Despite a universal business case for adopting the Internet of things (IOT) in industries of all types across the US and Europe, the same can’t be said for Africa, which is made up of many economically and politically diverse countries.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the inter-networking of physical devices, vehicles (also referred to as “connected devices” and “smart devices”), buildings, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity which enable these objects to collect and exchange data.
This position forms the nexus when George Kalebaila, director of telecoms and IOT at the IDC, said a ‘me too’ approach to adopting IOT is dangerous, adding that, “while some use cases will be relevant to all businesses in many developed regions, Africa’s IOT journey may require a different approach and the starting point depends on the local situation.”
Kalebaila cites the example of South Africa, and revealed that there isn’t much appetite for connected cars, which is understandable given that many African countries have bigger issues to address, adding that many global tech firms have a Western perspective, and should understand there is a need in Africa for a localised approach.
According to Kalebaila, the IOT opportunity in Africa needs to address local problems, and should aim to develop IOT applications that can be shared across the continent and then gain traction.
However, Steve Bell, senior analyst of IOT at Heavy Reading, who believes the IOT journey for a business always begins with cost, adding that “few industries have yet to find a way to really monetise IOT. The solutions must save money and the data must improve your product and services as well as better interact with your customers.”
According to Steve Bell, the issue of cost is multifaceted, stressing that the cost of hardware and network access needs to come down for African businesses to be able to afford IOT applications, and at the same time, the cheaper cost of labour on the continent, means there’s no urgent need to replace people with automation.
Due to this, organizations need to carefully measure where the real opportunities for IOT deployment lie; for example, in areas such as agriculture, utilities and animal conservation where it is beginning to show value.
Another area where IOT can play a role is in improving physical security, as crime rates in Africa remain high. Huawei entered Africa in the late ’90s and says it is seeing an increased demand for its IOT platform in SA, Nigeria and Kenya.
On his part, Jinwei Zhang, Regional Solution Manager for Southern Africa at Huawei, said security is a big problem, particularly in South Africa, where the majority of homes have alarm systems and other security measures, adding that “This has driven demand for smart home applications focused on improving security.”
He explained that security can also play a role with connected cars, adding that through its partners, Huawei can help collect data location and behaviour on its backend IOT platform, which provides service analysis that can be utilised by the motor industry.
“There is a strong demand to more accurately monitor cars in order to prevent theft,” Zhang added.