UNLOCKING THE EDGE

Any industry. Any system. Any process.

The focus of mining has to shift

drone

The cyclical nature of the mining industry is well documented. Being in the middle of an upturn doesn’t imply anything. In fact, the only part of the cyclical swing worth commenting on is the height of the peaks and troughs.

In the early 2000’s, we witnessed a notable increase in mining prices and investment in Africa. Investment into the exploration of minerals increased dramatically and, although this is not anything unusual for the industry, the ever-increasing demand for natural resources has lead companies to mine ore reserves previously seen as ‘too difficult’. This leads to an increase in both production costs and risk.

The solution? To shift the discussion to focus on changing the management and impact of mining activity.

Increasing competition for mining resources places even more importance on productivity than ever before and, as mining operations push their operations further requiring deeper and more technical skills, and the associated unit costs of production, safety, efficiency and compliance have to be top of mind.

The mining industry has to change.

It is no longer enough to focus merely on extraction grades. Operational managers have to adopt a systems theory approach and look at the effect of single process efficiencies on the entire mining value chain. Horizontal interoperability of disparate systems is crucial, as is the  protection of legacy systems and devices.

A seemingly insurmountable task, with a relatively simple solution – IoT.

Create a complete overview of your entire operation, digitise it, and optimise it.

Surprisingly, it’s not as complex or high-tech as you’d think, can be overlaid in a short amount of time with little to no disruption to your business and can incorporate all your existing systems, devices and equipment. Well, our solution can.

Ready to move your mine into the future?

Transforming agriculture: The IoT.nxt advantage

It’s no secret that IoT can transform agriculture. In fact, when planning ahead to ensure future relevance of any agricultural operation, it’s a no brainer. Yet still, the farming sector seems to be stuck in the mud. Why?

Perhaps the most notable barrier for the tech industry when looking at agriculture is that tech is, well, tech. It’s not built to be integrated in what are typically rugged environments.

The second barrier is usually the cost. For any farm or company in the agriculture value chain to thrive is no mean feat as there is a constant struggle to keep costs down without compromising on the quality or quantity of any yield. Adding on a layer of technological advancements to improve the overall efficiency of a farm may seem like a no-brainer, but for so many involved in running a farm, it’s just not a possibility. There’s no time to pause operations – disruption is not an option.

That’s where the IOT.nxt advantage comes in.

Our IoT platfrom allows us to create an ecosystem that connects all existing technology, systems, infrastructure and equipment to create a single view from which all aspects of any agricultural business can be managed. New technology and old are woven together to allow for interoperability and, ultimately, greater efficiency.

Why aren’t you taking your business into the future? Talk to us at NAMPO this week – stand 25.

Put your farm in your pocket

IoT-in-agriculture

If we could narrow the list of things keeping farmers up at night down to just two things, it would probably be the weather and productivity.

The weather, as we all know, is out of our control. Sure, measures can be taken to curtail the effects of drastic weather shifts, but for the most part you just have to know your seasons, land and area and do your best to work with them.

Drops in productivity, on the other hand, can largely be avoided. How, you might ask?

  • By pre-empting system and equipment malfunction, wear and tear and sub-system knock on effects with a proper management solution.
  • By tracking livestock at key areas to alert you of changes in behaviour or, worse, missing cattle.
  • By having a complete overview of an entire agricultural operation and the ability to action detailed changes on multiple systems and sets of equipment, in real time right from your pocket (yes, even from your bed in the middle of the night, or your beachfront holiday).

Real-time changes

At the moment, you probably use an sms-based system to turn your irrigation on and off, but we see you going much, much further than switching things on and off. We’re talking about adjusting flow rates, shifting the course of irrigation pivots and automatically issuing warnings to technicians. All of this in the same place as your moisture and nutrient levels in soil, asset management and preventative maintenance for fleets and track and trace for quality control.

How? IoT-enabled agricultural operations

IoT.nxt is currently the only South African company that provides a comprehensive, fully integrated IoT hardware and software platform from the edge to any enterprise application across all verticals, products and devices. Sounds fancy, but what does it mean? Simply put, we can digitise your entire operation to give you greater visibility of, control over and insight into your business by linking all of your machinery, systems and processes into one dashboard.

What’s IoT?

