Internet Solutions (IS) has outlined its roadmap to launching what it believes will be South Africa’s first network- and technology-agnostic Internet of Things (IoT) platform.
In partnership with Comsol Networks as the initial network connectivity solutions provider with its low power wide area network (LoRaWAN) technology, the platform will present local businesses with a low-risk, fast-deployment means of exploring how IoT can make their operations more efficient, responsive and customer-centric.
“There is already an extensive catalogue of low cost, low touch devices available locally, and substantial investment into Low Power Wide Area Network deployments by Comsol and others,” says Roger Hislop, senior engineer: R&D at Internet Solutions.
“Our network- and tech-agnostic platform will interconnect a range of IoT networks, both existing and new low-power WANs, while providing a management and orchestration layer over them. This will enable enterprises to quickly deploy real-world applications of enterprise IoT.”
Internet Solutions’ IoT platform will offer intelligent, automated orchestration, and self-configuration by users so they can change network technologies (for example: LoRaWAN, Sigfox, Wi-Fi, GPRS and others) or the data interfaces and communication protocols at will. This means that new devices for a user’s IoT network can be added online quickly and flexibly.
The platform will capture incoming device messages from IoT networks, archives the data, and delivers it to the user in whichever format is the most useful to its business requirement.
“Applications already in use around the world vary from monitoring water levels in farm dams and temperature in industrial fridges, to quick deployment of smoke alarms, to virtualising municipal billing,” says Hislop. “As new types of IoT devices are introduced, the ability to automate critical functions and gather vital physical-world information, and so reduce the risks of business loss and human error, increases exponentially.”
Interconnecting devices and linking them to the Internet is already possible with existing wired, wireless and cellular technologies, but at a cost that is generally uneconomical and with too many practical complications to make them a ubiquitous part of the operations management toolbox.
Recent advances in IoT radio technology has resulted in devices or ‘things’ that can be connected to the Cloud using ultra-low cost and ultra-low power wireless networks, powered by batteries that can last for five to ten years, and able to communicate over many kilometres even through buildings and vegetation.
“South Africa’s geography and wide range of highly developed industries, from agri-business to mining, security, retail and logistics, makes this an ideal market in which enterprise IoT can flourish,” says Justin Colyn, head of IoT at Comsol. “The low barrier to entry in terms of cost and time to deploy means that IoT technology can be implemented and evaluated in a single branch or department, or even in one supermarket aisle, and then scaled up rapidly.
“Comsol has invested huge amounts of money in making it easy for customers to interact, provision and manage their thousands of devices.”
Comsol announced its open architecture, open platform LoRaWAN deployment in November last year. Combining the wide coverage area of cellular networks with low-power radio technology, Comsol’s IoT Connect open-ecosystem offers broad geographic coverage including urban and rural areas for an open ecosystem that supports the connectivity of millions of devices.
“Internet Solutions and Comsol share a strong belief in taking a tech-agnostic approach to IoT so the benefits of this technology are not fragmented by expensive, propriety and closed systems,” says Hislop. “We have chosen to work with Comsol initially given their LoRaWAN expertise, flexibility in rolling out infrastructure where we need it and the fact that we, nor our customers will be locked-in to a specific technology and / or platform.
“Ultimately this is because we believe in the enormous potential of enterprise IoT to transform South African companies into ‘smart’ competitors in the global digital economy.”