The only way in which companies can become more competitive is by changing the way they work, changing their business model, making their machines work faster and being able to do predictive analytics.
This is according to Edward Agostinho, consulting systems engineer at systems integration specialists company, Cisco.
Agostinho was giving an address at the Internet of things (IOT) seminar organised by AxizWorkgroup and Cisco in Midrand, Johannesburg yesterday. He said everybody is exploring ways to digitise their business and IOT is at the core of digitisation.
This in turn changes the way in which employees work as IOT is all about efficiency and giving people visibility into data in order to make things faster and more agile.
"If we are not offering our customers these solutions someone else will and they will steal your customers."Therefore companies need to embrace these solutions that are brought about by IOT, if they don't, their competitors will and they will produce a similar product, only faster, easier and in a better form," he says.
He emphasises the need for business owners to reinvent themselves and be willing to disrupt their own businesses in order to reinforce change – as this is where IOT and connectivity is going to help businesses and provide better customer services.
Cisco says IOT brings about a massive opportunity for businesses and the company has identified the main vertical markets which would embrace IOT the quickest. Cisco has produced different solutions for these markets which are in various fields such as utilities, smart cities, manufacturing, transportation and service provider (machine to machine connectivity).
Agostinho says implementing smart meters is vital in communities around the country. Due to the energy crisis in SA, every municipality is trying to find ways in which to conserve energy as sending out a meter reader to check electricity usage is not enough.
"Consumers need technology that is able to provide more detailed information such as when is the peak hour period of a particular household's electricity usage? What are potential causes of electricity misuse?
"This information will then be matched into the electricity grid which will assist in finding ways of alleviating the pressure the grid is under," he proposes.
Consumers need to understand how their bill accumulates, he says. This was the motivation behind Cisco's partnership with a smart meter manufacturing company in Cape Town.
The company manufactures smart meters and Cisco has done the integration of their network and their partners' metering.
Agostinho adds that power sub-stations now have technology that provides information about how much power is used. This technology is in the form of Remote Terminal Unit (RTU) and Intelligent Electronic Devices (IED) technology.
"Cisco has partnered with vendors and manufacturers such as Altron who provide this technology to monitor and manage power grids," he continues.
There is a lot of competition around innovative transportation with public transport companies aiming to attract more passengers using technology.
Bus owners are now jumping onto the bandwagon of pushing content and digital media on buses, explains Agostinho.
He points out this is done through the connected bus fleet system which Cisco is currently working on with a company called Devra. Together they are working on a pilot project where they provide cloud offering software called Ruban on buses.
"This software has the visualisation technology which is able to monitor buses and provide the location of the bus in real time, it can provide information about the speed a bus is travelling, how much oil is in the engine and it also provides WiFi to passengers," he explains.
He says this is done through a system called ODB connection where routers are attached onto the computer box of the vehicles to pull out specific information from the cloud.
Over and above this, the technology also provides surveillance cameras on the buses.
He says this project is currently at pilot phase and the public will be informed when it is ready for roll out.
According to Cisco, the company has teamed up with analogue and mixed-signal corporation company Semtech to produce smart parking technology.
Semtech have invented a technology called LoRa – plug-in card. This technology creates an IOT ecosystem and platform to enable rapid growth and easy deployment for IOT sensors and end-devices while requiring a long-range, low-power wireless connectivity.
"One of the areas where LoRa is implemented is in a smart parking project which the two companies are working on.
"LoRa is used in parking zones and provides malls and shopping centres with smart parking solutions such as information about how often a specific parking lot is busy and it also assists mall visitors in locating available parking spots through their mobile devices," reveals Agostinho.
He adds there is no electricity cable used to connect this technology, instead only batteries and sensors are used.
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