The Internet of Things (IoT) is exciting and worrying many around the world. We are becoming more and more connected to each other and our devices. Some are worried that our fridge may know too much about us, and even Google have put in an option to close an advert by stating the it “knows too much about you”. But the IoT is far more than our fridges telling knowing what we need, and turning out lights on before we reach the house. It can have far reaching advantages for everyone, and with the spread of internet in Africa, it has a fantastic change to take advantage of it. Currently, Vodacom in South Africa, are averaging about 55,000 new IoT connections every month. A trend that is likely to expand exponentially across the continent.
Africa has many problems that must be solved if it is to continue to grow. We can’t escape this fact. The IoT has the chance to clean up many of the dodgy practices that are taking place. Finances or companies and institutions are often topic of discussion in African news. Money going missing from here and there, and unaccounted for, missing items, etc etc. It must be an administrative nightmare for audit offices. The IoT and blockchain tech could offer a solution for this. Audit offices should have up to date “live streamed” information on all finances running through their systems. With this, there is less chance of people taking advantage of the power of these institutions and there will be no measure that can be taken by employees to cover up wrong doings.
I couldn’t find any examples of a system like this being used by governments in Africa, but if any of you readers have, please let me know. The IoT holds many other solutions for Africa also. MTN, for example, have enabled low powered wide area network in a South African game reserve to help combat poaching. The murder of beautiful animals in Africa is a huge issue that we have covered on Inventive Africa before. Technology is at the forefront of the fight to save the Rhino, elephants, big cats etc etc. Enabling internet in such areas will mean that it is easier for tech like drones to function effectively.
The MTN solution was set up in order to track the behaviour of animals effectively as well as to discover when and where there were poachers in the area. They didn’t give exact details, understandably so, but they could include, sensors and cameras attached to the animals, hidden cameras and microphones around the park, connected drones and even connected people, such as the security members.
Another topic that we approached recently during the blog about the wonderful Design Dua, was that shipping out of Africa can be extremely difficult. The IoT could enable all shippers and customers to keep up to date tracking on their packages, even down to exactly where they are in transit. This means that customer complaints regarding slow delivery will be cut drastically, as they will know where to place the blame, and also, there should no longer be lost packages. With direct tracking, it will be easy to see exactly where packages are or where they went missing, saving time, money, and emotional strain!
MTN have taken this even farther. Their innovation, Cargo Connect has a plethora of applications to protect from hijackings, thieves and to keep track of drivers. They have created secure locks which only open when at a particular location and with a one use pin code. They have also hooked up cameras and other sensors to monitor drivers of the trucks to notice if anything is out of the ordinary. This linked with machine learning will be able to give shippers an alert if anything seems untoward.
The IoT has so many applications across so many industries. It is not just a tool to get more data out of us. It is something to assist us individually and also as businesses, organisations and even countries. For Africa, it can unleash new innovation to help with long standing problems. It could have applications in the health sector, water industry, electricity, for farmers, cattle herders, security firms… you name it, the IoT will have a function in the near future. And because of this, there is a lot of scope for Africa’s bright programming talent to create more and more innovative technologies.
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