The Internet of Things (IoT) has the ability to transform the lives of citizens, providing tangible solutions to many of society’s ills. That said, partnerships between the public and private sector will be key in ensuring that these are fully realised.
“It is important to understand that IoT is not a technology, but rather an ecosystem of connected ‘things’ that can only be enabled through partnerships among industry players,” says George Kalebaila, senior research manager at IDC Sub-Saharan Africa. “What is lacking in South Africa and many other regions, is an overarching platform where everything can plug into bringing about a seamless coexistence and exchange of data to enable some of the key advantages and benefits of IoT.”
IoT applications in retail, transportation, manufacturing and utilities will offer the greatest growth opportunity as enterprises seek to streamline operations and improve customer experience. The retail sector in many ways opens up the opportunity to illustrate the potential and benefits of having a central agnostic network platform, where everything can plug in. For example, if we look at the modern household, it requires basic needs such as; bread, milk, sugar, and more than likely, medication. If we have an interconnected IoT platform, that retail and other industries would plug into such a platform that collected data to one central place were to be available, smart homes would be able to connect to the nearest and customer preferred stores, as well as inform logistics companies of the deliveries that need to be made, while in the process sending data to other sectors involved in providing a 3600 service to consumers. Once the overarching platform is in place, for example, linking retail to smart homes, the opportunities are endless.
“If you look at Rwanda, for example, they have realised that for them to enable a smart city, they need a platform that everything can plug into. They have already started putting those building blocks in place so that their transport, health and education systems plug into the same platform to exchange data, where possible, to enable end-to-end solutions,” says Kalebaila.
He adds that, while the possibilities enabled by technology are limitless, it will be crucial for the public and private sector to work together. “The responsibility to develop such platforms lies with both government and the private sector to work hand in hand. The private sector has the technical expertise as well ability to raise the required investment while the government needs to react faster to such technological advancements by creating an enabling policy framework to regulate and provide direction.”
With one central platform available for IoT, sectors such as health would benefit drastically, addressing some of the country’s social challenges. “Furthermore, areas that provide the most jobs in the country such as retail, transportation, manufacturing and utilities will grow, contributing to the economy,” Kalebaila concludes.