Working with computers has been seen as something cool since the very first machine made its way into consumer homes. Many of us remember the exhilaration and excitement of starting up our first real power machine, our very first Pentium processor with a staggering 4 MB RAM and a dial up internet cable offering us the world wide web at 20kbps. Aaah, the good old days.
Moore’s Law taught us that every two years processing power would double. That’s until Moore was disrupted by the previously unimaginable innovation of the digital world.
We have all seen Terminator and Skynet and the machines that will come back from the future to try and destroy us. This is probably why those who fear AI try and convice Joe public about the dangers of something that is inevitable. By inevitable we mean the congruence of machine learning and AI with integrated and interoperable systems, not being destroyed by angry robots!
But where are we really? What is it like working at a place as innovative as IoT.nxt. After all, IoT.nxt is a global leader in IoT technology in the industrial space. How does the company maintain this position? By constantly innovating. As IoT.nxt CEO Nico Steyn told IIoT World recently, being comfortable and resting on your laurels for just a moment will lead to you being overtaken.
It is with this in mind that we decided to speak to Juan Bothma, a software developer with the envious task of playing for his day job. Juan sits on the cusp of all things exciting. Often he can be seen wondering in his own world with his Virtual Reality headset, interacting with knobs and levers – and, for all we know, fighting off dinosaurs and aliens too.
What is it like innovating with technology that IoT.nxt is integrating into real-world IIoT applications both now and in the very near future? Is it really as exciting as it looks?
The answer is a resounding “yes”!
Everyday is a challenge, but an exciting one. Working on technology that not everyone gets to play with and experience themselves puts me in a very fortunate and grateful position. You get to learn new things every day, not just about the technologies but also about yourself. Allowing yourself not to be put in a box is one of the best things you can do for your brain as it generates thousands of awesome ideas everyday, says Juan.
Taming the beast
Some of the ideas I have implemented and experimented with myself include a robot arm which looks at you as you walk around the room. In the early days of this prototype I was convinced the robot arm grew a personality as it has tried to escape, clawing itself away from me, hissing at certain colleagues of mine! But it is safe to say that I have finally tamed the beast.
Entering another, yet the same, realm
Other technologies include working with the HoloLens, a mixed reality headset which merges the user around holograms. So the first thing we did was map everyone’s desk with mythical creatures and an item to match their personality. Of course they can not see it, but as the headset wearer – while looking up from your desk – seeing an augmented / holographic unicorn where your colleague sits is quiet entertaining! Some more practical applications include scanning the office into a 3D model and then overlaying our IoT sensor information within this model to gain real-time information of our office in a 3D hologram which we can look at any time and any place.
Want to see what is happening in the board room? No problem, touch the 3D camera icon in the hologram and a magic window appears out of nowhere displaying the video feed of the actual location.
Imagination is the only limit
Working with innovation is not just a job, it’s a lifestyle and thought process. From augmented reality to robot arms to making a AI bot which orders you coffee and opens doors. Creativity and imagination is the only limit here!
Carol Rudinschi, PhD, of IIoT World, interviewed IoT.nxt CEO Nico Steyn to get his insights on the Industrial Internet of Things.
Running factories from our phones, adaptive robots that work alongside humans or 3D printing are just a few characteristics of smart manufacturing. Nico Steyn, CEO of IoT.nxt shares his thoughts about Industrial IoT, connecting devices, and the role of the Internet of Things in defining a new way of doing business.
Carol Rudinschi: Nico, from your perspective, what are the most exciting things happening in Industrial IoT?
Nico Steyn: The thing that excites me the most is the fact that there is a realization in the world that what we are achieving with Internet of Things does not only reside in the cloud, and therefore there is more and more vital debate and discussion around the power that resides in the edge. Take that thinking and combine that with tech such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and cognitive analytics and you have just entered a new realm of what is possible. This isn’t theoretical anymore. It is becoming real and people are starting to understand this. The Internet of Things is about much more than just connecting devices; new technologies unlock a new way of thinking.
Carol Rudinschi: What is the future of manufacturing and how will technology play a role?
Digital twins are not all created equal.
