SA sitting on IoT business, jobs gold mine

As the Internet of Things (IoT) gains traction, South Africa is sitting on a gold mine of opportunities for business and job creation across the IoT ecosystem.

This is according to Mark O’ Donoghue, chief sales and marketing officer at Link Africa, who says IoT data transmission is not only where the money lies in the increasingly interconnected IoT world.

Described by Gartner as one of the top 5 game-changing technologies, IoT is already so widely in use that 3,74-billion IoT devices are expected to be connected by 2025, producing nearly 80 zettabytes of data.

But IoT deployments are gaining pace across every industry sector – from automotive manufacturing to healthcare. Along with this growth, new opportunities are emerging for organisations specialising in storage, analytics, application development, and more.

IoT and the delivery of real-time or even incremental data is creating entirely new industries, with all these opportunities underpinned by technologies such as 4G and 5G (with 6G in years to come).

O’ Donoghue says: “There is a race on for larger 4G and 5G throughputs. Even though a 3G and 4G network can deliver incredibly good services to a wide range of IOT services, the world of real-time data is growing at a rapid pace – real-time services require extremely low latencies. With this requirement and the need to take all this data back into server/cloud environments, fibre is still the fastest and most widely scalable medium to backhaul these technologies at scale.

“5G or 6G are appropriate for short-range use, and you will have to aggregate all of those 5G or 6G towers into a backhaul at some point, to pull that data into a core.”

This high-speed connectivity has moved from being critical for business continuity to being a business imperative and the enabler of business of the future in an IoT world, he adds.

O’ Donoghue says: “People have tried to look at monetising the transmission of the IoT data layer, and yes, there will be an explosion of data coming over these networks in the future. However monetisation on the data transmission will be a small part of the pie, I believe you will be seeing it in innovative use of the IoT data. The real opportunities are in what will be done with the data generated by all of these connected devices.

“Whether the new business is supplying services on top of infrastructure service providers or building a new business case for data analysis, there are so many businesses out there that will emerge and thrive on the ability to communicate in real-time to these machines.”

He believes significant opportunities will exist in using IoT data to build new services and support businesses, for example: “In mining, the sector spends hundreds of millions of rand on equipment. If key machinery underground should fail, you have a massive problem, with huge associated costs and lost productivity.

“With IoT and the ability to read the machinery’s data, a business could construct a service plan around the equipment.

“They might track the IoT data to understand when the equipment is operating outside of its normal parameters of functioning, raise an alert and send someone to service the machinery before it breaks down. In doing so, they would save the mining company potentially millions in lost productivity, because they only needed to shut the machine down for repairs for a few hours.”

Similar opportunities exist across sectors, both for new businesses and for manufacturers looking to add value, he believes.

Noting South Africa’s high unemployment rate, O’ Donoghue says schools and universities should be moving to educate young South Africans on the opportunities in the interconnected, IoT world.

“We need to educate them about these technologies and data science and teach them how they could turn their knowledge into a business. We need to think outside the box and look at new business from a connectivity perspective,” he says. –  IT-Online