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The Internet of Things in action

Read time 10min 10sec

In 2018, Gartner estimated that there were around 3.96 billionendpoints. In 2019, this increased to 4.81 billion. And in 2020,

Gartner

This is a view shared by Forrester. In its recent report, revealingly entitled ‘Predictions 2020: The Internet of Things’, the research company said that IoT is likely to push smart displays, 5G, supply chains and new business models and will be used by organisations to transform products and services.

IoT has potential and it has already shown this in numerous use cases across the world, many of them quite surprising in their approach and industry. In the US, at the University of Washington, engineers developed a camera that sits on the back of a living insect and that provides data that can be used to manage pest control in agriculture and industrial IoT. The researchers call it ‘Living IoT’ and it’s all about using sensor networks to create mobile IoT platforms that live on the backs of, well, bugs.

Businesses need to empower themselves through retrofit solutions and engagement models to stay relevant and profitable.

On the pandemic side of life, IoT has seen a surge in popularity in the energy market. Research Dive found that solutions within this sector are likely to generate revenue exceeding $41 billion by 2027 and that many of the limitations imposed by the coronavirus will likely be the reason for this solid growth. This is equally reflected in the sheer volume of startups within the IoT energy space, which includes 75F, a company that uses predictive IoT for HVAC and equipment control; e-peas, a company that uses IoT for harvesting power management; Repos Energy, a company that delivers fuel using an app and IoT; and Arnergy, a distributed utility that takes IoT into solar power for organisations.

Powerful tool

In amidst these use cases is one that South Africans, at the time of writing, can’t enjoy in the pandemic – wine. In Germany, TracoVino, an IoT system developed by MyOmega, uses sensors to track all those critical wine-making factors such as soil humidity, air humidity, rainfall and temperature to ensure that the harvest is always optimum and the crop the best it can be. Still in the realm of bugs and harvests, IoT is also being put to excellent use to attempt to fix the growing problem with bees. As the global bee population continues to decline – a critical problem for the planet – IoT solutions are being developed to try to resolve the challenges that are affecting these vital insects. The World Bee Project Global Hive Network uses IoT alongside artificial intelligence and data analytics and is the first globally co-ordinated programme of its kind.

While there is certainly room for improvement in overall IoT adoption for South Africa, the current economic environment will certainly lead slower adoption

While these cases of IoT in action are across the spectrum of the extraordinary and the necessary, there remains a solid case for this technology within the business. It’s not a fluffy concept, but a powerful tool that can deliver immense value. But – and there always is a ‘but’ – as McKinsey points out, companies need to approach it as a holistic part of a complete ecosystem in order for it to work. So dream it, build it, but prepare properly in order to get results.

IoT: Sensors, Cameras, Action…

Brainstorm: How does the IoT landscape look in South Africa?

Keith Matthews, country manager for South Africa and sales director, Sub-Saharan Africa, Orange Business Services: The IoT landscape in South Africa has significantly advanced over the past five years. It went from a situation that was relatively theoretical to a state where IoT has already been successfully integrated into B2B activities, particularly in the mining, manufacturing, financial services, agriculture, and healthcare industries.

Duran Viera, CEO, Amecor: While there is room for improvement in overall IoT adoption for South Africa, the current economic environment will certainly lead to slower adoption. We expect that, in the security space, we’re likely to only see it really gain traction again in the next 18 to 24 months. But, when it does, it will be revolutionary to the way in which security is adopted and managed.

Deon du Preez, Intelligent Enterprise executive, Dimension Data: South Africa has moved beyond the hype of IoT, into the pragmatic view of what it can and can’t do. IoT is not a magic wand, creating millions in revenue opportunities.

Riaan Graham, director, Enterprise, CommScope: Many industries want to use IoT to understand consumer needs in real-time, become more responsive, improve machine and system quality on the fly, streamline operations and develop innovative ways to transform their business initiatives.

Sabelo Dlamini, senior research and consulting manager, IDC Sub-Saharan Africa: The IoT market in South Africa is still emerging; most companies are piloting different technologies that they can adopt in improving their processes using IoT. This presents an opportunity for new players to test the market and get the experience to help enterprises develop business models for long-term success.

Brainstorm: What are the challenges, limitations and problems?

Ghassan Azzi, sales director, Africa, Western Digital: South Africa faces a few challenges, like budgetary constraints and a lack of adequate technology infrastructure. Furthermore, especially when it comes to the capabilities of IoT processes and systems, business leaders are often not familiar with how exactly these technologies work, and are thus unaware of the benefits that they may yield for the business.

Sivi Moodley, CEO, Macrocomm: Within the technology fraternity of South Africa, there are only a handful of highly skilled individuals that play in the IoT space. These specialised skills are not easily accessible.