What does trusty old Wikipedia say a digital twin is? “Digital twin refers to a digital replica of physical assets, processes and systems that can be used for various purposes. The digital representation provides both the elements and the dynamics of how an Internet of Things (IoT) device operates and lives throughout its life cycle.”
Let’s start by imagining you created a very effective digital twin of yourself.
IoT.nxt Director of Global Partnerships Gareth Rees explains:
You start off by making a digital avatar that looks like you, you even make it sound like you, and move like you. You use sensors in devices (think Fitbit) and even embed others in your body to send the status of key metrics such as temperature, heart rate, location, distance moved, blood glucose and hormone levels to your digital twin to increase its likeness. Once you have gathered all of this information in real time and augmented your avatar with it, you have created a complete digital twin.
To make this digital twin useful however, you need to overlay the generic and specific biological rule sets onto this data to interpret and gather insight. In other words, you need to be able to turn raw data into intelligence. For example, knowing that the standard body temperature is 37 degrees and that blood composition changes when the body is dealing with infection is critical for the digital twin to turn information into value, adding insight that could maximise your performance or even save your life. Rees explains further:
A specific person (context specific) may also be a diabetic or have Malaria, for instance, and this would have a significant impact on how this information is interpreted. Also – different people, while similar, react differently to medication or stresses and these biological rule sets need to learn the behaviour of a specific individual to represent them effectively in the digital twin (self-learning systems).
By applying these often-complex rule sets to the data on your digital twin, we can generate simple and easy-to-consume dashboards and insights that can help you live a happier and healthy life at the life stage that you are in. This is critical, as the digital twin needs to unlock value consistently over time, otherwise it has no purpose.
In business, everything needs purpose or its a waste of money.
It follows, then, that the effectiveness of a digital twin is directly affected by the following things:
- The accuracy, latency and completeness of the information gathered from the physical world
- The effective treatment of the information with the correct generic and context specific business rules and analytics
- The ability of the system to learn and adapt dynamically to its host and its interactions
- The ability of the system to drive positive change through value adding data and visualisation
Very few digital twin deployments that have reached any form of meaningful scale can measure up against these criteria, because there are key constraints in the data value chain. Rees unpacks the IoT.nxt advantage:
IoT.nxt have created an industrial IoT hardware and software stack that resolves many of these constraints, and paves the way for meaningful digital twin development. IoT.nxt are currently deploying numerous industrial IoT solutions at blue chip companies, in over 10 industries. Through these deployments we have encountered many of the common pitfalls in trying to deploy IoT solutions across multiple original equipment manufacturers (OEM’s), disparate systems and protocols and can share insight into the reasons for their failure.
It is critical to see the development of a digital twin as part of a process of digital transformation, says Rees. Furthermore, it is critical to get the architecture and principles of the digitally transformed organisation in place so it can support effective scaling, and not the creation of further silos.
Thought Leadership by Eric Croeser
The debate between which is more important, experience or qualifications, has been a debate for decades in the heavy asset-driven industries such as mining, oil and gas and manufacturing. The addition of minimum qualification criteria imposed by regulatory bodies on certain positions, such as artisans, has led to a steady creep in the barrier to entry for “unskilled” workers. Adding this phenomenon to an increasingly aging working population in the “unsexy” labour-intensive industries is resulting in a widening skill gap that will be difficult to close should nothing change.
The increase in geographically sparse work areas and the increasing drive of the middle class to flock to metropolitan areas, has added huge costs to companies operating in these far-off areas, ensuring workers are accommodated on a fly-in, fly-out basis. This increases the cost of production drastically and has lead large corporates to invest heavily into autonomous processes and machines to alleviate this demand and hopefully reduce the cost of production, leading to increased returns for their shareholders. This phenomenon unfortunately has a detrimental impact on the skilled workforce, but the real losers are the un-skilled labourers as the downsizing due to automation causes a “class-shift”, forcing higher-skilled workers to take lower-paying and lower-barrier positions. This can have a positive effect on the overall workforce performance in the short term, but will have a detrimental effect over the long run as no skills transfer, upskilling and talent pipeline management can occur.
