How Africa Can Tap Into The Internet of Things (IoT)

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“Internet of Things” has become today’s buzzword, right after the long talk of the “cloud”. But it is slowly taking over the globe at a faster rate than was expected. Research by Gartner suggests that there will be 4.9 billion ‘things’ connected to the internet by the end of 2015. By 2020 that number would jump to 25 billion.

The Internet of Things helps businesses and individuals do tasks easily. For example, having a gadget that checks the heart rate of an athlete can deduce great knowledge of how to train him. Being able to regulate your home refrigerator using your mobile phone remotely, can also bring great benefits.

The phenomenon is growing at such a fast rate. Gartner suggests that existing businesses should adopt it as the new way of doing things.

“The digital shift instigated by the Nexus of Forces (cloud, mobile, social and information), and boosted by the Internet of Things, threatens many existing businesses. They have no choice but to pursue it, like they’ve done with the consumerization of IT,” said Jim Tully, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. 

 

What The Shift Means for Africa

African nations should not be left behind in this revolution. As the mobile revolution took over the old regime of fixed lines, the Internet of Things pushes companies to play in the global space.

Lindsay Britz, Marketing Manager of Magic Software, South Africa, says that the trend has already landed in the continent. It’s only a matter of time before it takes over.

She explained “The Internet of Things is already deeply embedded in Africa’s industrial and commercial infrastructures. If you doubt me, take a look at these examples: Smart meters are being used to measure household utility usage in South Africa,” Lindsay said.

In eastern and central Africa, black rhinos are relaying their movements to anti-poaching teams through signals transmitted from their ankle collars, she added. In isolated areas of RwandaSIM cards are connected to POS terminals to enable acceptance of credit card payments.

 

“Internet of Things” has become today’s buzzword, right after the long talk of the “cloud”.

“Internet of Things” has become today’s buzzword, right after the long talk of the “cloud”.

Leveraging Businesses with the Internet of Things

So how do businesses leverage on this new wind of change that is the Internet of Things?

Britz suggests that IoT-enabled technologies enable improved, next-generation customer service. That can provide enormous benefits to consumers. It will also provide multiple advantages to manufacturers, retailers, telecom companies, and other service providers.

“Businesses equipped with the large quantities of data collected via the IoT are better able to understand their customers. This will lead to more personalized product offerings and more efficient service organizations,” Britz remarked.

Companies such as Uber and Easy Taxi are giving customers great experiences in the transport sector. Indeed, such services relate to a bigger customer base. In August this year, Uber announced that they saw a 30% increase in business in Nairobi since they opened their doors in January.

Using middleware to accelerate the development of IoT systems can result in quicker time-to-market. It also lowers costs and reduces risks, enabling South African companies to make a quicker profit from IoT.

Britz also concluded that the IoT has helped improve industrial output. The systems have been used to create production dashboards. They use real-time data from the factory floor and then integrate the information with enterprise systems. That enables managers to continuously improve manufacturing efficiency.

 

Improving Health with The Internet of Things

The use of technology to ease other manual services can see a great pick-up if the customer experience is at its optimal level.  In manufacturing and in health, the Internet of Things can serve to ensure high levels of quality are maintained.

The much talked-about CardioPad, by Cameroonian Zang Adzaba Marc Arthur, has been hailed for its functionality. It has helped in aiding health workers to diagnose chronic illnesses in rural areas in Cameroon.

The CardioPad helps doctors scan their patients in the field and transmit this information to a centralized system.  This has seen many lives saved in the past. Uses of IoT such as this one have a direct impact in the continent.

“Healthcare has embraced the Internet of Things to turn data sharing between medical devices (via Internet, Intranet or RFID) into lifesaving operations. Data is transmitted between different devices, for purposes ranging from hospital inventory management to correcting life-threatening conditions,” Britz said.

Government bodies can also utilise the Internet of Things to help speed up quality checks. It can enhance compliance processes by sensing and reporting a wide variety of conditions. These conditions could be temperature, humidity, air pressure, smoke, light, radiation, toxic gases, weight, speed, electromagnetism, vibration, speech and much more.

 

The Key is to be Prepared

There are countless ways the Internet of Things can help achieve efficiency, generate insight, and help in user acquisitions. But entities have to be ready for the shift.

Most companies will need to change their thought process and integrate new technology to be ready to adopt IoT. This will mean a change of budgets and training of IT experts to be ready to adopt this phenomenon.

Undoubtedly, this change of habits and thought processes will be the hardest challenge. But it will be necessary change if Africa is to seize the opportunity and compete with the rest of the world.