Raymond Obermeyer, MD, SEW-Eurodrive South Africa:There is no one-size-fits-all approach that can be taken with IoT – what works for one business (even if in the same industry) does not mean that those solutions will be implemented successfully. Every business is different, with its own unique requirements, and IoT solutions need to be customised accordingly.

Ian Jansen van Rensburg, senior systems engineer, VMware: The lack of standardisation across IoT chips, components, data communication, and data formats is one of the biggest obstacles to IoT implementation. These new connected devices emit information in new formats that need to be managed alongside existing assets that transmit data in different formats.

Vishal Barapatre, CTO, In2IT Technologies: The infrastructure layout itself is still in its infancy. Many of the most valuable IoT applications rely on high bandwidth availability and speeds to perform real-time streaming analytics, something that is not currently possible with current infrastructure in South Africa.

Brainstorm: How can IoT be of value in the real world?

Mark Nasila, chief analytics officer, FNB Risk: If adopted correctly, IoT applications, connected devices and machines have the potential to improve how we work, live, and create new economies.Opportunities of IoT are very real and would have a significant entrepreneurial impact in sectors such as retail, manufacturing, healthcare, energy, agriculture, transportation and logistics, and government.

Chetan Goshalia, chief sales and marketing officer, SqwidNet: Smart water meters allow user data to be sent to the homeowner and municipality, thus providing real-time usage, reducing errors, and improving the accuracy of bills. The other benefit of smart water meters is that leaks can be detected, helping to reduced water wastage.

Glenn Noome, director, Smart Integration, Ulwembu Business Services: IoT is crucial in South Africa. By thinking out of the box, it’s clear that an entirely different skills set will help create employment locally. IoT solutions can also allow for dramatic cost savings across all industries, including insurance, manufacturing, and security.

Peter Malebye, managing executive for IoT Africa, Vodacom: Businesses need to empower themselves through retrofitted solutions and engagement models to stay relevant and profitable, while ensuring cost reductions. IoT is starting to play a significantly bigger part in many sectors currently offering solutions beyond just connecting employees, things and places.

IoT in actual action: Take 01

Brainstorm digs into a solution developed by IoT.nxt for Vodacom South Africa’s headquarters in Midrand.

IoT.nxt worked with Vodacom South Africa to transform the telco’s headquarters from bricks and mortar into intelligent infrastructure. The goal was to develop a cohesive platform from which to manage multiple systems and utilities, which would provide visibility into different areas of the building and any potential issues. The threads that the solution pulled together spanned water and electricity meters, power, fuel, generators and general consumption of utilities and systems across the building and handed the company deeper control over its spend, usage and management.

“Raptor, our IoT framework, provides the intelligence on site and connects all the different facilities and utilities, collecting the data and controlling the systems,” says Andre Strauss, chief commercial officer at IoT.nxt. “It’s an intelligent gateway that let’s us connect different brands and systems to provide the company with a single view over multiple touchpoints. It provides an interface that enables the company to instantly react to security concerns, cleaning requirements, alarms, utility failures, fuel shortages and to use automatic insights to improve control over all these elements.”

The team can look at utility usage, carbon footprint, system behaviour and so many other nuanced insights as a result of the IoT platform.

Andre Strauss, IoT.nxt

The solution is designed to tap into the modern idea of the smart building, one that has changed significantly over the past few years. Now, the intelligent building has to do more than just manage its assets, it needs to be capable of creating spaces for employees and customers that are safe within the constraints of the pandemic. This, for Vodacom, was a key differentiator.

“Smart buildings have to extend beyond the physical and so for Vodacom, we developed a solution that could allow for them to benefit from different operational efficiencies,” adds Strauss. “We digitised the base stations and created digital twins of assets to optimise IoT. The solution has delivered a 20% saving to the company’s bottom line – a real cost benefit for Vodacom – and, on top of that, the company can respond and react a lot faster, resulting in a better experience for the customer.”

The digitisation of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and the use of the digital twin concept allowed for Vodacom to drive real-time efficiencies and cost savings within the building. The the company can now adjust conditions to suit the number of people in the building and adapt usage and monitoring accordingly. The IoT platform provides a single view into multiple systems, with all the context and controls required to measure and assess these different systems appropriately.

“The team can look at utility usage, carbon footprint, system behaviour and so many other nuanced insights as a result of the IoT platform,” says Strauss. “It brings context to the building – it shows costs based on real-time data, it reports on relevant insights, it shows you systems in trouble and makes maintenance activities far quicker and more efficient.”

In an era when most organisations are rethinking office space and how to manage it in order to provide safer environments for customers, this type of intelligent oversight has become immensely valuable. It transforms a building into a living organism that adds value to the property and what the company can bring to its people, its customers and its bottom line.

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