Let us apply this to a real-world problem statement;
The global economy and development working paper 100, (Kharas 2017), states that the rate of increase in the global middle class is estimated at 14- million people per annum and that this number could rise to 170-million people annually in the next five years. That means conservatively speaking, three quarters of a billion people globally will be joining the ranks of the middle class. In 2015, the global middle class spent approximately $35-trillion (more than a third of the global economy) and their market growth was higher than that of global GDP growth.
What does this mean for business? The middle class would inevitably want things they never could afford before; they will want “stuff”. Stuff such as cars, houses, technology, comforts, toys etc. This demand will undoubtedly add massive amounts of carbon emissions to the global footprint, but also cause a commodity boom of such magnitude that we have not witnessed in the last couple of decades.
This is definitely great news for any company in the commodity and primary manufacturing sectors.
Or is it?
It is at this point that we need to look at the average age of the global working class when this boom hits.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, 2017), the percentage of young people as a percentage of the population has drastically decreased globally since 1990, whilst the working age of the population has remained constant at 66 years of age since the same date.
This, in conjunction with the current drive to autonomy, means one thing: when the boom hits, there will be no skills to take full advantage of it. This shortage of skills will lead to an under-supply and inevitably push up prices – out of the reach of the new “middle class achievers”.
What can be done?
Enter the augmented employee
I believe the “augmented employee” is the answer to these preceding questions. The use of VR and AR – in combination with smart wearable devices (such as Microsoft’s Hololens) and powered by Internet of Things (IoT) technology – will allow the limited number of remaining (and aged) skilled and experienced labourers to empower and assist an unskilled, cost-effective workforce in the most remote areas around the globe.
This combination of skill and experience, with the added benefit of a lower cost of entry and reduction in time latency between events and actions, will ultimately unlock the full potential of IoT as we have never seen before.
The augmented employee will be the future of industry, and I believe that future is now.
IoT.nxt Chairman Wayne Fitzjohn has built a very successful career on challenging paradigms and equipping companies to break new ground sustainably. One of the highlights of his career was the founding of Talent10 Holdings with Chett Mahery and Joe Bester. Talent10 boasts in excess of 10 successful capital raises, including R100-million for IoT.nxt.
A highlight of Wayne’s career was at Citadel Investment Solutions, where he founded Wealth Realisation, managed a multibillion-rand portfolio and sourced the highest cumulative individual investment inflows in the Citadel Group during his tenure. Armed with BBA, MBA and CFP qualifications, as chairman of IoT.nxt Wayne brings drive, knowledge and wisdom as the company embarks on its rapid growth across various continents.
Recently, Wayne accompanied IoT.nxt CEO Nico Steyn on a trip to the US. We thought we would tap into his experience on that exciting business trip.
How long were you in the United States and which kinds of companies did you see?
We spent five fantastic weeks in the USA, and visited various cities including New York, Reading, Palo Alto, Redwood City, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, San Francisco, Oakland, Berkley, Dallas and Philadelphia. We saw a number of potential strategic partners from Telcos, Tech companies, Venture Capitalist partners and M&A Partners, as well as a number of end users, including representatives from one of the major metropoles embarking on a Smart City digital strategy.
What were a few highlights and what is something you think we can all learn from the US?
There were many highlights! Too many to mention, but let me have a go at it. The overwhelming validation we received is that what IoT.nxt has to offer is truly significant and unique, and not only competes with other IoT platforms head on, but in many instances is leading the way.
The most apparent learning from the US was without a doubt their desire to collaborate. We met with CIOs, CEOs, VPs and MDsof some of the largest corporations in the world. Regardless of the huge disparity between their organisations market cap and our own, we were treated us as equals and very quickly discussions progressed towards how we could help each other achieve greater leverage in the marketplace.
It is without a doubt this entrepreneurial and partnership-centric approach that has seen the US rise to the world power they are today.
As an African business, how does it change how you approach businesses or venture capitalists?
This is a methodology we have always embraced. Seeing it in action on this scale did however highlight the need for us as South African and African operators to continue fostering a climate of collaboration and partnership – it will see us succeed as a nation and a continent in spite of the hardships we need to face in this part of the world.