“The Internet of things (IoT) is the inter-networking of physical devices, vehicles (also referred to as “connected devices” and “smart devices”), buildings, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity which enable these objects to collect and exchange data.” – Wikipedia

If you look at pumps alone, you’ve probably found that your current set up is flawed and that, given the current water shortages, your water management system is wreaking havoc across your operation with serious knock on effects. Lengthy operational downtimes while you wait for technicians, unnoticeable wear and tear, inaccurate reporting on water consumption and over or under supply of water to crops are all big problems.

The Franklin Raptor Pump RMC and interface, on show at NAMPO this week, solves these problems by allowing users to:

  • Remotely monitor a mobile App, showing data and analytics on all pumps – no need to drive or walk to the pump station. Just open your App to monitor and control;
  • Access real-time, cloud-based data from anywhere on any mobile device – including your holiday destination;
  • Remotely adjust the various modes your pumps are operating on for optimal performance;
  • Remotely monitor, adjust and control water levels and the rate at which the levels change;
  • Check all status levels on your pumps at the press of a button on your mobile phone or tablet;
  • Remotely access pumps to reduce technicians call outs;
  • Set pro-active warning triggers for when the water level drops below the set thresholds.
  • Pro-actively maintain all pumps, issuing automatic warnings to technicians.
  • Convert existing pumps with little to no disruption to operations by plugging onto existing din rails.
  • Adhere to the water management table and retain usage records for compliance purposes;
  • Lower operational costs and improved efficiency.

Pump-Interface Franklin Raptor Pump

The South African agricultural industry maak planne like no other industry can, and work in a tough economic conditions. Our farmers need local support from local companies to push them into, and through, the 4th industrial revolution.

We think we’re the men for the job.

Our IoT solution is able to integrate both existing and new systems and devices making it cost-effective and quick to implement. It also results in little to no disruption. Want to know more? We thought you might.

Visit us at NAMPO this week – stand 25.

WannaCry Malware Attack | Guard your loins

data security

IoT.nxt sees the key to true data security lying in our Raptor technology, which doesn’t run on an operating system. A business using an edge gateway that runs on an operating system could potentially be vulnerable to attacks like WannaCry.

This is why it is key to control the gateway layer and limit the operating system and vulnerabilities at this point said IoT.nxt CTO, Bertus Jacobs. “Wherever possible, edge gateways running on operating systems should be avoided.”

WannaCry, WannaCrypt, WannaCryptor or Wcry – call it what you want, just make sure you take notice of it.

On May 12, IT and Security teams around the world were scrambling to make sure they were armed and ready to protect their organisations from the attack.

The WannaCry Timeline

  • Hacker crew Shadow Brokers dumped a database of vulnerabilities believed to belong to the NSA into the public domain.
  • It is believed that an exploit of Microsoft Windows called EternalBlue was used as a method for spreading a variation of ransomware called WannaCry globally.
  • 200,000 systems are held hostage, pending the payment of a $300 bitcoin demand.
  • Companies like FedEx and the UK NHS go down as security teams work feverishly to install patches, unplugging entire networks.
  • Installation of patches results in an estimated US$700 million loss in turnover.
  • Microsoft President and CLO, Brad Smith, writes in a blog post: “We have seen vulnerabilities stored by the CIA show up on WikiLeaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the NSA has affected customers around the world. This attach provides yet another example of why stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments is such a problem.”

All this talk of network vulnerabilities no doubt raises questions in the minds of anyone considering the adoption of IoT technology.

On the back of increased applications of IoT in smart cities, Harvard Business Review’s Todd Thibodeaux published an article in April that highlighted risks, detailing a ‘what if’ scenario in which hackers take control of an entire city, from security systems to critical infrastructure. He goes on to mention that in 2015 alone, the number of attacks on critical infrastructure in the USA jumped up to almost 300. Whilst the benefits of interconnectivity are obvious, businesses, and cities, have to negate risks to ensure the security of data, and subsequent deployment of behaviour-altering changes.

“The security industry really hasn’t done a good job at protecting our devices and servers and now we think it’s a good idea to connect really insecure devices at a massive scale.” Vera Sell, VP of Marketing, Senrio.

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

“IoT devices should be placed within the boundaries of protected network environments. While every IoT device will never be secure, the associated risks are well contained so long as the perimeter of each machine network is secure. To provide an analogy, my keys are not secure if I leave them on the table at Starbucks — but if I place them on a desk at the safety of my home, the situation changes completely.”

“I believe that the future of IoT security lies in programmable networks and the service providers that operate them for us.” – Juha Holkkola, Co-Founder and Chief Technologist at FusionLayer Inc.

