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Sigfox SA invests billions in mass IOT adoption

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Raymond Ndlovu, non-executive director of Sigfox SA and CEO of Community Investment Ventures Holdings.
Raymond Ndlovu, non-executive director of Sigfox SA and CEO of Community Investment Ventures Holdings.

The consortium of investors backing the newly-launched Sigfox South Africa says it has spent billions of rands on building a reliable internet of things (IOT) network, with a target to connect a minimum of one million devices in the country.

This emerged during the official launch of the IOT wireless network operator’s South African operations last week.

Sigfox SA is backed by a consortium of investors comprising Remgro-controlled Community Investment Ventures Holdings (CIVH), Discovery Insure, Fidelity ADT, Macrocomm and Buffet Investments.

A French global network operator founded in 2010, Sigfox builds wireless networks to allow billions of devices to connect to the internet, in a straightforward way, while consuming as little energy as possible.

Addressing the media at the launch, CIVH CEO Raymond Ndlovu – who is also non-executive director of Sigfox SA − pointed out that the consortium has invested heavily in building a tier one network in SA.

The move, he added, makes ample sense for mass deployment throughout SA because the devices and signals would talk to each other over a wide area network through the Sigfox 0G network, which interconnects low bandwidth, battery-powered devices with low bit rates over long ranges.

“We’ve built a tier one network that operates on a very sophisticated infrastructure, which we believe now with this re-investment and the re-incarnation of Sigfox SA, will bring down the cost and complexity of massive IOT adoption,” he explained.

“We had to make sure we don't ever return to our ecosystem partners and say there was an issue with the sustainability and liability of this network. We are targeting device manufacturers, device suppliers, agricultural crop monitoring and entities that have IOT proof-of-concept at mass scale, as well as the entire ecosystem which continues to grow and develop in the South African economy.”

The opening of the South African operation is the culmination of the extensive restructuring of CIVH-owned IOT unit SqwidNet, which was wound-down after it failed to make profit for its owners – six years after it was launched in November 2016.

The Sigfox 0G network in SA was built over several years through the then IOT network provider SqwidNet, which was the licensed Sigfox operator in SA.

Sigfox SA is headed by Sivi Moodley, group CEO of Macrocomm, a smart solutions firm, which is a former customer of SqwidNet.

With operations in over 75 countries, Sigfox was acquired by Singapore-based end-to-end customised IOT solutions firm UnaBiz in April.

UnaBiz has over one million IOT sensors and operations in 28 countries worldwide and focuses on smart city applications such as smart metering, facility management, asset management and asset tracking.

The targeted minimum of one million connected devices in SA is expected on the Sigfox network over the coming years, noted Ndlovu.

“UnaBiz is a massive IOT adoption player in South-East Asia – they started with operations in Taiwan and Singapore. They have overseen the adoption of over one million connected IOT devices in Japan.

“South Africa as a territory is far advancing over other African territories. We see a world where − once we have gained ground and provided more stability – the speed of IOT adoption is going to massively upscale commercially, and once that happens we will gain advantage. The real challenge for us is to get people to understand how the technology can be deployed to gain value.”

According to Ndlovu, several municipalities throughout the country have deployed Sigfox technology; for example, in water and electricity meters. The stolen vehicle recovery sector is also highly-dependent on the Sigfox 0G network, with many other use-cases across the country.

“Our solutions talk to anything which requires monitoring to enhance efficiency and drive lower costs, including supply chain and logistics, and organisations can track anything, such as parcels with DHL.

“I am very confident that together with the board of directors, and committed shareholders and stakeholders broadly, we are going to re-ignite economic opportunities in SA,” he concluded.

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15 Aug
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