We need to change our thinking from having to share the cake if we partner with others, to how we make the cake considerably bigger by partnering! This is the art of leverage.
Has your experience in navigating uniquely African challenges placed you in a strong, competitive space globally? If so, how?
Without a doubt. Africans generally do not have the same prodigious platform for the cultivation of ideas – whether that is in scale of infrastructure, size and risk appetite of investors, buying power of our currency, size of market and speed of adoption etc. However, we are resilient, resourceful and determined. We get to look at problems from a very different perspective when we do not have the luxury of these things to aid us. This results in very innovative solutions.
What is your take-home feeling on IoT.nxt’s prospects in the US market after your visit?
The US represents the largest single market in the world. It would be short-sighted not to have startegies to go and participate in that market, especially with the value proposition of IoT.nxt.
Our ability to work with existing legacy systems and at a considerably higher speed than those with “rip-and-replace” strategies, makes us a compelling IoT play. We are therefore exploring every avenue available to us to ensure we maximise the opportunity the US – and the rest of the globe – represents.
Adriaan Groenewald hosted IoT.nxt CEO Nico Steyn on the Leadership Platform on Cliff Central on Monday afternoon.
Listen to the full interview below:
Adriaan and Louis Groenewald interview Nico Steyn, co-founder and CEO at IoT.nxt (Information and Technology Services). They talk about how their business is literally changing the world “in action” as we speak. They also talk about leadership lessons he has learnt whilst building his career and business.
Some highlights from the interview below:
— Leadership Platform (@LeadershipPform) October 2, 2017
— IoT.nxt (@iot_nxt) October 2, 2017
— IoT.nxt (@iot_nxt) October 2, 2017
— IoT.nxt (@iot_nxt) October 2, 2017
— IoT.nxt (@iot_nxt) October 2, 2017
— IoT.nxt (@iot_nxt) October 2, 2017
— IoT.nxt (@iot_nxt) October 2, 2017
Business leaders and senior executives in South Africa see the Internet of Things (IoT) as forming part of their business strategy.
IoT.nxt conducted an Internet of Things (IoT) survey on ITWeb and the results have validated the company’s experience in where businesses stand with regards to their digital transformation road map. 62.7% of respondents in the survey said IoT is a business strategy, compared to only 27.5% who said they think it is a set of applications. The small remainder said they were not sure.
At the time of launching the survey, IoT.nxt CEO Nico Steyn said South African enterprises are ready for the IoT revolution. A revolution happens whether you are ready or not, and South African businesses – by all indications – want to be ready the fourth industrial revolution. This survey outcome is yet another validation of the pressing fact that the time has arrived, with local business leaders becoming more and more in tune with both awareness and adoption of IoT strategies.
This was echoed by Chief Sales Officer Andre Strauss earlier this month when he said:
“The market has significantly matured over the past year and it is generally accepted that IoT is a key underpin to unlocking the value of digital transformation.”
It is therefore little surprise that the majority of respondents in the IoT survey answered that IoT strategy implementation is driven from the CEO down.
In yet another validation of IoT.nxt’s approach to Industrial IoT (IIoT), the vast majority of respondents in the survey, 68.8% to be exact, said that the ability to connect to existing equipment was a driving factor in implementing IoT.
Ahead of the survey, Steyn said:
“We have made great inroads with our innovative solutions that require no immediate replacement of legacy systems. Because our solution is technology-agnostic, the process of implementation happens quickly. Then, moving intelligence to the edge helps us circumvent traditional data transfer issues.”
Almost two thirds of all respondents in the survey said that intelligence at the edge is very important to their company. It is by utilising this intelligence at the edge that IoT.nxt’s platform is able to unlock true business value and demonstrable return on investment, leading to increased competitiveness, relevance and profitability. That is ultimately engine behind every business strategy.
As South Africa approaches Heritage Day on Sunday, 24 September, it is perhaps fitting that IoT.nxt’s Director of Partnerships: Mining, Eric Croeser, speaks at the Hogan Lovells: Africa Forum on the topic of digital transformation in Africa.
