SqwidNet, ChipFox-SA take agricultural IOT to new heights
The value of the Internet of things (IOT) lies in its inherent ability to connect to physical things so as to collect data that can be used to inform decision-making. In business, this can be applied across many industries, providing essential information to the business or individual to drive efficiencies and inform their future operations.
"At SqwidNet, we drive innovation through IOT and have seen the tangible results that this technology can yield," says Phathizwe Malinga, Managing Director of SqwidNet. SqwidNet is the Sigfox operator in SA and provides a nationwide IOT network that is low-cost and low-power.
"Through IOT, companies can solve industry-specific challenges and manage their assets more effectively," says Malinga. "In agriculture, for example, IOT can be applied to monitor soil moisture, air quality and other related trends, which can then be used to improve crop yields. Similarly, it is being used for tracking livestock and wild animals."
ChipFox-SA has extended the long-standing global partnership with Sigfox to become the go-to solution provider for livestock tracking in SA. ChipFox-SA provides a portable electronic device that uses GPS to track location, with multiple battery configurations to provide up to six years of autonomy. The device can also have different enclosures for specific applications such as the monitoring of sheep, goats, cattle, rhino, and now even birds.
Ben Hoffman, Managing Director of Chipfox-SA, worked in the wildlife industry as a game ranger for many years. A passion and fascination for birds of prey saw him become a falconer at a young age. He also runs a raptor rehabilitation and research facility in KwaZulu-Natal, where he researches spatial habitat use of birds of prey.
"I have been down the GSM, pure satellite and RF/VHF tracking routes, but nothing ticks all the boxes when it comes to small form factor, long battery life and low cost like Sigfox devices," says Hoffman.
Sigfox technology enables secure and reliable connectivity, thanks to the national network dedicated to IOT. The ecosystem offers enterprises, systems integrators and consumers access to easily use the services provided by the SqwidNet IOT ecosystem, providing them with support for device, application and service deployment on the network.
Thanks to the national network, Hoffman has not deployed any additional base stations, making use of the existing SqwidNet infrastructure which covers over 90% of SA's population.
"We have Sigfox GPS tags on five Crowned Eagles, giving us some of the best data sets for this species," he says. "The eagles have moved 70km from where we thought their territory was. We were only capable of tracking this as a result of the SqwidNet network and would have lost the eagle if we had gone with another network technology."
SqwidNet offers an SLA on network connectivity that guarantees reception of Sigfox messages, enabling opex and capex reduction for partners, without the need to use proprietary RF infrastructure.
ChipFox-SA has deployed similar projects for several big game reserves tracking eagles, cattle and goats.
"This technology allows us to gather far greater insights into animal behaviour and enables us to protect those species that need it most," Hoffman concludes.
"We plan to put Sigfox trackers on hawks as well as a few mammal species, including buffalo, rhino and cheetah, going forward. We are also involved with the roll-out of the first fully IOT monitored game reserve in the world."