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IoT: untapped win-win-win gold mine

Johannesburg, 04 Oct 2023
Ewald Fourie, Co-Founder and CEO of IoTdc.
Ewald Fourie, Co-Founder and CEO of IoTdc.

Internet of things (IoT) is no longer a new technology, but the IoT environment is still in its infancy in South Africa in terms of the benefits being harnessed. The full potential of IoT is completely untapped, considering the massive ‘win-win-win’ opportunities it offers every sector.

Data is the organisation’s most valuable asset, and strategic, secure IoT systems allow organisations to gather more data and act on it to deliver wins in terms of cost savings, benefits for stakeholders and impact on the environment.

Winning for power savings

One area where IoT is already delivering significant benefits is in power saving – a top priority for many South African enterprises due to rising electricity costs and ESG goals. Here, we see IoT delivering cost savings in the order of 20% to 30%, a massive gain for the likes of large retailers and food processing facilities.

With advanced IoT systems to monitor and optimise retail fridges and HVAC systems, we can automatically reduce the power consumption of the refrigeration system when it reaches the necessary temperature and increase the output again when the temperature starts rising. The temperature remains optimal for the refrigerated goods, but the amount of power required is significantly reduced. We can extend the cost savings by controlling the refrigerator or cold room lights – turning them on only when someone is in the area. To further reduce consumption, IoT systems can ensure that the refrigeration equipment is performing optimally, raising alerts if there are signs of operational issues, and pre-emptively scheduling maintenance to avoid a breakdown.

This use case can be expanded to other industries where temperature control is critical, such as pharmaceuticals, fine wine or art storage. Not only does IoT monitoring and optimisation of climate control systems reduce power consumption, it could also potentially support lower insurance premiums.

Water management is another priority in South Africa, and here too, IoT offers multiple wins in terms of cost savings, benefits for people and the environment.

For enterprises with a net zero target in mind, IoT supports a greener footprint that is better for the planet, while also boosting their brand reputation.

Strategically designed and implemented IoT systems are illustrating their potential in sectors as diverse as wildlife management and mining, offering benefits such as asset management, risk reduction, health and safety improvements and more.

Getting IoT right

Despite the overwhelming evidence that IoT is a game-changer, many early IoT implementations in South Africa failed to live up to the hype.

It should be noted that the industry is relatively new. IoT is not a simple hardware or software solution that can be plugged in and simply work. As a new frontier in South Africa, many service providers and customers are still developing best practice and gaining experience. There are no mainstream, standardised IoT platforms such as those used for business applications, and this challenges IoT standardisation, integration and end-user experience. It is a complex field that requires collaboration between vendors, integration specialists and other experts to deliver measurable value.

To get the expected value from IoT, it is necessary to standardise and simplify it wherever possible. Any IoT deployment needs to be built with security and compliance at the heart of the system and a solid understanding of the required benefits at the outset. It requires a specialised ecosystem involved in the design and implementation process, including partners such as hardware vendors, platform providers, system integrators and industry expertise.

While the exact definition of what constitutes IoT is flexible, we believe it should be seen as a marriage of the physical and the digital. What makes this valuable is turning this into actionable data that delivers measurable benefits for the business, its stakeholders and the broader community or environment.