IoT on the cusp of becoming mainstream

Kirsten Doyle 30 January 2019

The Internet of Things (IoT) is having a profound effect on all industries and many businesses in South Africa. The reality is that consumers are looking for cheaper products, faster, and as a result, the landscape has become extremely competitive. The change agent is the age of digitalisation that we’re moving into, and a key foundation to all of that is IoT.

So says Nico Steyn, CEO of IoT.nxt, adding that IoT is bringing new insights into business and is disrupting the different sectors. As a result, most businesses are now looking towards digitisation, specifically IoT, to start driving productivity and efficiency.

Roger Hislop, executive head of IoT at Internet Solutions, says: “If you think of IoT as a natural evolution of machine-to-machine or telematics, then think of it in the same light as having impacted South African businesses for 40 years, and enormously so. If you only consider IoT in the sense of the recent technology developments of low-cost devices connected to the hyperscale cloud via lowcost wireless sensor networks, then the impact is not a lot, yet. Despite the enormous hype around this technology, most South African companies are still in a wait-and-see state or doing cautious proofs-of-concept.”

“Locally, IoT is in the early hype cycle where businesses know they have to consider it and are busy shaping their strategies,” adds Craig Freer, executive head: Cloud at Vox.

In terms of the IoT ecosystem, it’s in the formative stage from a network, device and platform perspective. Freer believes IoT is on the cusp of becoming mainstream, and is currently where cloud was a few years ago. “Businesses have their own definition of it, they’re uncertain and confused, but they’re learning as the technology is evolving and starting to make sense of how it can be used to solve real-world business challenges.”

Better insights

While IoT may still be an emerging technology in South Africa, major telecommunications and IT players, as well as a host of new tech providers, are investing in new IoT networks and solutions, comments Colin Thornton, MD of Dial a Nerd and Turrito Networks. “According to Africa Analysis, there were more than seven million devices connected to IoT networks in South Africa in 2017, and the firm estimates that this number will double by 2022.”

From cars, to TVs and phones, to unmanned IP-enabled devices such as sensors, monitors and control devices, these ‘things’ are providing more information and better insights that can lead to operational efficiencies and remote controllability of processes and operations, adds Eyad Shihabi, vice president, Africa and Middle East at BT. “IoT enables businesses to use big data in smarter ways, to define new digital possibilities and move towards a new cognitive and connected world.”

Even so, there are shortcomings with IoT as with many new technologies. Take, for example, the fact that very few of these connected devices are interoperable. The primary problem is that there are too many players in the market. Technology companies are developing solutions independently of each other, using different platforms and frameworks and, as a result, many different devices can’t integrate with one another. Overcoming the interoperability challenges of IoT is an important step in reaching its wide-scale adoption and commercialisation potential.

Shihabi says that IoT adoption is a global issue, but more so in Africa than compared to front-runner environments. “Digital transformation is creeping up on the business agenda locally, with many decision-makers realising the need to transform. However, considering the dearth of local IT skills, many companies may not possess the right skills needed to leverage digital technologies effectively.

Another issue, Shihabi says, is technical perspective. “By virtue of IoT being new and made up of so many other new technologies and concepts, many companies don’t know what to expect with the lack of successful projects to ‘look up to’ or use as a benchmark.”

Creating balance

Steyn believes that one of the main issues facing IoT is the disparate nature of devices and protocols. “One of the biggest challenges, obviously, is that each industry is different, so the nature of the device, the way that it sends and formulates data is fundamentally different.”

There’s a lack of standardisation across multiple sectors and that remains a major challenge, adds Steyn. “The other challenge is obviously the fact that industries and companies have made sizeable investments in legacy technologies, equipment and enterprise systems.

“From that perspective, it’s being able to create a balance between moving into the new age, but also preserving the investments that have been made and optimising those,” he says.

Most people view security as a major challenge to IoT, but they’re wrong, says Hislop. “Security in IoT isn’t exceptionally complex or difficult. It’s a key element, but there are a number of security methods that can be applied to make IoT safe from the ground up.”

