client state metrics.”