There is plenty of published research around the potential, the capability and the impact of the Internet of Things (IoT).
In telecommunications, and pretty much every adjacent industry, IoT is an opportunity knocking on the door.
IDC forecasts global IoT spend to be $1,1-trillion by 2021, while McKinsey thinks it will reach $11,1-trillion by 2025.
However, IoT is more than just a collection of impressive statistics – devices and dollars both – it is potentially the blueprint for economic and social sustainability on the African continent.
Muneer Zuhdi, director of solution line management in the global digital economy practice at Nokia, believes that IoT is an unprecedented business opportunity and the ultimate toolkit for the African business.
“IoT has the potential to meet people’s basic needs for safety, security and sustainability while simultaneously enriching their lives with entertainment, comfort and access to data,” he says. “IoT is an African opportunity to create applications that contribute to people’s lifestyles, enhance their safety and improve their productivity.
“Moreover, it is the technology that can drive changes in ecosystems and industrial sectors such as energy, agriculture, mining, transportation and healthcare which are crucial for African growth and change.”
There are significant applications for IoT across Africa, applications that could provide areas with clean drinking water or access to energy and education. Applications that have the potential to redress the infrastructure issues that limit Africa’s own potential for growth on the global stage.
While there are costs involved in the implementation of IoT, African countries are already taking the technology into areas that need immediate attention. The Forbes Africa IoT Outlook examines how IoT has been applied across the continent from the use of data, mobile devices and personal wearables to transform healthcare, prevent Rhino poaching, and improve agricultural productivity in Kenya.
Zuhdi says that Africa is committed to this change and that what some see as challenges, many believe to be opportunities.
African organisations are not hamstrung by legacy technology – the continent has a talent for leapfrogging into the future with new and defining use cases.
“Many early IoT applications followed a vertical model in which solutions were implemented on separate infrastructures,” he explains. “Each implementation then needed a new or tailored IT development effort using a separate management or execution platform. This impacted the development, deployment and operating costs.
“Africa is uniquely positioned to break free of these siloes and to benefit from application interworking, data sharing and analytics and these are much needed to make IoT a viable reality.”
Open interfaces, standardised protocols and a horizontal approach to implementation and development can reduce investment costs, allow the organisation to scale faster, improve speed to market, and deliver improved customer experiences. It can also support the growth and economic requirements of the public sector. The development of smart cities that can improve quality of life and extend funding that extra mile is on most governmental radars.
In Nairobi and South Africa, for example, traffic is famously gridlocked and messy. As Zuhdi points out: “What if smart traffic lights had access to real-time information from video cameras or if public transport authorities could adapt bus routes and schedules based on congestion?”
Solutions that incorporate existing infrastructure such as CCTV video and blend them with smart lights and systems could potentially save lives and improve the economy.
A report released by Inrix early in 2018 found that the total cost of congestion across the US, UK and Germany was $461-billion – $975 per person. South Africa sits in eighth position with 36 hours lost to congestion and Cape Town wins the dubious honour of the most congested city in the country.
He believes that IoT can reduce complexity and optimise experiences, providing an unprecedented business opportunity for African organisations.
“It is a way for the service provider, the enterprise, the vertical market and the various vertical industries to achieve cost savings and transform their businesses,” adds Zuhdi. “I envision Africa becoming the IoT blueprint for economic and social success, creating opportunities, generating jobs, and eventually creating better citizen experiences and improving the lives of people.”