Is the edge eating the cloud?

edge-eating-the-cloud

Nico Steyn, CEO IoT.nxt thinks so. “I believe that the current IoT model is constrained by the network and will not work because it’s not sustainable. If you look at it, you’re talking about trillions of sensors being deployed – there is absolutely no way that the network will be able to handle it. In some cases 99% of the data doesn’t need to come into the cloud because it’s benign. It’s just data that’s being generated that’s not telling us anything other than that the ‘thing’ is within threshold. So the model is evolving and I see a massive amount of intelligence moving closer to the edge. Pushing all sensor data to the cloud for it to be assimilated and processed and then pushing it into the edge device to change the behaviour of the machine is the long way around – never mind the latency and associated costs. IoT intelligence is migrating to the edge.”

Latency, network overload, slow reaction times – these should all be major concerns for businesses looking to set up a proper IoT infrastructure. We take data from machines or ‘things’, push it up into the cloud to be assimilated and algorithmically understood. We pick up that something is potentially wrong based on this source data, and then we push it back into the machine to change its behaviour. That’s where the IoT industry is – see the problem?

Improved network reliability and capability, along with cloud-based Big Data engines and machine learning technologies, create more accessible and complete data feeds and, ultimately, more accurate and dynamic predictive algorithmic models. The solution for handling all this data, the associated costs and data security lies in edge computing and intelligent gateway technology.

Once implemented, these core digitisation technologies lay the foundation required for true transformation, but are businesses rushing to digitise, to feed their Big Data engines, without looking at the consequences?

Having the ability to understand information at the edge and make critical decisions without having to push information up into the cloud to be processed before being pushed back into a machine is where this industry is moving – into the edge, as far as possible.

In an article on Andreessen Horowitz titled The End of Cloud Computing, Peter Levine shares a video in which he highlights some of the industry shifts worth looking at.

“But… how can we say cloud computing is coming to an “end” when it hasn’t even really started yet?? Because the edge — where self-driving cars and drones are really data centers with wheels or wings — is where it’s at. So where does machine learning in the enterprise come in? How does this change IT? As software programs the world, these are some of the shifts to look at…”


 

5 Tech Trends to Watch

tech-trends-to-watch

3D printing in healthcare

It’s been around since 1984, but only now are people starting to pay attention to 3D printing, particularly as it pertains to healthcare – and we’re not just talking dental. Although they’re still expensive, 3D, or Additive Manufacturing, solutions are slowly starting to being more reasonable, as they cement their place in the medical technology market in a shift that Harvard Business Review says “has the potential to disrupt the alarming trajectory of rising health care costs at exactly the moment when aging Baby Boomers will be putting more pressure on the health care system.”

It’s not just parts like bones and cartilage that are being used, airway splints and skin are in production, too.

Precise, quick to produce with minimal waste (and no waste removal required) and soon, cost effective, with no room for human error, 3D printing is set to revolutionise the healthcare industry.

You’re probably thinking that this is nothing new, that you’ve heard it all before. So, let’s look ahead.

  • Princeton University are in the research phases with the production of a 3D-printed bionic ear that surpasses human capabilities.
  • 3D-printed ankle replacements, casts and pills are In use and accelerating recovery and release rates exponentially.
  • Researchers are relishing in the discovery that biodegradable implants have the ability to more efficiently cure bone infections and cancers.
  • Stems cells are being printed in a lab, and tested as an alternative method for creating tissue and testing drugs, or growing replacement organs.
  • Perhaps the biggest benefit of cybernetics lies in the potential to cut down donor lists by printing in-demand organs like kidneys, livers and lungs.

Can we grow organs instead of transplanting them?

 

Image via HBR.org https://hbr.org/2016/03/3d-printing-is-already-changing-health-care

Locally, the Central University of Technology (CUT), was acknowledged for their work in advancing the use of 3D printing in healthcare way back in 2015, having conducted 12 real-patient medical procedures. Two of the procedures included 3D printed titanium implants.

Digitisation of HR and job finding

Supporting company growth, HR professionals are increasingly being faced with the reality that digitisation is imperative for development. Given the pressure to find, and nurture, good talent, and the ever-changing requirements to create job satisfaction, being connected to vast pools of talent and integrally plugged in to employee engagement are, arguably, the only solutions.

Workday describes the CHRO job title as evolving into that of Chief People Officer or Chief Employee Experience Officer, quoting the KPMG Global CEO outlook survey:

“In this context, CEOs need to understand that business transformation requires more than innovation and technology. It means embracing continuous change from the inside of the organization as well as great flexibility.”

