Driven by the need to ensure Africa remains competitive in a fast-changing, digitally transforming world, ELB Engineering Services (Pty) Ltd (ELB) has taken a giant leap forward in executing its strategy to introduce and incorporate cutting-edge, disruptive technologies on the continent. This will ensure African companies remain relevant across global markets.
This has from the outset seen the company focus on communication, one of the continent’s greatest business barriers.
“Africa still constitutes vast areas of unpopulated space, with no access to infrastructure of any kind, including telecommunications. This not only poses challenges for the people who live there, but severely limits companies’ ability to effectively do business in these regions,” says Josh Hodgkinson, ELB Intelligent Solutions systems engineer.
Because ELB specialises in the delivery and execution of complex engineering projects for large-scale, heavy-duty industries such as mining, energy and fast-moving consumer goods for new and existing clients almost always located in remote regions, the company has been determined to overcome this challenge.
Through achieving this, ELB brings new-age technology that enhances its own business performance – and then scales the solution to deliver on its promise to other African-focused business lines.
To fulfil this goal quickly, ELB has established an African distribution partnership agreement with United States-based communications technology front runner Kymeta Corporation (Kymeta).
The agreement was formalised in July 2018.
Established in 2011, Kymeta has quickly become recognised for its disruptive technology that is making mobile satellite communications anywhere across the globe more accessible and secure. On the back of extensive research at both a tertiary institution and military level, which has since further been refined through Kymeta’s highly skilled technology engineers and shareholders (including Bill Gates), the company has introduced its Kymeta™ KyWay™ terminal to the world.
It is essentially a thin (82.3 cm), flat and light satellite antenna which provides data access anywhere, anytime at high speed via existing (GEO synchronous) and future (LEO) satellite networks like never before.
“The KyWay terminal is the result of a United States cloaking technology spin-off project which works on refractive light index principals. When shining a high frequency electro-magnetic beam through specific liquid crystal pixels which adjust according to the current passing through them, we are then able to digitally manipulate the direction of that beam to target any satellite in the sky. This naturally removes the need for permanent infrastructure or fixed base motorized antennas as the KyWay terminal relies only on software aligned beam signals and a clear view of the target satellite. Having no moving parts removes the massive burden of maintenance costs, but having a completely software controlled flat panel as an antenna for mobile satellite use is definitely a game changer,” Hodgkinson explains.
In essence this means that Kymeta’s flat-panel antenna technology overcomes limitations of data connectivity in remote areas and promises to revolutionise communication in several industries, including the control and monitoring of process plants, mines, and other remote infrastructure throughout Africa.
Although new to the market, the technology is robust and designed to operate under any condition. Because it is flat, it is unobtrusive from wherever it is located – the roof of a building or any moving vehicle. The unit is electronically and not mechanically steered to self-acquire the closest proximity satellite connection to provide live internet access.
“The benefits this offers businesses driven by mobile functionality – stacker reclaimers, earthmoving vehicles, etc., are enormous.”
The technology also overcomes barriers associated with long distance coverage as it operates using one single data network, regardless of location. “As a pit-to-port solutions provider, crossing country borders for example will no longer pose a challenge as it won’t necessitate changing service providers.”
It is however the operating cost of the technology that offers immeasurable benefits. This, Hodgkinson says, will be between 15% and 20% cheaper (excluding maritime applications) than traditional very small aperture terminal (VSAT) technologies – which is the singular technology currently being used for data connectivity in remote regions.
“There is no other completely flat panel, electronically beam steered antenna in the world at present which will also be the first to connect to low earth orbit satellites which will soon enable even faster connectivity and data transfer as their proximity to earth will be much closer.”
ELB will incorporate the Kymeta technology into its Intelligent Solutions portfolio, focused on finding the best of breed “Industry 4.0” technologies, to enhance the integral role of data and communication across the globe – from a remote mining site to providing humanitarian relief to poverty-stricken communities or natural disaster impacted areas.
ELB staff has been trained in the service and set up of Kymeta’s satellite terminals at their head office in Redmond, Washington, providing a local support base for ELB-Kymeta solutions.
There are several markets which will benefit from the technology in Africa and this includes, but is not limited to:
- Renewable energy
- Police and first responders
- Security cash in transit
- Fleet management
- Shipping, commuter and cargo rail
- Mobile communications/data centres
ELB is not only embracing the benefits that disruptive technologies have to offer, but is doing so through a first-mover position which will see industries across the continent look to the company in knowing how to properly incorporate such technologies to improve their own business performance.