How is the manufacturing sector in South Africa embracing tech?

Johan Alberts Photo

Adam Oxford 30 September 2019

Manufacturing is, by its very nature, at the heart of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Nationally, there is much excitement about the potential for new technologies to increase manufacturing output.

Behind the hype, the sector is struggling and innovation doesn’t seem to be high on business leaders’ list of priorities. In June, the South African Reserve Bank warned that contraction in the sector had wiped out 1.1% from GDP growth. South African Market Insights, an economics website, estimates that there’s around 19% excess capacity.

Beyond the POC

What’s the real story on the ground? How do manufacturers view how IT and related technologies will impact their businesses? Brainstorm convened a special roundtable of experts to find out.

Our participants suggested that local manufacturers are definitely aware of the kinds of technology available to them through Internet of Things (IoT) solutions and the digitalisation of manufacturing processes. But they’re taking a cautious approach toward adoption.

“It’s a very heated subject,” says Lerato Mathabatha, manufacturing and industry resources lead for Microsoft. “But what I see is a lot of testing systems, and not many in production yet. There’s a lot of thinking through particular use cases for technology, but not many deployments.”

“That’s a frustration,” says Johan Alberts, vertical executive for mining at IoT.nxt. “We call it ‘the 4IR’, but many of these technologies have been around for 10 years. Sometimes adoption is slow for good reason – businesses need to see proof of value and ROI before they invest. But they’re still running proof of concepts when these concepts are already proven.”

There are still challenges with understanding where the value of high-tech investments lies, and despite the talk of 4IR, it’s not where government incentives lie.

“There’s a will to change,” says Clive Govender, MD at Rolfes Chemicals. “But with manufacturing figures down and what’s happening in the overall environment, capex is being spent on other areas. The big government drive is to create jobs, not efficiencies. There’s a reluctance on behalf of the big manufacturers to invest when they don’t fully understand the technologies. Everyone is watching their pockets.”

“Not everyone understands ‘Industry 4.0’,” agrees Kevin Subramani, senior project manager, Royal HaskoningDHV. “It’s not about the ‘what’- the technology that’s available- it’s the ‘why’. What is it that creates the need to shift? Most manufacturers around the world are still in the 3IR. People are looking to 4IR for efficiencies, but it’s about more than that. It’s about sustainability, flexibility and speed, coupled with efficiency. Balancing those four things is key, and most of my clients have difficulty finding that balance, so they focus on the technology.”

One challenge, points out Alberts, is that manufacturers rarely have the same approach to strategy that, say, banks have.

“There are islands of digitalisation,” he says. “In logistics, for example, or security, but every department has its own vision. There’s not much planning from a whole enterprise architecture point of view.”

The pressing problems

One thing holding back adoption of technologies such as IoT, Alberts continues, is the lack of industry-wide standards and interoperability. It’s a problem that is widespread in the world of operational technology (OT) when it comes to trying to digitalise factory floors.

“Everyone is still locked in by OEMs and suppliers,” he says. “Each supplier has its own tech and subsystems, and if you have five different vendors, there’s nothing that can bring all the data together.”

Read more: Brainstorm Magazine

Can your business really afford to not save on energy?

Can your business really afford to not save on energy?

In an industrial setting, energy isn’t taken for granted. One power outage can send devastating ripple effects across organisations ceasing operations and pausing the vital flow of information between parts of the value chain. Hardly a background mechanism, energy is integral to each part of any business – be it core power sources, backup generators or batteries.

If your business is looking to increase ROI and create drive meaningful returns, you need IoT.nxt. With us on your side, you’ll be able to easily create a technology-agnostic landscape that leverages true interoperability and maximises energy savings.

At its core, our IoT technology is able to leverage every part of your ecosystem, gearing each asset towards growth. IoT.nxt offers an energy management solution for any industry, any legacy system, any type of environment.

