Internet of Things (IoT) adoption trends in South Africa have started to coalesce around smart water and energy management, particularly in the commercial office space, and the mining, agriculture and manufacturing sectors are gaining a very firm foothold in IoT use, says industry organisation the IoT Industry Council of South Africa (IOTIC) executive member Roger Hislop.
The first step for many companies was to start measuring and monitoring more effectively, and many were reluctant to go very far with the technology.
“Measurement and monitoring systems quickly proved their worth, and most businesses were hopelessly optimistic in their estimations of how well they were managing costs around utilities, such as water and electricity and internal logistics.
“Now that IoT technology has shown that it can easily pay for itself just by reducing costs, companies are starting to move into basic automation, operational intelligence and proactive or predictive maintenance applications.
“IoT is gaining traction in the agricultural sector, particularly around water, electricity and farm operations management, and many local solutions are finding a global market,” Hislop says.
Further, with the spectrum crisis abating, 2022 will likely see accelerated growth for fifth-generation and low power, wide area NarrowBand-IoT based IoT solutions and new low-orbit global satellite connectivity providers are slowly entering the market, he adds.
Over the past two years, many companies focused on keeping core operations online, but this limited their scope in terms of innovation, testing and deployment of new technologies. This was also affected by the global chip shortage, supply chain challenges and global hardware logistics.
“The pandemic has inspired a surge in IoT solutions within the healthcare environment that are designed to transform patient and practitioner care. These innovations include anything from fitness bands for wellness monitoring to thermal imaging for no-touch access control to using cameras to monitor social distancing,” says Hislop.
Additionally, the need for distance during the pandemic has resulted in an increase in telemedicine and remote healthcare solutions that have allowed for practitioners to serve patients from multiple environments and locations.
Meanwhile, IoT has also demonstrated remarkable value in the transition to remote working, and IoT systems have also seen accelerated adoption in building security technology, such as remote operation of door locks, presence detection, and is changing how office buildings operate.
“Most buildings, even those with some measure of building management technology, are wildly inefficient and expensive to operate. In New York City, the storied Empire State Building, one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in the world, saw its energy usage drop by only 28%, despite being almost empty for months during that city’s hard lockdown under a Covid-19 wave,” he says.
Further, for businesses, the Covid-19 lockdowns and disruptions have driven an uptake of technology innovations. IoT and advanced technologies at the network edge have become firm business tools, connecting various parts to create solutions that are more efficient and powerful than ever before, Hislop highlights.
“On the commercial and industrial front, IoT remains stalwart in supporting operations teams as they wrestle with fewer hands to do more work. The sector adopted IoT from the outset, recognising its value in shifting blockages and improving revenue and speed to market. IoT currently has significant implications for how goods are manufactured and services are provided.
“When combined with machine learning and robotic process automation, it is one of the foundations of increasingly automated factories, smart plants and intelligent logistics,” he says.
The availability of smart devices provided clever new business models where this technology can be delivered as a service, meaning that companies of all sizes can take advantage of what IoT can offer in 2022.
“As IoT continues to grow in stature and capability, this year looks set to be the proving ground for companies that want to gain a foothold and a competitive advantage. While the technology by itself is not a magic bullet, it is an increasingly reliable and stable foundation on which South African businesses can build a better future,” says Hislop.