South African businesses are being forced to redefine value chains as a result of the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT). This is according to Eseye, a leading M2M connectivity provider and an advanced network infrastructure provider for IoT. Jeremy Potgieter, Eseye Southern African Regional Manager, says that digitising physical and disconnected processes, and allowing products and services to be processed and delivered in new ways, are just some of the immediate challenges when redefining a value chain.
“There are several examples of South Africa’s attempts to roll out Internet-connected devices. Closer to home are the smart meters used to measure household utility usage. Industry-specific examples include the mining sector’s new connected technology and sensors used to detect geological movement, and possible substance availability; fuel pipelines fitted with sensors to monitor leaks and fuel stations with data loggers, which advise owners and operators on stock levels and usage trends.”
Potgieter says that South Africa is also starting to see the use of monitoring data for various forms of analytics, such as predictive and prescriptive analytics that assist businesses with rapid decision making: “As the benefits of IoT related services are being realised, IoT is creating new opportunities to innovate with newly connected products being imagined every day. It is only a matter of time before its full potential is seen.”
Despite South Africa’s skills shortage, Potgieter says that the country’s socio-economic challenges provide opportunities and stimulus to incubate the correct thinking: “We already see this in the way that industry and businesses have revised their digital strategy to include a focus on IoT and the resulting high-value data analytics. These strategies are complemented by an active acquisition of data scientists and software engineers. There have also been efforts by tertiary institutions to align to the changing landscape, enabling and equipping students for careers in the new marketplace.”
The biggest hurdle impacting the growth of IoT locally lies in driving critical and analytical thinking as a medium of education, according to Potgieter. If these are not embraced fully, the human capital required to drive such initiatives, will be lacking. “While the introduction of focused degree-courses is a good start, more needs to be done. We have a disproportionately low amount of school learners taking on subjects like science and core maths and the knock-on effect is a smaller pool of candidates. The solution as always is highlighted by the problem, drive the fundamental subject matter to ensure a larger pool of candidates for selection. The only way new and practical solutions can be developed is when current problems are viewed with a critical eye,” says Potgieter.
Looking globally, he says that it is possible for South Africa to embrace and experience global IoT trends: “We already see companies like Takealot rivalling the likes of Amazon from a localised point of view, and by utilising IoT and data analytics they have single handedly started a retail revolution. It is on the back of their success that we saw the rise of services like Zando and Superbalist.”
Potgieter says that vertical sectors are already starting to utilise IoT. Logistics companies for example, are boosting business through enhanced efficiency by way of EPOD (electronic proof of delivery) services and real-time asset tracking and management: “Utilities providers are also delivering extended capabilities to traditional smart metering solutions, like intuitive and scheduled autonomous management. A further example is the deployment of wildlife management solutions through partnerships between MNOs and SI providers. The use of drones for agri-business and security sectors is also being embraced by farming communities and industrial/mining players.”
IoT is a vital catalyst for change according to Potgieter and South Africa is only at the precipice of this evolution: “Exciting time lies ahead for IoT and Eseye is looking forward to playing a vital role in this journey.”