Combine manual data collection, a lack of sensor monitoring, and no performative analysis. What do you get? Wasted energy. Wastage equates to poor ROI, so can your business really afford to not invest in a smart energy management solution?

Next-gen energy management powered by RaptorTM

The makeup of our bespoke energy management solution facilities maximum productivity and can produce meaningful ROI in your business. Underpinning this solution is our RaptorTM software.

Zahir Mamoojee, our Solutions Architect for Energy management describes RaptorTM as “an in-house IoT.nxt software that integrates a myriad of devices, without a rip & replace tactic, across all mediums of communication.”

From enabling smart control at the edge to activating true interoperability throughout your ecosystem, RaptorTM has the scope to empower real energy savings, ultimately increasing ROI.

No rip and replace

Many shy away from IoT integration for fear of having to rip out and replace current operating systems or infrastructure. With an energy management solution powered by our RaptorTM software, you can overlay our solution onto existing legacy systems. Our agnostic technology reduces unnecessary downtime by integrating seamlessly with current legacy systems. Whether it’s a building, farm or base station, an IoT.nxt energy management solution is geared towards rapid deployment, so you start saving energy, quicker.

True data security

For many, data security is a concern when implementing IoT onsite as the equipment is typically integrated with a proprietary cloud system, creating security vulnerabilities and opening up assets to attack. Our RaptorTM technology allows you for agnostic integration, as well as heighten defence across all devices.

“The RaptorTM enables these benefits by acting as a single gateway to the IoT cloud. By gearing security efforts towards that single gateway, it is possible to secure your information that has been transmitted to the cloud,” says Mamoojee.

With IoT.nxt, you don’t have to turn away from smart IoT technology because of security concerns. We protect what you cannot see, granting you peace of mind, while simultaneously monitoring and collecting energy data, optimising connected assets for energy savings.

Bespoke data generation

RaptorTM was born in South Africa, a country that faces poor connectivity and internet connection availability and tumultuous energy supplies. Since the RaptorTM was developed in these harsh conditions, it thrives in the data generation and transmission departments, no matter how rugged or remote the landscape.

This is achieved by establishing a set of protocol to only generate data that is directly applicable to you and your ecosystem. For instance, we can enable protocol that only triggers data transmission when there is a change in the status quo, rather than wasting time transmitting data constantly, reducing your data footprint to the cloud.

Control at the edge

When sophisticated protocol and data generation are integrated, a connection break can disrupt real-time monitoring of energy data that fuels energy optimisation, creating unnecessary downtime and wastage. With our Raptor underpinning your connected assets, even if a connection is lost, data collection continues, and once the system is online reintegrates data into the system, creating zero losses.

Not only does our solution reduce data outages through control at the edge, but it also allows users to create custom methods for data filtering. We ensure that you only see relevant, actionable data from the edge, cutting out unnecessary analysis and monitoring.

Discover more insights about how you can optimise at the edge from Zahir Mamoojee:

Any industry. Any system. Any process.

Smart buildings

In any industry, any process or system can be digitised to create an interoperable hub of efficiency and productivity. Your building is no different. It may not be a rugged industrial landscape, however, optimised energy management can reduce wastage, increasing efficiency and ultimately improving the bottom line.

To not only extract but also normalise vital data from your supply chain, we integrate our RaptorTM into your ecosystem via cabling.

Take a look at the other benefits of our building management solution.

Generator management

Developed in-house, RaptorTM integrates different devices across all mediums of communication. Generators are no different.

Having a generator on-site likely means you’d need to plug into a BMS, incorporating all energy sources. Via cabling, you’d be able to integrate RaptorTM into your organisation so that you can extract data, normalise it and turn it into information that can be easily interpreted from team members organisation-wide.

Read more about our building management automation environment.

It’s your business, only better.

From schools and universities to server rooms and base stations, we have a solution that unlocks real-time, condition-based monitoring, predictive maintenance and self-healing system design. IoT.nxt optimises every corner of your ecosystem, from energy management to predictive maintenance – is your business ready for complete digitisation? We think so. Contact our expert team today.

