The country’s two major mobile phone operators, Vodacom and MTN, are pursuing growth opportunities in the lucrative Internet of Things (IoT) space.
There will be 26 billion connected devices by 2020, according to analyst firm Gartner.
Simply put, this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cellphones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of. This also applies to components of machines, for example a jet engine of an airplane or the drill of an oil rig.
The IoT solutions are created to solve a very specific, known problem.
So, what are Vodacom and MTN doing to tap into this growing market of IoT?
While Vodacom and MTN are focusing on connecting their customers to mobile phone devices to their networks, both are aware that their businesses will make more money from IoT connections and management in the future.
The Vodafone-owned mobile operator is already making close to R1 billion in revenues from the connected devices.
Vodacom IoT division attributes this growth to the development of innovative solutions in e-health, connected agriculture, smart metering, and coordination.
The company’s innovative solutions have attracted 3.3 million connections to its IoT platform.
The company’s IoT division led by Deon Liebenberg is making inroads in the rest of Africa with its IoT solutions.
Here are some of the IoT solutions they are deploying:
Vodacom’s Connected Farmer
Vodacom has collaborated with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on behalf of the German Government and Manstrat Agricultural Intelligence Solutions to launch a mobile technology solution to support South African smallholder farmers into commercial agriculture.
With an estimated combined investment about R21 million over three years, the ‘Connected Farmer’ platform, a cloud-based web and mobile software solution, will link thousands of smallholder farmers to the agriculture value chain enabling access to information, services, and markets.
Vodacom believes that ICT provides innovative solutions to address Africa’s societal and economic challenges.
Leveraging the successful implementation of Connected Farmer projects in East Africa, Vodacom is laying the foundation for inclusive growth in the agriculture sector through integrated value chains in agriculture.
Vodacom digitizing healthcare in Africa
The telco is already digitising the healthcare ecosystem across Africa.
Vodacom has set up Mezzanine Ware to focus on mHealth.
Mezzanine has created an mHealth platform that enables collaboration, the collection of insights and stock monitoring. The company’s solution has attracted interest across the African continent.
The mHealth platform also that facilitates clinical insights.
Vodacom and Mezzanine Ware use the platform to allow private healthcare practitioners to remotely monitor the health status of their patients.
The platform also enables community health workers to collect vital signs and essential information from patients using a mobile device.
Vodacom’s Mezzanine’s stock visibility solution is currently being used to track the availability of vaccines in Mozambique and malaria medicine in Tanzania.
The technology makes stock monitoring paperless and enables instant visibility of stock levels.
Vodacom’s Asset Tracking
With Vodacom LiveTrack, you can track any vehicle in near real-time via a secure website.
It combines Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology and advanced GSM network, enabling you to accurately locate your asset within a five-meter radius and provide relevant assistance should it ever become necessary.
LiveTrack also provides a detailed report on every trip, which is invaluable for tracking business versus personal travel expenses for tax purposes and ensuring that drivers stick to their routes and drive responsibly.
Vodacom LiveTrack offers:
- Near real-time notifications of speed and movement
- Near real-time location detection
- Tax Logbook
- Stolen Asset Recovery
MTN has over the past three years invested substantially in its network and forged strategic partnerships with leading global players in the IoT space.
The company believes that these interventions have put it in a better position to provide its customers with a distinct customer experience.
In 2015, MTN was the first company to launch a Pan African Internet of Things (IoT) platform to networked devices to exchange information and perform actions without requiring manual assistance.
To ensure a seamless customer experience for its customers, wherever MTN has presence, the IoT platform has a dedicated network, separate from the consumer network, for operational and business systems support.
As a result, the platform is dedicated to managing all MTN’s machine-to-machine functions.
Here are some of the IoT solutions deployed by MTN:
MTN livestock tracking solution is gaining traction in Nigeria amongst herdsmen as they see the benefits of the technology in monitoring and tracking their cattle.
For herdsmen, time is money, and tracking cattle’s is traditionally a cumbersome task that is difficult.
Enter MTN’s livestock tracking solution that was launched last May in Nigeria, now assisting herdsmen in monitoring and helping with cattle grazing.
Furthermore, the solution was aimed at helping herdsmen to minimise loss of cattle’s and avoid conflict in land use due to the impact of grazing on farmlands.
Thus, MTN introduced in Nigeria an animal identification management system (AIMS) to monitor the location of cattle, send emergency alerts to authorities in cases of distress, and support the creation of grazing areas separate from farmlands through geofencing using solar-powered GPS technology.
“Over 5,000 Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) cards containing owner data have been ordered by veterinarians and owners for injection into livestock,” MTN said in its latest annual report.
MTN connected wildlife solution
New MTN project to combat rhino poaching
MTN SA Smart Water Metering NB-IoT solution
MTN and Huawei jointly launched the Smart Water Metering solution, a Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) solution in Africa.
The solution is designed to help MTN develop their NB-IoT services to explore new markets.
The Smart Water metering solution enables the automated collection of utility meter data, while manual meter reading leads to high labour costs and missing or inaccurate data. Through sensors installed in water meters, customers can identify water pipeline leakage earlier.
MTN Connected Car Solution
To deliver various connected car solutions, MTN and Ctrack are planning offer comprehensive vehicle tracking & fleet management solution to business subscribers across Africa.
Through the partnership, MTN’s multinational and Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) customers, will have access to Ctrack’s vehicle tracking and fleet management solution via their local MTN Business operation.
This will enable MTN’s business customers to seamlessly integrate a standard fleet management and vehicle tracking solution into their existing mobile network offering, at an affordable rate.
The tracking platform uses MTN’s Pan African Internet of Things (IoT) SIM cards, enabling businesses to benefit from a single rate for IoT activity, across the company’s footprint in Africa. In addition, this will allow for vehicles to be monitored across borders.
MTN partners with Cisco Jasper on IoT
MTN has partnered with Cisco Jasper to enable their business customers throughout Africa to deliver IoT services worldwide.
MTN will be the first mobile operator in South Africa to deploy the automated IoT connectivity management platform through Cisco Jasper Control Center.
This partnership will entrench MTN’s position in the IoT and connected vehicles space and will give IoT device and vehicle manufacturers the opportunity to leverage MTN’s expansive network.
While this solution will initially be rolled out in South Africa, plans are in place to leverage MTN’s data centres across its 22 points of presence across Africa.
The mobile phone operator is also working with the Original Equipment Makers (OEMs) to build an MTN IoT Simcard.