Read more:  https://bit.ly/2Ww6HMU

 

Tech Trends To Watch This Year

With the Fourth Industrial Revolution well under way, our team is always on the lookout for the latest and greatest in the tech landscape. 2019 promises to be a year of prominent change, particularly in how we connect, communicate and share data.

Edge Computing.

Edge computing technology is growing in power and capability, so in 2019 we can suspect to see real-time data transfer become more efficient and streamlined, saving businesses time and generating quality data in real-time.

Security will remain a key focus.

Both Michiel Du Toit, Chief of Innovation, and Bertus Jacobs, CTO here at IoT.nxt believe that in 2019 security will take centre stage, making it a race to develop even more secure solutions for IoT and data sharing applications.

Machine learning protecting devices.

In 2019, the race for security will heat up, and machine learning will lead the fight to protect vulnerable devices against attack.

Blockchain: Beyond Cryptocurrency

This year, blockchain is due for a makeover. Aside from underpinning cryptocurrencies, blockchain can help industries improve supply chain transparency, ownership tracking and of course, security in data transfer, and customer trust.

Quantum Computing: Magic of physics or necessary technology?

The industry as a whole should keep their eye on rising technology trends, such as quantum computing that would eventually be able to crack even banking-grade SSL keys with ease.

Keep an eye on programming languages

Tracking prominent program languages is essential to help keep track of how to process data effectively.

Managing complex devices

André Jacobs, Director of Product Development, predicts as more and more devices and sensors are connected, the challenge will be to simplify system management across the diversity of sensors and devices.

Cost-Effective IoT Solutions for All

Du Toit predicts that the cloud bubble is beginning to burst, and the overpriced infrastructure costs we currently see in cloud infrastructure will drop as competition increases in the global market.

Protecting valuable workplaces

Sensors should also play a role in detecting dangerous chemicals and conditions in the workplace, improving overall workplace health and safety. The applications for environmental sensors are endless, particularly when it comes to protecting health technicians.

Monitoring air quality to stimulate effective action

With the aid of specialised sensors, we can record a change in air quality in real-time, particularly when it concerns asthma suffers or people with pre-existing breathing issues.

“The value of information does not survive the moment in which it was new. It lives only at that moment…”- Walter Benjamin.

It seems radical, but the turn of the century German Philosopher, Walter Benjamin, had a point about data sharing in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

2018 was a year to connect, share, optimise and most importantly, collect data, and IoT companies certainly facilitated the charge, connecting billions of devices, allowing data to be shared simultaneously. In its infancy, IoT may have been seen to be a solution reserved for tech-related companies. However, it has quickly become one of the building blocks of the modern business, connecting an estimated 23 billion devices, and paving the way for the future of any effectively-run enterprise ecosystem.

We need to leave the last industrial revolution in the dust

2019 is the year to embrace the sharing economy of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. According to social and economic theorist Jeremy Rifkin:

“If your businesses are still plugged into a 2nd Industrial Revolution infrastructure you can’t get above the ceiling of 20% aggregate efficiency anywhere in the world.”

In 2019, look forward to increased mentions of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, incorporating digitised communication and a new connected communication community of energy and transportation. IoT is about distribution and collaboration, not centralisation. What’s more, it’s about equal access, real-time data and then, evidently, real-world solutions.

Edge Computing

For businesses and industries without an effective (or variable) connection to a central cloud, edge computing is the key to real-time data analysis in 2019. Of course, Edge computing and IoT walk hand in hand and they are a perfect match. With both technologies growing in power and capability we can suspect to see real-time data transfer become more efficient and streamlined, saving businesses time and generating quality data in real-time.

In the months to come, edge computing has the capacity to profoundly reduce the need for sole-cloud dependencies, providing greater flexibility for small to medium businesses.

Edge computing is also making headway in telecommunications in 2019. With 5G cellular networks on the rise and destined to become the next stage in data storage, the need for more power, faster speed and new applications are greater than ever. With edge computing opening a gateway to efficient data processing, the harmonious partnership between IoT and edge is vital for any business wanting to effectivity process data in real-time.