IoT.nxt Security: Protecting What You Cannot See

IoT.nxt Security: Protecting What You Cannot See

Pick up any newspaper, click over to a news website, and you’re bound to see a headline about the misappropriation of personal data by a corporation. Outrage ensues, yet consumer behaviour remains largely unchanged. Let’s talk about what news outlets are missing – detailed data insights are being used to ensure the future relevance of industries putting food on our tables and fuel in our cars, but how can a business protect their gold?

Every business endpoint has the potential for tracking, directly and indirectly, and collecting customer data, creating an unprecedented data network across the marketplace. But is that a bad thing?

“IoT.nxt is setting game-changing precedents for the power of IoT in security. Our DeviceDNA™ and SIEMconnector™ protect your data at the point of entry, providing true data security throughout your value chain. Security is vital for many when it comes to IoT and we’ve cracked it – our security solution secures data end-to-end so you can drive projects with peace of mind.” – Jason Bradlee, Chief Operating Officer – Americas.

More data than we can comprehend

In 2018, Forbes reported that there were 2.5 quintillion bytes of data being created each day but that the pace was only accelerating with the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT). They went on to further estimate that over the two years prior, 90 percent of the data in the world was generated.

Those numbers, staggering as they may be, relate to consumer data. Now, picture the scale at which large enterprises operate. Gartner had estimated that 6.5 million devices would be connected by 2016, a number now expected to grow to over 20 billion by 2020, each device generating a plethora of raw data that, combined correctly, can paint a vivid, detailed picture into the operational functioning, capacity and potential of a business.

This galactic amount of raw collected data is leveraged for business optimisation, and therefore, requires technology to secure and protect it at every stage of the supply chain, for both the consumer and business. Imagine the ripple effects of industries like agriculture or mining not being able to accurately forecast supply?

Digitisation is coming for every industry – but is there a downside?

Interconnected devices produce amounts of data in the zettabytes with estimations that by the end of this year, we’ll hit 500 zettabytes in IoT data. Protecting such mammoth data deposits requires next-gen, forward-thinking security measures. Such security will not only protect collected data but ensure your system maintains future relevance, future-proofing your ecosystem. Yet, with future-relevance becoming harder to ensure and industries getting more competitive by the day, why aren’t we doing more to garner and protect our commercial data?

With more potential for data collection and tracking comes vulnerabilities as system reach expands. As the digital wave slowly overlays every industry, more applications, data and systems are optimised for this brand new world, and security upgrades cannot be left behind. An interconnected, interoperable ecosystem, for example, optimises efficiency and production value, however also creates vulnerability. Once access has been gained, an intruder could move laterally through a network. This is where the challenge lies for protecting an expanded attack landscape, with increased potential for damage.

True data security is enabled by the ability to run without an operating system. An edge gateway like this would be void of vulnerabilities. “The key is to control the gateway layer and limit the operating system at the edge, wherever possible.” – Bertus Jacobs, IoT.nxt Chief Technology Officer

Secure your data with solutions for the digital age

Much like in the physical world, it is futile to attempt to secure individual items. You wouldn’t secure each element of your household, but rather your house – so why wouldn’t you do the same within an IoT-enabled business?

To adjust and adapt to the sweeping wave of digitisation, businesses must take steps to shield data collected from connected assets from increasingly sophisticated attacks at the point of integration, rather than trying to defend the house from within. Plug holes and reduce vulnerabilities by deploying a data security solution that protects your entire value chain, and enables central control over large deployment.

Deploy built-in security

As a first step towards ensuring the protection of a data pool, businesses can secure data protection by integrating devices with next-gen security that is already built-in. Every IoT.nxt device has a unique data token, DeviceDNA™, that dynamically identifies a device connected to the enterprise. Therefore, your ecosystem will be fully-equipped immediately with a strong security protocol once you integrate IoT.nxt devices.

