The rapid population growth in South Africa’s metropolitan cities over the last two decades has outpaced significantly the growth in capacity of their urban infrastructure networks. Cities have to become smarter and more efficient to improve the quality of services provided to citizens. By Agnat Max Makgoale, CEO of Vula Telematix
However, cities face another crucial constraint that limits their potential to become smarter.
Some of our metros are already using or thinking about using Internet-of-Things (IoT) architecture to create machine-to-machine (M2M) networks that allow devices – the ‘things’ in the IoT – to gather, share and analyse data about the state of city infrastructure.
This can be used to create information that helps city managers make important decisions that, for example, improve traffic flow, reduce water losses or improve the reliability of the electricity grid, often without further human intervention.
But the low-volume data these devices gather, share and analyse competes for time and bandwidth on expensive cellular and wired communication networks with high-volume data from streaming services and other similar services for human users. This needlessly makes IoT appear an impractical or expensive solution to the congestion and capacity issues faced by urban infrastructure networks.
Typically, the wireless devices that are enabling smart cities elsewhere in the world have built-in sensors and software that monitor various points in the urban infrastructure network, and transmit the data to a central point in the city’s IT systems – for instance, smart metres that send data on electricity or water consumption to billing systems.
These kinds of machine-to-machine transmissions have fundamentally different connectivity requirements to communication between humans or between humans and machines.
M2M transmissions consume much less data and power, so there is a significant amount of wastage and unnecessary maintenance – like periodic battery replacement or recharging – when the devices are connected through GSM networks.
This is why a dedicated M2M network makes sense, since the objective of smart cities is maximising efficiency and reducing waste.
Under exclusive licence from global innovations company Ingenu, Vula Telematix is rolling out the Machine Network SA, the country’s first public wireless telecommunications network dedicated to machine-to-machine communications.
The Machine Network SA is powered by Ingenu’s patented Random Phase Multiple Access (RPMA) technology, which allows Vula Telematix to guarantee that its customers’ devices will work on the network for over 20 years. The Machine Network SA also covers areas that cellular and other network providers are unable or unwilling to, and coverage is consistent, regardless of where devices are located.
The Machine Network SA is device and application agnostic, providing opportunities for other service providers to design M2M solutions and applications on that network that will allow South African cities to rise to the challenge of rapid urbanisation.
We at Vula Telematix are open to partnering with services providers developing IoT solutions on the Machine Network SA.