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SA leads in IoT applications

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SA leads in IoT applications

Kathy Gibson reports from the MTN IoT Conference in Sandton – South African companies are well ahead of the game when it comes to Internet of Things (IoT) applications.
This is the word from Mariana Kruger, GM: private sector at MTN Business, who believes unique conditions in this country have driven the need to craft solutions.
MTN recently completed a mammoth project in migrating all of its IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) customers from GSM SIMs to 14-digit SIMS in line with the 24 March ICASA deadline.
“This migration has given us a good idea of what is happening in the enterprise business,” she says.
“And what is happening on the global front is not necessarily what is happening in South Africa.”
In the local market there is a lot of IoT activity – and sophistication – in both the fleet, logistics and cargo industry as well as in security.
“In the South African context, we can understand why,” Kruger says.
She adds that the early stages of IoT have been in the South African market for a long time, probably from about 1981 when the first ATMs went live.
“So the rudimentary steps for IoT are in place we need to take it to the next level.”
While the rest of the world is starting on the connected vehicle journey, Kruger points out that South Africa already has a well-developed industry and ecosystem around connected vehicles.
“This shows us that South Africans are very innovative and come up with solutions that meet the local market environment.”
For true IoT solutions, Kruger believes that sensors are just part of the solution. “We need to gather intelligence and take action prior to events happening.
“Whether that is to save a life, improve a supply chain, improve customer satisfaction, improve profit, or save a species – the potential is enormous.”
The IoT ecosystem has four layers, Kruger says.
The first layer – the sensor – is quite clear and South African companies are well on top of this part of the equation.
The connectivity layer represents MTN’s biggest asset. She says. “We have spent R30-million on upgrading our network. we are making sure we have the right environment to support this.”
There will be other connectivity and communication protocols that will have to be followed to get into the MTN network, but Kruger says MTN aims to own the connectivity layer.
The computing layer will be largely driven by cloud, Kruger believes. “We absolutely cannot do this without cloud.”
Data analytics is a crucial part of the computing layer, and possibly the most important. But without processing and intelligence, data is useless, Kruger says.
“What are you doing with it to help you make business solutions? This is one area that will change a lot going forward.”
Cognitive computing will start to take off to make this a reality, she adds.
The final layer is visual, applications and monitoring. “The user wants a simple app so he an easily see what is happening. The visual portion is something we are going to have to spend a lot on.”
Today, areas of speciality are oriented to these layers, Kruger says. “But there is no single supplier providing this end to end. So its all about partnerships. About ensuring you have the right ecosystem to provide solutions to the clients.”