Africa can lead innovation in the Internet of Things (IoT) according to the International Data Corporation.
At a full-day conference with IT industry vendors and end-users in Johannesburg, George Kalebaila, Senior Manager of Telecoms & Media, IDC Middle East, Turkey said African IoT challenges require uniquely African solutions.
"IoT is a global phenomenon but what differentiates IoT across the regions is the use cases that are applied in each of those regions, that are specific to solve the specific challenges that each of these regions face. That is why you find IoT applications in Europe, the Far East and America that are totally different. That is because they are solving different challenges."
Kalebaila said Africa can export IoT solutions applied in agriculture, health and other key sectors to drive operational efficiency. He added that these solutions increase employee productivity in mining and manufacturing sectors, for example, while developing new revenue streams over the next few years.
He referenced the IDC Worldwide Internet of Things Forecast 2015 - 2022 report which predicts growth within the global IoT market from $655 billion to $1.7 trillion, as well as growth of up to $11 billion for the Middle East and Africa region, and increase in spend up to $2 billion in South Africa alone.
"There is a massive opportunity for both business as well as vendors to provide business value for both consumers as well as enterprises. We believe that 70% of total spend on IT will be on IoT by 2020 and that is the most important transformation that we see in the coming years."
Kalebaila believes there is a need for businesses to view IoT as an ecosystem rather than a technology. "IoT is a connection of complex connect of different components that come to deliver an end to end service. We have devices and sensors that gather this information and the networks that make the connections possible and we also have the platforms where all these applications are hosted and of course the applications in addition to the security and analytics."
Kalebaila also indicated that while much more needs to be done to ensure system integration, there is a growing need for IoT solutions in order to lower operation costs and achieve efficiencies which has subsequently led to a change in the role of CIOs.
"The CIO has to be at the center of this. The CIO role is changing to that of Chief Innovation officer. He has to take the business through this process because he doesn't take charge he loses the line of business and the entire business becomes convoluted. He must find the solutions that deliver business value."
IoT necessitates collaboration
Eskom CIO and Acting Divisional Executive Sean Maritz presented the state-owned enterprise's 'internet of energy' approach to- and perspective on the role of IoT in the enterprise.
"Our demand in the future will change if you look at electricity and user behaviour. Users will want electricity everytime and everywhere for an electric vehicle for example as much as you want to charge your mobile today...this requires us to be smarter and the magic glue that puts all these things together is a smart grid. We have silos in terms of the IT department, the telecoms department and others but the way we are moving into the future is that all these things will converge. IT is driving a change in the electricity business."
Maritz said smart cities, homes and smart factories will need to be powered by smart stations that Eskom will build in order to respond appropriately.
"Eskom is struggling with payments from the municipalities. Solving this problem starts with the smart meters. We are creating a platform now that can provide information to users and that can help us control demand in the future as well because we can switch things off when necessary. We will need to replace many of the prepaid meters in the field by 2020."
Edward Agostinho, Consulting Systems Engineer at Cisco South Africa stressed the importance of collaboration in the IoT journey. "There is a lot of forums in the world where different players are meeting to find ways to ensure interoperability. Standardisation will be key in IoT."