Bringing the HR function from supportive to, now, fundamental to business functioning, this new breed of HR professional must guide their colleagues to help them better understand their employees, the cogs that keep the wheels of organisations turning. This employee experience, which includes democratising data at all levels and unifying applications to better link insights to actions—is vital to the long-term health of any business.

How do they do it? Each company has their own way of plugging in to the people that make up their team, but new software is making that job a whole lot easier.

Leading the charge is ‘people analytics’ software company CultureAmp who announced in October 2016 that they had secured $10 million in Series B funding from Index Ventures.

“Having seen first-hand the positive impact of their data-driven approach at Dropbox, as well as their phenomenal growth among leading retail, hospitality, media and professional services clients, I am excited to be an investor and see Culture Amp’s impact on employee happiness,” said Index Ventures partner Ilya Fushman, in a statement.

VR and AR: more accessible than ever

It’s no secret that companies like Facebook are constantly pushing the boundaries of what we thought possible. While they marvel at the possibilities, overwhelmed by ideas, content producers and app developers often stumble over implementation and the actual creation of VR and AR content. Whilst the inclusion of this technology into content strategies is a hot topic, it may still be a way off. Real thought and relentless testing need to go into the experience that the user will have.

Facebook have started making the incorporation of experiences into app development a reality. At their 2017 F8 Developers Conference, their all new Augmented Reality APIs were centre stage. What does this mean? VR content is going to be easier to create and, therefore, more likely to start being adopted and adapted by more and more companies. “The future is delicious,” said Zuck as he demonstrated the new AR capabilities, laying a floor of Skittles onto a picture as he effortlessly transformed it from 2D to 3D.

Intergr8 & Autom8, the local agents for Daqri, are helping bridge the gap between global technology advancements and local availability. “Being based in South Africa means we’re able to talk about clients AR and VR needs at a local level to provide solutions they need, rather than forcing creative content to be shaped by the technology available,” said Mark Dilchert.

Situated just around the corner from the IoT.nxt office, architectural firm B+P have long since identified the potential of VR as soon as Google Cardboard was announced and have, subsequently, received many strange requests for VR over the years.

Having been through the ordeal of ensuring they have the hardware to support their development, B+P now develop for all VR headsets.

“We understand that VR is not just simply a screen that you wear on your head, it is a completely new way for humans and computers to interact. This is one of the most important things for us to keep in mind during the development process. Otherwise it is very tempting to go down a route that is familiar (Think of UI interaction for example) instead of trying something new that is actually better. We built over 20 different interaction models before we were able to hone it down to something that is natural and intuitive. Another thing that helps us is the ability to test our interaction models on our colleagues while we observe them, almost on a daily basis,” said B+Ps VR Co-Ordinator.

Adamant from the beginning that they would only implement VR in places where it could actually improve processes, they quickly overcame the problem of hardware. “We have access to all of the same hardware and software as all other VR developers around the world. If the software that is available does not suit our needs, we write our own, rather than trying to force the workflow into the software. This can take a bit longer, but the result is worth it. If we need hardware that is not available we build it or 3D-print it.”

The key to maintaining a cutting-edge product is using bleeding edge development that constantly updates repositories and patches as fixes are released. Having a team that communicates rapid changes, bugs and improvements, helps in this case

Digitisation, from the C-Suite down

Gone are the days of data sitting only in the hands of IT departments. Now, you’ll find all departments relying on, and using, some stream of data. It’s not enough for small departments to use fragments of data in isolation. For businesses to realise the true benefit of full digitalisation, a strategy needs to be pieced together, rolled out and driven from the top down by the C-Suite. Digitalisation must be accompanied by two things in order to be successful – education to ensure all employees are capable and confident, to ensure that they embrace change, and a strong example being set by management.

“Employees want to work for digital leaders. Across age groups from 22 to 60, the vast majority of respondents want to work for digitally enabled organizations.”- MIT Sloan

IoT, Cloud, Digital Supply Chain and Machine Learning in combination

They’re undeniably buzzwords, with companies scrambling to implement IoT, Cloud solutions, Digital Supply Chain Management and Machine Learning as part of digitisation strategies, but the key to unlocking their true potential is using them together. It’s no longer a question of adopting IoT. The 4th industrial revolution is here, what comes next?

