Capitalise on IOT now

Get devices to start talking, get more out of existing IT assets, and you will get a jump-start on the competition.

Read time 3min 50sec

It's been called the next industrial revolution. The Internet of things (IOT) is changing how people live, work and entertain themselves. It's estimated that 50 billion devices will be IOT-connected by 2020. Across every sector, from financial services to retail, healthcare, agriculture and more, the opportunities for the creation of new revenue streams are seemingly endless and are set to transform the economy over the next decade.

There are many ways to interpret and understand IOT as the new buzzword, but it is fundamentally rather simple and has been around for longer than most people realise, specifically in the world of industrial automation. The most profound difference is that the transport mechanism providing the ability to connect devices is the Internet, and it's a readily accessible platform.

The rapid growth of IOT as a concept has, in part, been driven by the consumer adoption of technological innovation, and the resulting drop in pricing as the technology becomes more and more popular and the demand for additional functionality continues to shoot up. When it comes to costs, it also helps enormously that the Internet is not a proprietary system.

IOT solutions are made up of a number of components, starting down at the sensor/actuator layer, and building up to the communications layer. The heart of these solutions lives at the software platform layer, where all sensor information goes, performing a form of command-and-control function.

Easy as pie

At its heart, the IOT platform layer is a suite of software components that enable remote data collection over connected devices, secure communication and interaction between devices, updates, device management, user notifications, and user data visualisation once the data has been collected. Sounds simple enough, right? The problem is a lag in IOT adoption in SA, largely due to a fragmented approach to product development and deployment, as well as an ongoing and pointless standards battle happening globally in the world of IOT. It's like having a great car, but not being able to go anywhere because the roads have not been built.

Safety can be vastly enhanced by the removal of human intervention.

It can be frustrating dealing with infrastructural challenges when the real objective is to bring a business solution to market. What's needed is an IOT platform that allows universal device connection and management, sensor readings and actuations, intelligence and reporting, through an industry-standard, robust framework. This can be achieved only by having access to simple platforms with instant connection and rock-solid infrastructure. The aim must be to connect any device, to connect it as quickly as possible, to make operation as simple as possible, and to keep it as inexpensive as possible.

Once the complexity of IOT is removed, the possibilities are indeed endless. Imagine moisture meters in nurseries, smart metering for utilities of all kinds, environmental reporting in the mining sector, air quality sensors in buildings, temperature monitoring in fridges.

Among the most significant advancements enabled by IOT is the removal of human intervention, which means the eradication of human error and the indirect costs involved. Then, of course, companies that roll out IOT effectively can look forward to massively increased efficiencies, resulting in further cost savings. Benefits include maximising the utilisation of products due to an environment that is more controlled and regulated. Where blue collar workers form part of the labour force, safety can be vastly enhanced by the removal of human intervention.

An example of such an IOT solution would be systems such as those used by the courier companies. Embedded sensor technology alerts operators both of the arrival of mail and its dispatch and collection. The ability to detect when customer deliveries are made allows operators to better manage their networks to achieve greater efficiencies, improve service, and ultimately gain greater market share.

Removing the barriers to IOT adoption requires increasing awareness, overcoming infrastructure issues, and a leveraging of the economies of scale that will happen once uptake increases. What is certain is that the time to act is now. Innovators and early adopters will win more quickly than ever before.

Glen Ansell
founder and CEO of ThatThing.

Glen Ansell is a recognised thought leader in the world of technology. A serial entrepreneur, he founded his first company, i5 Technology, at 22. Within seven years, he grew it into a multinational business that employed more than 100 people. He joined the global entrepreneur network Endeavor in 2008. He is currently sales and marketing director at business intelligence company Young Blood Consultants, and co-founder and CEO of IOT specialist ThatThing. Ansell has a BCom degree in logistics management from Stellenbosch University, and an honour’s degree in psychology from the University of the Witwatersrand, where he is completing a master’s degree in the subject. His interests lie in neuropsychology, statistical analysis and the design of human machine interfaces. In his spare time, he builds robots and drones.

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