THE establishment of an ecosystem of gadgets (things) embedded with electronics, software, sensors and network connectivity allowing them to collect and exchange data — commonly referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT) in ICT — is set to revolutionise value-added services offered by local mobile phone companies.
IoT mainly relies on machine-to-machine communication, where the mobile phone is used as a utility gadget that can easily control other gadgets, even remotely.
It is built on cloud computing and networks of data-gathering sensors that involve mobile, virtual and instantaneous connection.
This is an environment in which objects, animals or people are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.
Over the years, such innovative products have been made possible by the convergence of wireless technologies, micro-electromechanical systems and the Internet.
In a wide-ranging interview, Cumii International chief executive Mr Norman Moyo said the pervasive impact of broadband in the country made development of IoT possible.
This, he said, is likely to make everything smart.
Cumii International is a Pan-African IoT company that offers IoT-enabled services such as ConnectedHome, ConnectedCar, ConnectedHealth and ConnectedEnergy.
It currently operates in 10 major African cities such as Harare, Lagos, Nairobi, Lusaka and Dar es Salaam, among others.
“Africa is experiencing a huge influx of data and in Zimbabwe data is going to be, probably, the next biggest business.
“Broadband is going to very big with networks upgrading to 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) while the emergency of optic fibre, particularly, the fibre to home, possibly, is going to be the biggest enabler of telecommunications in Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole,” said Mr Moyo.
This evolution, he said, would enable people to do an “infinite of things” through the internet.
“We are probably the very first Pan-African IoTs company which, firstly, focuses on key African markets. The system resonates well with the cities but the plan is to spread it across the targeted countries,” he said.
Mr Moyo said the IoTs was a collusion and collision of the Internet, telecommunication, cloud computing and GPS converging.
“So what has happened all of a sudden is, at the top of the pyramid you have Google in Europe where one can rent a car and it would be moving without a driver but it does not cause any accident.”
He said the smart car takes one from two points using big data to navigate the roads.
“So the big data sees that car in front of you, that the roads ahead are congested and needs to turn either to the left or right,” he said.
These are IoTs can be granulated into different portfolios such as smart cities, smart roads, smart houses, smart cars and other technologies.
Mr Moyo said the IoTs phenomenon has been advanced in the past four to five years across the Western Europe and part of Asia.
“It is becoming a multi-million dollar business and it is reputed that it is going to be the largest business in the world because you look at the penetration of the mobile telecommunication, internet and cloud computing all together and that is creating a baby that is called IoT,” he said.
“In Europe they are now worried whether the fridge should be able to tell the state of the milk so that it actually sends you a message when you get to a supermarket and the phone is able to tell you that you need fresh milk.”
Cumii International is adapting technologies to the African market.
“We spent some time working on that research and we have come to three verticals that we believe are very crucial to Africa, and these are: the ConnectedCar, ConnectedHome and ConnectedHealth. If you look at these three verticals, we are going to another vertical, ConnectedEnergy,” he said.
The ConnectedCar addresses fleet management and personal vehicle management.
Two stolen Zimbabwean vehicles have been recovered in Harare and Johannesburg through ConnectedCar.
The ConnectedHome provides smart home security through the mobile phone.
Cumii International recently launched the ConnectedHealth which offers a device that monitors blood pressure.
“So with the device when you get it, you keep it at home and you will be able to measure your blood pressure, either, once every day, week or month, depending on the severity of your situation.”
The reading is sent to a mobile phone and once it is on the phone it is sent to a partner or whoever one wants to help manage the blood pressure.
The system also sends a reading to a person’s medical doctor, who is able to see how one is managing the blood pressure.
“This is an extremely welcome development in the medical fraternity and we have engaged most top medical insurers who are very excited by this technology,” he said.
He added: “Why it matters if you are suffering from blood pressure is that 90 percent of your problem is monitoring your condition while only 10 percent is medication.”
Mr Moyo, however, said there were probably more than 30 other verticals, including smart bridges, smart cities and smart roads.
In order to provide a conduit through which most of these services can be accessed, Cumii International recently introduced the “Technite” by creating an application through which when downloaded into a phone one can engage consultants who can install some of the verticals available.
There are over 2 000 gadgets that are expected to be installed in Zimbabwean homes by December 2015.
“We have built a central technological hub that is able to service the whole continent from one centre.
“One advantage making this possible is that we have installed optic fibre from the submarine cable which is awash across the whole continent.
“We are able to control this from one server with the necessary back-up to control as many servers as we can,” Mr Moyo said.
It is estimated that apart from boosting employment levels, the business ventures are expected to generate more than US$20 million in investments.
“We are looking at an investment which is going into building this platform and purchasing of equipment and gadgets.
“We have brought some of the biggest companies into Africa to deliver these smart partnerships.
“What these companies are bringing is technology to complement our understanding of the continent and when we bundle these, it brings a smart partnership that benefits the continent,” he said.
Cumii International is targeting to connect more than 250 000 cars in the next 18-25 months across Africa through ConnectedCar.
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