Water meters and livestock tracking – How IoT can help South Africa

In South Africa, the IoT industry can not only deliver more convenience and productivity to households and businesses, but can also help to tackle costly challenges like crime and infrastructure decay.

An increasing number of gadgets, household appliances, and common devices are able to communicate with users and each other in various ways.

Wearable tech pieces like watches, earphones, and even clothing are showing huge growth globally, and houses are getting smarter with devices such as smart cameras, speakers, displays, sensors, refrigerators, heaters, and air conditioning units gaining popularity.

These devices make up what we know as the Internet of Things (IoT), a system of interconnected devices facilitated by ever-growing broadband availability and expected to truly reach its potential with the arrival of 5G.

MyBroadband spoke to SqwidNet, a leader in the IoT space in South Africa, about the state of IoT in the country and what can be expected this year.

Smart water meters

Smart water meters are particularly helpful in South Africa, where water scarcity has been a big problem in recent years.

Following the Cape Town Day Zero scare in 2018, there are many parties are interested in smart water solutions.

“National water shortages, coupled with increased water tariffs are driving wide-spread interest from municipalities, commercial property managers, residential estates and even private homeowners,” SqwidNet said.

These systems can help detect leaks and save significant litres of the precious resource when problems are detected at an early stage.

“Water meters can now send data directly to the cloud from anywhere in the country, with up to 10 years of battery life and at disruptive price points,” SqwidNet explained.

SqwidNet said it expected even more adoption of the technology in 2020.

Asset tracking and security

Another space where IoT has proven to be popular is in the asset tracking business, SqwidNet said.

SqwidNet employs Sigfox’s Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technology. This consumes less battery and can communicate over greater distances than Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

“The Sigfox technology behind the SqwidNet network offers a simple and robust method of tracking assets, enabling visibility of high-value assets, as well as low-value assets which were previously not feasible to actively track.”

“We are seeing explosive growth in the local Asset Tracking industry, in both the stolen vehicle recovery space, as well as fleet management and logistics.”

SqwidNet said it anticipates a surge in the monitoring of fixed assets like manhole covers, telecommunication installations and electrical infrastructure, which could serve to help lower incidents of theft or increase the prospects for recovery of stolen goods.

The trackers are not limited to inanimate objects, however.

“Personal GPS trackers are also becoming very popular locally, with some devices developed specifically for pets,” SqwidNet said.

“In addition, we are starting to see commercial-scale adoption of agricultural livestock location and monitoring solutions, as well as massive interest from the Retail sector to monitor core systems such as industrial refrigerators and HVAC systems.”

“In the security industry, we are seeing large-scale commercial adoption by industry leaders, as well as extensive activity by newcomers, offering innovative solutions to market sectors that have traditionally not been serviced adequately,” SqwidNet added.

5G capabilities

The arrival of 5G network technology could further enhance the capabilities of IoT systems, SqwidNet said.

“When deployed at a commercial scale, 5G will be a critical component to unlock high value, high bandwidth IoT applications such as real-time video streaming and analysis,” it said.

“4G networks already perform a major function in this regard, but 5G networks will be required to meet the predicted demand in these types of applications.”

However, SqwidNet believes 5G adoption in South Africa will be minimal in 2020.

“The deployment of 5G-compatible IoT hardware will likely lag the network deployment though, and it is unlikely we will see significant numbers deployed in 2020.”

SqwidNet stated that this won’t affect the current implementation of IoT systems in the country.

“The majority of IoT applications do not require high data rates, however, and instead need to be able to send a few messages per day, or per week, but at a low price point and with several years of battery life.”

“In this respect, the SqwidNet network is perfectly complementary to 5G networks, reliably serving less latency-sensitive, low power IoT requirements whilst freeing up valuable licensed radio spectrum to be used for critical high speed applications for which 5G networks are designed.”

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Water meters and livestock tracking – How IoT can help South Africa