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African CIOs look to IoT for critical infrastructure applications

By Heath Muchena  14 November 2019

While the internet of things is disrupting industries and creating new ways of doing business globally, technology executives at this week’s Africacom conference in Cape Town are highlighting how in Africa, IOT is focused on critical, often life-saving, utility, agricultural, transportation and infrastructure applications.

IoT is essentially a network of connected devices that collect information and provide a stream of data that can be analyzed and acted on. Industrial connected systems have been around for years, as sensors on factory floors connected manufacturing equipment. The big difference now is that connected devices are no longer the province of industrial niches.

South African-based mobile group Vodacom, for example, is investing heavily in IoT and has acquired a majority stake in IoT.nxt to develop applications for the automotive, mining, agriculture, finance and consumer markets.

IoT addresses regional challenges

A notable difference in the way IoT projects will be rolled out in Africa compared to Western countries is the nature of the use cases, often specifically developed to address regional challenges. Examples include solar lighting management for communities living off the grid or real-time weather applications that assist crop farmers.

Creating solutions that are suitable to Africa’s environment and infrastructure issues – such as a its fragile power grid, is crucial. For example, GSMA research shows that as mobile IoT technology becomes more widely available, there is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to leverage new cellular Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) network technology. These networks are designed for lower cost IoT applications that use low data rates, need long battery life and are typically in remote locations. This is ideal for applications like smart-metering and decentralised utility service models. Nonetheless, there are still currently few mobile IoT networks in the African emerging markets.

Read more: CIO

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