IoT.nxt is already at the forefront of edge computing optimisation, and 5G will set up a new era for IoT to thrive. Industrial businesses have lots of data coming from all angles, transferring from devices straight to the cloud. There’s where IoT.nxt edge software comes in. At the edge, we capture anomalies before they head to the cloud, and send them directly to the relevant parties, cutting down on steps and connecting you to the data you need.

Security will remain a key focus

Michiel Du Toit, Chief of Innovation here at IoT.nxt believes in 2019 security will take centre stage, making it a race to develop even more secure solutions for IoT and data sharing applications. We’ll see top-notch security tech on IoT devices that could treat the vulnerability issues facing these devices.

Machine Learning Protecting Devices

Everyone agrees that security is an ever-pressing issue, and a cure-all solution seems light years away. There will always be vulnerabilities, but it’s all about minimising those vulnerabilities and hiring the strongest guard to keep watch.

In 2019, the race for security will heat up, and machine learning will lead the fight to protect vulnerable devices against attack.

With AI/machine learning on our side, we can expect to see:

  • Improved response time on attacks
  • Cost-effective solutions
  • Increased edge computing integration

IoT devices are certainly vulnerable and with more connectivity, that vulnerability spreads. As part of the solution, companies could embrace edge computing as a way to combat attacks and increase privacy.

Blockchain: Beyond Cryptocurrency

Blockchain is another contender for security protection in 2019. The past year blockchain has certainly been stuck in a poor PR cycle, with the crash of cryptocurrencies that the technology underpins. However, blockchain has other uses aside from cryptocurrency. The technology can help industries improve supply chain transparency, ownership tracking and of course, security in data transfer, and customer trust.

IoT needs to be ready to face security challenges that will evidently come with record-breaking device connectivity. It’s certainly a tech trend to watch closely in 2019.

According to Bertus Jacobs, CTO of IoT.nxt, more emphasis should be placed on the best practices to ensure tight security including but not limited to

  • Use open standards and best practices in both encryption and authentication;
  • Use and enforce strong passwords with best practices. “Last year’s” passwords will become largely outdated and weak quickly. Computing power gets exponentially better, especially when employing staggeringly high cloud-computing power to break weak passwords with brute force in seconds;
  • Avoid same or default passwords across different platforms, devices and systems.

One way that is always suggested and obvious – but is not implemented by a large population of development houses – is to protect sensitive client IP by storing passwords as non-reversible techniques, so that even developers can’t access client data.

When API integration between systems is developed, security should be at the forefront of every business. Open standard security tokens and other security features should be employed – not as an afterthought, but as an integral part of the project.

Quantum Computing: Magic of physics or necessary technology?

The industry as a whole should keep their eye on rising technology trends, such as quantum computing that would eventually be able to crack even banking-grade SSL keys with ease. Algorithms already exist to do this, but the hardware is still lacking. Although quantum hardware technology is incredibly hard to manufacture – a lot of R&D is dedicated to this by tech giants such as Google and IBM. One recent breakthrough was the unveiling of IBM’s latest quantum computer that can be accessed as a cloud service by third-party users. This latest development could translate to further research and discovery in more effective security in the foreseeable future.

On the embedded electronics side, IoT.nxt is busy developing a major advancement for Edge to Cloud security involving chipsets with baked-in security – which could be used by third parties. Although we can’t reveal too much information on this yet – we believe this will bring significantly more sophisticated security advances to the IoT market in general, offering more bulletproof firmware upgrade and malicious code execution.

On the embedded electronics side, IoT.nxt is busy developing a major advancement for Edge to Cloud security involving chipsets with baked-in security – which could be used by third parties. Although we can’t reveal too much information on this yet – we believe this will bring significantly more sophisticated security advances to the IoT market in general, offering more bulletproof firmware upgrade and malicious code execution.