IoT.nxt, while rapidly expanding into other markets including Europe, the Far East and the US, was born in South Africa – often regarded as the innovation tip of Africa. Doing business in Africa presents massive opportunities, but also comes with unique challenges, and often these challenges force companies to think creatively and develop highly competitive solutions that are world-leading. On this front, IoT.nxt is indeed leading the global charge in the Internet of Things (IoT) with its edge capabilities.
The Hogan Lovells panel, of which Eric is an expert member, will discuss digital innovation and transformation on the African continent. The preamble to the panel discussion reads:
“The world is changing and there are new drivers for change that offer transformation of business models and delivery through digital disruption, transparency and accountability. But with progress comes risks – can accessibility can be controlled, and will the rich become richer while the poor simply lose their jobs to AI and computers?
“Is it a private or public sector play, or is it true to say there can be no success without clearly driven public sector policy? How important is partnership with the private sector to deliver to the widest community possible? And can growth really be delivered without a fundamental change in healthcare, education and infrastructure? This is an all-embracing story and our panel of industry game-changers will look across sectors to identify some key areas for change, including digital healthcare, blockchain, fintech and digital media.”
IoT.nxt’s IoT platform speaks to transforming businesses at the most fundamental level. As we surge into Industry 4.0, the inter-connectivity of smart devices, unintelligent “things” and biological organisms (think: humans) in a seamless multi-directional ecosystem is becoming more of an imperative “when do we deploy” with each passing day, as opposed to a nice-to-have luxury. Business executives the world over have IoT strategies in their digital transformation road maps. Eric will discuss digital innovation, how the various elements of disruption come into play, and how businesses can overcome challenges, both globally and unique to the continent.
The panel will be made up of heavyweight industry players, each bringing their own expert insight into innovation and digital transformation.
Who makes up the panel?
Director pf Partnerships: Mining – IoT.nxt
Eric heads up the IoT.nxt Mining Solutions division. A qualified Mining Engineer with a Mine Managers Certificate of Competency, and an MBA, Eric has 11 years’ production and digital mining solution developments experience. Eric is passionate about the South African mining industry. He is an avid reader of anything written by Malcolm Gladwell, Peter Diamandis, Michael Lewis and Steven Kotler. He is a closet tech junky and die-hard Apple fan. Eric believes that the 4th Industrial Revolution and specifically digital disruption, will be the key enabler to unlocking the true value across various sectors in Africa.
Andrew Skipper – Panel chairperson
Partner – Hogan Lovells International LLP
Having headed up the Hogan Lovells’ global corporate practice for over 10 years, Andrew now leads Hogan Lovells Africa Practice, overseeing one of the most dynamic and entrepreneurial groups within the firm. With his roots in commercial law, Andrew has and continues to act for a wide range of businesses, from sports to consumer, agribusiness and pharmaceuticals. Most recently, this has involved him advising on complicated and sophisticated contracts across various countries in Africa, in addition to assisting multinational corporates all over the world.
CEO – VAST Networks
Grant Marais joined VAST Networks as its CEO in May 2015. Grant’s exposure to different businesses in the telecommunications value chain contributes to his in-depth and diversified global, telecommunications knowledge. He has a proven track record of leading cross-functional teams in various countries in both turnaround and high growth environments. He is also on the board of Mindset Network, a non-profit educational broadcaster. Grant is an alumnus of the Wharton Business School where he graduated with a Degree in Management & Leadership.
COO – i-Pay Secure Payment (Pty) Ltd
Emmanuel started his working career with the South African Revenue Services over 20 years ago. After eight years and rapid progression through various roles at SARS, he decided to explore the business world from the “other side of the table” and joined a small business as tax manager. Driven by ambition, passion and focus, Emmanuel’s experience and skills were recognised by the CEO of i-Pay (Thomas Pays), who brought him on board as COO, to support i-Pay’s need for structure and to strategise and execute i-Pay’s Global Expansion Plans. Emmanuel has been with i-Pay since January 2017.
Partner – Olaniwun Ajayi LP
Toyosi Alabi, LLB (London School of Economics, London) BL, MA (Kings College, London), is a partner in the law firm of Olaniwun Ajayi LP in Nigeria. Toyosi engages in the negotiation and documentation of transactions in relation to the acquisition of IP rights. Toyosi has extensive experience and proficiency in the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights. She has actively engaged in prosecuting and defending a number of high-profile suits involving copyright, trademark, design and patent infringement, and revocation of trademarks. She also provides thought leadership on entertainment and IP law in various forums.