Smart monitoring and testing

Protecting your ecosystem against ever-increasingly sophisticated attacks also lies in remaining actively vigilant, deploying real-time monitoring of potential threats. To maintain the integrity of the collected data, constant monitoring is a must. Performing regular real-time testing to uncover and dare we say, predict potential vulnerabilities and threats are vital to achieving true data security in an interconnected ecosystem.

Leverage automation for true data security

Automating cybersecurity process evaluates the efficiency of your security solution, building greater defences for stored data. Instead of deploying manual processes of a bygone era to protect new age data collection and storage, leverage the use of information technology to inform incident responses and security event management decisions.

Security automation allows for every connected platform to be tracked, monitored and tested under a single case management system. It also enables the compression of alerts and warnings from thousands of connected assets to be stacked based on specific fields, such as time and IP address, host name, or user. Whatever your industry, empower your ecosystem with contextualised logic via an automated engine from which you can trigger the appropriate workflow.

IoT.nxt ensures the security of connected assets

An interconnected ecosystem is a hallmark of smart IoT optimisation, however, connected assets can be vulnerabilities if security is ignored. However, don’t turn away from progress, find a solution. An IoT.nxt solution. Our smart platforms provide an adaptive security solution that empowers your ecosystem with true data security.

Integrated into every IoT.nxt device is our DeviceDNA™, contains unique characteristics and identifiers that make up the DNA™ of the device; they are then combined in a cryptographic process to produce this unique token. IoT.nxt devices marry built-in security, intuitive monitoring and automation to rapidly deploy true security at the point of integration.

Protect what you can’t see before it’s too late. It’s cheaper and faster than you think. Chat with the IoT.nxt team today.

Harvesting Smart Seeds: The Role of Data and Artificial Intelligence in Agriculture

Harvesting Smart Seeds: The Role of Data and Artificial Intelligence in Agriculture

In agriculture, it’s the things you can’t predict that are the most terrifying. While struggling to be ever more productive, doing more with diminishing resources and battling mother nature and market shifts, staying on top of every element within your agricultural ecosystem is vital. In rugged, often isolated conditions, how can data be drawn from every thing, process, production line, bud and beast?

Anticipation, prediction, forecasting – these are all in a days’ work for a farmer. How can you be out in the field and on top of the latest tech? How can you have eyes everywhere, monitoring current conditions and adjusting procedures according to shifting climate patterns? Solving these problems is the key to the future of agriculture and, with 3 billion more mouths to feed by 2050, the stakes are certainly not diminishing. Adapting and adopting AI technology from farm to fork poses a solution to issues of predication and forecasting faced by every farm.

“The agricultural space impacts the daily activities of people across the world – this will never change. What has changed is how we drive the operational efficiency within the agricultural industry.” – Zac Steyn, Business Development Manager

The farm to fork solution

Implementing AI and big data within an agricultural ecosystem can enable monitoring across the whole supply chain, rather than just the individual processes within it. Collecting data via AI implementation across your ecosystem plants the seed for real-time forecasting and intelligent prediction, evaluating efficiency and production levels. When married with IoT devices, AI in agriculture, not to be confused with the more commonly used abbreviation for artificial insemination, has a variety of applications across the agricultural ecosystem.

Integrating IoT devices that collect and store big data to fuel AI intelligence is the key to monitoring erratic climate conditions, unlocking supply chain visibility and reducing wastage via predictive machine learning. Alongside technology like sensors, drones, big data and AI integration, the agricultural ecosystem is more than ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Foresight to combat the forecast

It’s no secret that climatory patterns are on the move, and are becoming more erratic and unpredictable. Coupled with a volatile climate and landscape variability, legacy systems are failing to compete, poking holes in farming production, resulting in wastage. Of course, these challenges are hardly new, however, without intuitive technology, farmers are struggling to combat scalability as demand for production increases. Wastage can be plugged across the value supply chain with smart IoT devices collecting data that fuels AI integration from the top down.