“In isolation, each of these offers different benefits – cost advantages with cloud, precision in operations with IoT, agility with digital supply chain. In combination, however, they could end up obsoleting much of the boxes-and-materials supply chain everybody else is still stuck with. Pioneers such as Verizon, Microsoft, Tesla and Google are increasingly connecting these four technologies to offer customers instantaneous, personalized content or software capabilities on devices they already have. Notice the big lead in enthusiasm for machine learning among hi-tech companies. This reflects an understanding of how activity on this virtual fulfillment system provides training datasets for artificial intelligence to develop.” – Forbes

Nico Steyn, CEO of IoT.nxt, says, “We see the SA market as more than ready and, in fact, rapidly executing their digital strategies. Certain sectors need to exponentially evolve their business model to remain relevant and digitisation is at the forefront of this transformation. In the last 24 months, we have seen ideas and concepts crystalising into real implementations delivering transformative organisational value in businesses. South Africans have always been malleable and innovation is part of our DNA. As a business today, failure to move or vacillate on digital adoption is done so perilously as disruption to your business model is a business quarter away.”

“From the start we realised that IoT technology only unlocks real value when it delivers subsystem interoperability. IoT is the foundational underpin to digitisation and the enabler of Big Data. Moving forward, we see the next phase of IoT innovation migrating intelligence further down the stack closer to the edge, changing how quickly clients can implement operational changes based on those insights.”

Exploring New Frontiers

Not content to lead the charge locally when it comes to the development and implementation of IoT technology, the IoT.nxt team have embarked on a journey of discovery to explore new frontiers in the global market.

This week, our team members are dispersed across the globe in an epic campaign to bring new ideas, products and possibilities home to be unpacked, implemented and innovated.

At the Collision Conference in New Orleans, our CEO Nico Steyn is rubbing shoulders with some of the brightest minds in technology. He’ll be joining discussions to unpack some of the biggest issues facing the IoT sector, and challenge the way global thought-leaders approach digitisation.

Venturing further south to Mexico City, Andre Strauss will be tackling the digitisation of mining, a vertical we’re well versed in but always looking to innovate further.

Across the sea, Joe Bester is making sure our office in Amsterdam is up and running and, no doubt, getting our Dutch counterparts into high-gear.

Eric Croese’s name is lighting up the lineup for the MTN Mind2Machine IoT in Automotive breakfast. He’ll be discussing Fleet Management and Telematics, Logistics and Supply Chains and Intelligent Transportation Systems. 

We’re sure they’ll head back to sunny South Africa revved-up and ready to deploy market-leading solutions to complex problems. Hold on tight!

The Digitisation of Mining

IoT.nxt-Mining

Fluctuating commodity prices place productivity at the core of growth strategies in the mining sector. As mines mature, it becomes more important than ever to have a clear, comprehensive view of extraction grades, machinery functionality and overall productivity. Knowing how the mine is performing at all times so as to make well-informed mining, financial, marketing and maintenance decisions is crucial.

Often, the piecing together of a digitisation strategy is not the stumbling block for businesses. Rather, it is minimising business risk in the digitisation process – disruption to current operations, cost, time and, in a rapidly changing technology landscape, ensuring longevity of the solution.

Often selected as the technology partners for digitisation, we enable the monitoring of all mining processes across the whole mine. This offers clients a platform of standards to bring all critical components within the operation into a single, interactive, real-time operational matrix, facilitating easier operational efficiency supported by cross-platform application, device, sensor, machine and human integration.

Using our Internet of Things platform, we are able to assist in bringing about the change required to ensure that mines are able to actively monitor and action any changes in operation, and deploy solutions in real time.

IoT--Mine-01

Collision Conference, New Orleans | We’re with the leading minds in tech

Collision, America’s fastest growing tech conference, is in full swing in the creative melting pot that is New Orleans. IOT.nxt CEO, Nico Steyn, was invited to join CEOs from a global line up of rapidly expanding startups and the world’s largest companies and media publications.

Amongst the star-studded list of speakers which highlight thought-, and industry leaders, you’ll find names like Walter Isaacson, President and CEO of The Aspen Institute; Suzy Deering, CMO of eBay; Wyclef Jean, Musician and Philanthropist; Ogilvy & Mathers’ Global CMO, Lauren Crampsie; Geoff Snyder, VP of Pandora and Mike Curtis, VP of Engineering at Airbnb.

Keep an eye on our Twitter account for live reports from Nico as he mingles with megastars and leans in to the cutting edge of the tech space. We have big ideas and even bigger meetings lined up for Nico in New Orleans this week. Keep a look out for him!

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