It’s for issues like this that we’ve seen an increase in the ‘bounties’ offered by companies like Zerodium for the identification of high-risk vulnerabilities on operating systems, Whatsapp and much more. With payouts reaching well into the millions, we see more companies investing in triple-layer protection, much like camera manufacturer Axis have, by combining security and vulnerability management with learning and collaboration to ensure that their platform is continuously evolving.

Keep an eye on programming languages

As the year progresses, we think it’s important to keep a check on the most prominent program languages. Tracking prominent program languages is essential to help keep track of how to process data effectively.

Last year, we saw Python retained its’ influence as a dominant programming language, due in part to its versatility. Python is also being increasingly employed in web development, through prominent frameworks like Flask and Django. The language is at the forefront of the data science and AI industry with well-established libraries like NumPy and Pandas.

Following closely behind Python is Go, and JavaScript – with the addition of Typescript technology. Program languages we think you should keep your eye on in 2019 are Javascript and Python due, in part, to the ongoing growth and interest in serverless architecture, with most frameworks heading towards this relatively new type of architecture.

Rouan van der Ende, Software Developer at IoT.nxt says we aim to support most modern programming languages and protocols to make sure our software stack is diversified. We do, however, build infrastructure and edge devices on .Net Core and C# which is now available on Linux and Microsoft platforms. The bottom line is that language aside, we can plug into any system, either by industry standard integration or by allowing third-party plugins to be imported into our Edge technology (Raptor). Such plugins could be developed in any programming language as long as it can implement our generic Edge plugin interfaces.

Managing complex devices

André Jacobs, Director of Product Development, predicts as more and more devices and sensors are connected, the challenge will be to simplify system management across the diversity of sensors and devices.

IoT.nxt works across several industries to help implement complex devices effectively and creates the opportunity for data-driven results in their business.

Making sense of data

The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data. We are collecting and sharing more data than ever before. Globally, devices are sending more and more data to servers. The global business world is lit up with data exchange and we’re collecting that data at a record rate.

To make sense of data, businesses need to focus efforts on driving better and smarter results to convert the collected data into a cost-effective management system. Currently, 64% of business across all industries have discovered that big data breaks down traditional boundaries and allows non-traditional providers and products to enhance their industry. Jacobs believes that helping businesses understand the data they collect through IoT devices is the challenge in 2019.

Cost-Effective IoT Solutions for All

Du Toit predicts that the cloud bubble is beginning to burst, and the overpriced infrastructure costs we currently see in cloud infrastructure will drop as competition increases in the global market. As IoT infrastructure relies on cloud resources, we should see a drop in the cost of installing and maintaining effective IoT solutions with a positive effect on project ROI’s.

Smart Technology for Environmental Benefit

Smart technology has infinite applications for environmental benefit in both the workplace and environment we all share. 2019 will gift us more powerful devices and sensors that will work to fight an increasing amount of environmental disasters and threats.

With smarter and more effective sensors, we can collect a more accurate measure on the environmental impact across an organisation or even industry. Environmental sensors can effectively measure environmental impact, in a way that no human could. The environmental benefit of deploying sensors to analyse variables like air and water quality, radiation is a gamechanger.

Protecting valuable workplaces

Sensors should also play a role in detecting dangerous chemicals in the workplace, improving overall workplace health and safety. The applications for environmental sensors are endless, particularly when it comes to protecting health technicians.

Polluted or uninhabitable landscapes can be analysed, and a solution can be founded, without risking anyone entering the site. Optimised sensors could also be implemented in the workplace to protect valuable workers, for example miners or any workplace exposed to radiation.

Monitoring air quality to stimulate effective action

Managing air quality is another application for environmental sensors. We can look at the management of air quality either inside buildings or in the external environment. Unfortunately, clean air is becoming a sought after commodity that is difficult to acquire in some parts of the world, causing a massive strain on the health of the populations and the costs that come with it.

With the aid of specialised sensors, we can record a change in air quality in real-time, particularly when it concerns asthma suffers or people with pre-existing breathing issues. In industrial settings, being able to detect the presence of hazardous chemicals and pollution without having to send in workers offers a massive real-time health and safety benefit.

