The Emerging IoT Business Landscape in Africa

Internet of Things (IoT) has dominated the tech space headlines for the past five months here in Africa. A number of IoT conferences have been organised throughout the period to present the concept of Internet of Things and try to have the C-suite understand what the buzz for IoT is all about and the future of it. The concept is already causing a major shift in technology and a number of companies have already started reaping the fruits that come with it. The idea of big data accumulated from IoT is certainly improving the efficiency of the processes in almost all the verticals across Africa.

As it already stands, African businesses and industries are already drawing the line regarding the scope of development IoT is going to provide to double their returns and experience the paradigm shift needed in the currently existing innovation. This scope is encompassing the following: Remote Sensing, Connectivity and Analytics. This is gradually laying a framework of collaborative IoT where different players are selectively providing services under their traditional blocks of business. The sensor manufacturing companies are improving their service in terms of customizing and shipping the needed sensors while the telecom companies such as Safaricom are adding new connectivity layers and standards to their infrastructure such as the Narrow band IoT (NB-IoT). New service provision by cloud giants such as Oracle, Microsoft, Google and IBM are already being adopted by companies such as MKOPA solar and Mawingu Networks to deliver the service of making the really needed sense out of the accumulated data.

Institutions such as Research Centres and Universities are also meant to grow the Collaborative IoT concept through advanced training that is meant to cover all the IoT related technologies from one end to another. Strathmore University and University of Nairobi have already launched IoT research labs that are meant to address IoT development from embedded sensing, Low Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) and real-time databases to inform the industry just how to go about implementing an IoT solution. This is certainly going to be achieved through Collaborative IoT between academia and industry. It is currently in the initiation phase but the tests are proving the future of the success of IoT.

Although the real definition of IoT lies in the delivery of service in a sensing-actuation fashion and data analytics, various African companies and even start-ups are embracing the idea that to derive the value from IoT, you have to outline your domain of development in order to connect with customers and even other service providers. The domain of Industrial IoT is envisioned to generate more revenue even globally since traditionally it has always run on Machine-to-Machine architecture. Other domains also meant to grow much revenue are: Smart Agriculture, Health, Transportation and Energy. Companies such as Davis and Shirtliff, have already positioned their IoT stack from sensing to connectivity and to the application in order to monitor the pumps deployed to their client sites to achieve their operational technology innovation. Other companies in Africa that have already embraced IoT and extending their business landscape include the following:

1. Kenya — MKOPA Solar, illuminum Greenhouses, IBM Kenya, BRCK, Chimera IoT

2. Tanzania — Usangu Logistics

3. Nigeria — National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control

4. Rwanda — The Launch of the African Centre of Excellence in IoT

5. Namibia — The development of an Electronic Dispensing Tool

6. Malawi and Ethiopia — Both have started development on Internet of Health.

As the business landscape continues to take shape in Africa, it is envisioned that start-ups will cause a new wave in IoT through new ideas. Most of their ideas might incline to the domains that are rarely looked into by the existing companies but then again, it is only through Collaborative IoT that this is going to be realized. The domains ranked to generate more revenue for businesses in the future of IoT in Africa include:

1. Agriculture

2. Healthcare

3. Transportation

4. Manufacturing Industries

5. Energy

6. Smart Homes

7. Supply chain

IoT is about data and its value and certainly the business landscape looks bright for the African countries as a new industrial revolution experience is about to happen majorly due to the newness of the IoT concept in the continent. Companies are going to stretch the much needed connectivity to the remote of the areas, unearth smart technology through wireless sensing and build up predictive analytical systems that will cut down their cost to the desired levels. This can only happen through IoT. If a business is currently not laying a framework to reap from IoT with a proper plan, then definitely it should be prepared to have the market scales tilted to its disadvantage.