According to Verizon’s report, State of the Market: Internet of things 2017, the global internet of things (IoT) platform market is set to explode by 35% per year, reaching an impressive $1,6-billion by 2020. IoT.nxt has spoken of the exponential growth curve ahead for industrial applications of IoT, and has noted that enterprises the world over are fast including IoT in their company strategies.
The Economic Times quoted Mark Bartolomeo, VP of IoT Connected Solutions at Verizon, as saying that businesses across sectors are deploying IoT in their organisations as they seek to drive value in their enterprises, and that what we have seen so far is just the “tip of the iceberg” in terms “driving economic value across the board”. (Click here to read the full Economic Times story.)
According to the report, up to 73% of executives are either researching or deploying IoT technology. The article goes on to state: “With 8.4-billion connected ‘things’ in use in 2017, up 31% from 2016, and network technology, cost reductions and regulatory pressures driving adoption, business leaders are not only paying attention, they’re getting in the game.”
This ties in perfectly with IoT.nxt’s industry experience, both in South Africa and abroad.
“Business leaders know that using IoT strategies will unlock greater efficiencies and cost-savings, and provide decision-makers with real-time information about all aspects of their businesses. Not including IoT in a strategy denies companies these benefits and will, over time, diminish their competitiveness in the industries in which they operate.”
“The market has significantly matured over the past year and it is generally accepted that IoT is a key underpin to unlocking the value of digital transformation,”
“From our engagement with C-level executives in big business over the past couple of months, we see a definite step change in terms of digital transformation.”
Of course, there have been obstacles to mass deployment. According to the Verizon report, standards, security and interoperability make up at least 50% of business concerns around IoT deployment. This certainly speaks to the same obstacle Jim Fletcher, of IBM Watson, highlighted about legacy systems and a difficulty with true interoperability. This has seen many executives lean toward simple use cases within particular segments of their enterprises, to track data and send status alerts.
The IoT industry is inhibited by an inability to create interconnectivity
According to Steyn, correctly designed and engineered edge technology enables edge interoperability and, more importantly, the ability to retrofit into legacy systems. This forms the core of IoT.nxt’s solution to the problems many others in the IIoT industry are grappling with.
“Legacy systems, to a large extent, were disregarded, with current players relying on the ‘rip and replace’ mentality. This mentality of winner-takes-all is not congruent with the idea of a connected world and certainly does not embrace the concept of true scalability.”
“Our solution is technology-agnostic and is quick to implement as it is overlaid onto existing infrastructure. It is able to be retrofitted onto both new and existing equipment immediately, and as organisations grow. The result is complete interconnectivity and intelligence at the edge, something other players are grappling with.”
IoT.nxt is proud to announce that it has been approved as an IBM Business Partner for Channel Rewards.
IoT.nxt has been given the green light in the category: Software open distribution products. It is no mean feat to be approved as business partner by the international giant IBM, and is testament to the strong reputation of IoT.nxt and the value it is providing for its clients.
The IBM PartnerWorld program is an initiative to empower business partners with tools and resources to help transform clients into industry leaders.
IoT.nxt Chief Operating Officer Terje Moen is understandably ecstatic at the the company becoming a business partner in the IBM Channel Value Rewards program.
“Our partnership with IBM is very important. It allows us to access the IBM software catalog for us to get technical validation on our products to ensure compatibility with IBM offerings such as Watson, which is a market-leading cognitive computing system, and which is key to IoT.”
Moen says the partnership will have a positive impact on IoT.nxt’s platform reach.
“It gives us access to promote our our platform solution to IBM’s clients, their business partners and the IBM sales team globally.”
Ultimately, a company such as IoT.nxt is built on the premise of unlocking true value for its clients, and Moen says this partnership will add another weapon to the company’s impressive arsenal.
“It benefits our clients in that we can integrate cognitive solutions within our agile IoT.nxt platform.”