From fire detection to livestock monitoring, AI could deliver the key we need to unlock a harvest of resources for future generations.

Leveraging drone capabilities

Monitoring capability and finite accuracy come together with a drone, but is there room for this technology in agriculture?

It’s no secret that drones have immense monitoring capability. With the help of attached sensors, drones can expand the reach of IoT technology and not only monitor crop health, soil health, soil moisture levels but detect pest and weed presence in crops. With such monitoring and detection capability, farmers are empowered with data that can predict anomalies in crops and equip the right people within the supply chain to adjust systems accordingly, reducing damage to production.

Rather than waiting on bees and leaving things to chance, farmers can also utilise drones to pollinate crops, eliminating vulnerabilities in the supply chain. Drone footage can also be live-streamed to give farmers and people down the value chain insight into activity and progress. Gathering real-time contextualised data that empowers evidence-based decision making can plug wastage holes and reduce unnecessary downtime when anomalies occur.

Pinpoint vulnerabilities in crops before it’s too late. Drones can provide high-resolution imagery to display crop health in real-time, from spotting bacterial and fungal infection to crop development.

The IoT.nxt agriculture solution equips farmers with drone surveillance that performs soil and field analysis, irrigation, crop spraying and monitors crop health in real-time. Integrating IoT.nxt drone monitoring enables GIS mapping, real-time imaging and potential to increase yields. Our solution can optimise your agriculture ecosystem by employing drone capability, monitoring assets from crops to trackers, ensuring our platform provides a top-down solution.

How do IoT sensors work to feed AI intelligence?

IoT.nxt sensors are capable of empowering your entire ecosystem with real-time data from crops to livestock. The applications for IoT sensor technology are endless. For example, sensors can be used to measure the movement of water around a plant, from the roots to the tips of the leaves. This information is helping farmers to understand the most efficient ways to use water when breeding plants.

The agility of IoT sensors allows the technology to adapt to hostile and rugged landscapes. In a recent project launched by Stanford graduates called Ceres Imaging, sensors were attached to small planes to help farmers collect irrigation and fertilizer data.

This unprecedented information technology is opening doors to a variety of other applications. We can now use sensors for biomedical diagnostics and monitoring the environment. As the technology behind sensors continues to progress, the opportunities are endless such as testing crops for disease prevention and pesticides.

Big Data-driven livestock monitoring

According to research completed by the Stanford GSB team, American farmers who implemented precision monitoring technology reported average cost reductions of 15% and a 13% increase in yields. The livestock sector is seeing an ever-increasing pressure to reduce their environmental footprint. As technology is becoming increasingly more ingrained in agriculture, it is creating a revolution in the world of livestock management.

New developments in the past decade have made managing livestock much more efficient and data-driven. Livestock technology is bringing a new dynamic that is increasing productivity, welfare and management of animals. Data-driven decision making leads to more accurate and timely choices that will increase the efficiency of livestock production. For example, companies, along with IoT.nxt, have leveraged interconnected field sensors and animal tags to track and manage livestock, monitor health and fertility status, providing real-time alert management, reducing predator attacks.

In one project, IoT.nxt leveraged Bluetooth technology, tagging each animal with a low-energy tag that connects and interacts with our Virtual IoT Gateway. We install the gateway at the entrance of a water pit, allowing it to detect the cattle’s individual tags as they enter the area. Heads are automatically counted and the system issues an alert if any tagged animal is not detected within a certain period of time. Utilising this Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology, the farm has continual visibility on its valuable live assets.

Seed your farm with an IoT.nxt solution

Embracing the role of IoT in utilising big data to enable AI in agriculture is the key to unlocking the potential of your farming ecosystem. We’re ready to equip your business with increased visibility and management of livestock, crops, silos and farm equipment, enabling smarter decisions and heightened efficiency.

Isn’t it time you started to harvest the power IoT.nxt puts in your hands?