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SqwidNet, the licensed Sigfox IoT network operator in South Africa, has launched the second phase of the SA IoT University Challenge with a webinar introducing the eleven finalists to the Sigfox network and giving them training on how to use the development kits they have received. The programme, which was launched earlier this year, is aimed at getting university students to develop IoT solutions that address one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“We are moving into what we refer to as a data-driven world,” says Phathizwe Malinga, acting CEO of SqwidNet. “This means that more business models are going to being led by data. In society, data-driven allows us to better manage our shared resources, which means they can go far further and this is aligned with what we hope to achieve with focussing on the SDGs,” he says.

In the first phase of the SA IoT University Challenge, SqwidNet challenged university students to create teams and come up with ideas around how technology can solve some of the most pressing issues we face in society. Ideas in agriculture range from solutions that monitor parameters such as harmful gasses, temperature, humidity and moisture in the soil to water quality and consumption monitoring. Some students focussed on more urban problems and will embark on an IoT solution to reduce cash-in-transit heists. “At SqwidNet we drive innovation through IoT and what better way to do that than to engage with young bright minds that tend to look at every day challenges differently. So, we have given these finalists Sigfox development kits, free access to the SqwidNet network, and have challenged them to now apply this different way of thinking to develop viable IoT solutions.”

During the webinar, the finalists were introduced to the technology they will be using as part of phase two of the programme. Over the next six weeks, they will have access to webinars every fortnight and online mentorship by Sean Laval, SqwidNet’s Executive of Innovations and Solutions. In this time, they will develop their final projects.

“With several projections out there around the number of devices that will be connected by 2020, we have a mammoth task ahead of us in a very short period. We, therefore, need a strong ecosystem to make this a reality. Our open access ecosystem, with Sigfox at the core, brings the network, devices, applications, and the cloud together so that we can connect business and society,” says Malinga. He quotes Wayne Dyer as saying, “If you change the way you look at something, the things that you look at change”. “We believe that getting the students to look at the different challenges, will help us change how we see our world. We started this journey of educating the next generation about the benefit and possibilities of IoT by running a Sigfox day in November last year. In January this year, we extended that to entrepreneurs through our IoT Entrepreneurship Programme and now we are taking it a step further with the University Challenge. If we can address even just a few of the 17 SDGs, we are already making great strides in solving real-world problems, through IoT today.”

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