Smart Cities to protect the future

IoT has fuelled the rise of smart cities for environmental benefit. Data-driven insights can help pinpoint the most effective areas for energy efficiency and 2019 will be no different.

Creating and perfecting smart cities is another IoT hotspot to help combat climate change and preserve the environment for generations to come. Traditional cities suffer numerous urban challenges and are becoming inefficient and detrimental to maintaining ecological integrity. To achieve environmental sustainability, cities need to implement smart technology. This year will see an increase in developing and implementing that smart technology, including IoT platforms.

2019 in a Nutshell

IoT.nxt is ready to help connect businesses that are looking to manage and collect data effectively. We don’t believe in tearing down what is already built, so we overlay IoT.nxt solutions onto existing infrastructure without inconvenient downtime.

2019 stands to be a year of innovation and global productivity, truly ushering in the foundations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, in which IoT will play a critical role. With more powerful devices and sensors, edge computing and IoT is the crucial glue holding together effective communication and data together to produce real-world solutions for businesses.

Top brains to watch in 2019

IoT: Its moment has come

December 2018 By Leslie Stones

Technology never stands still – which is a good job considering that our problems never stand still either.

Issues like poverty, hunger, disease, the quest for knowledge and connectivity or even our ceaseless desire to be entertained are burning challenges that the smartest brains are working to resolve.

Here are some of the people who Brainstorm believes are poised to make a difference.

Nico Steyn, CEO of IoT.nxt

Everyone talks about the Internet of Things (IoT), but Nico Steyn is such a believer that he named his company after the concept.

Steyn is the CEO of IoT.nxt, which has grown from a startup in 2015 to employ more than 100 people, with offices in The Netherlands and the US. That global expansion was made possible with R100m from its investment partner Talent10 Holdings. Steyn aims to grow IoT.nxt into an internationally relevant, but still proudly African business, creating jobs for Africans, and solutions for the world.

The company develops innovative software based on its patented Raptor gateway, which is technology-agnostic and lets companies rapidly digitise any industry, system or process to create an interconnected, interoperable ecosystem without disrupting the business. It’s been described as a world-leading framework that makes efficiencies, cost savings and increased revenue from IoT a reality, according to Nedbank, which chose IoT.nxt to participate in its Disruption Agenda matchmaking programme.

One project is seeing the Raptor gateway being rolled out in Florida and Dallas to optimise the amount of energy used by schools. Three people from IoT.nxt went to the US to manage the operation and to train local partners to take it forward.
Steyn and IoT.nxt have won several awards already, including being named by Gartner as African Aspiring Innovators to Watch, being a finalist in the Da Vinci TT100 innovation index for Emerging Enterprises, and being the overall winner of the MTN Business IoT Awards.

The company has achieved Level 1 B-BBEE status and is a Microsoft Gold Partner. It’s also become a silver partner of The Linux Foundation, a status that excited Steyn as he sees great opportunities to use open source software in IoT applications.

Michael Jordaan, Founder of Montegray Capital

During his decade as the CEO of First National Bank, Michael Jordaan was dubbed South Africa’s coolest CEO and Africa’s most innovative banker.
He’s still being cool and innovative despite ‘retiring’ in 2014, since he’s put his skills and his money to good use by forming Montegray Capital, a one-man-band venture capital company.

The modus operandi for Montegray Capital is to find highly differentiated businesses with a minimum two-year trading history, proven customer traction and the potential for rapid growth. In exchange for a meaningful minority stake, it provides those companies with growth capital of R2 million to R5 million, strategic advice and access to business networks.

Read more: https://bit.ly/2F5D9jH

www.brainstormmag.co.za

The IoT.nxt Barometer For 2019

The IoT.nxt Barometer For 2019

Unbelievable projects, growth and a brilliant team – our success in 2018 was a testament to our incredible people. Here’s to 2019: Glorious partnerships and client relationships, big changes, bigger disruption and goals that we know are going to make a massive difference to industries across the globe.
“One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor, and the sky really is the limit.” ~ CEO of IoT.nxt, Nico Steyn