Liquid Telecom prepares ground for a wave of IoT adoption in East Africa

Adil Yousesefi, CEO, Liquid Telecom, East Africa

The grund for an uptake of the “Future Internet” popularised as “Internet of Things” (IoT) a technology that  describes a vision where objects become part of the Internet: their position and status known, services rendered intelligently and expansively is steadily gaining momentum in Africa says Adil Youssefi, CEO, Liquid Telecom, East Africa.

During an exlusive interview with CIO East Africa, in Nairobi Kenya, Adil pointed out that Liquid Telecom is deliberately investing into a promising future by expanding its network presence to fuse the digital and physical world. The move is lined to positively impact on professional, personal and social environments as people and things communicate to each other.

Here’s the exerpt of the interview with Adil.

How do you rate now the status of IoT penetration and uptake since we talked almost a year ago?

There has been tremendous improvement. IoT is increasingly being discussed in several corporate boardroom now that it was a year ago. Liquid Telecom several proof of concepts running in several industries in across the East African region  and i can affirm that things are moving in the right direction. It is important to as well point out that IoT is relatively new within the region and the momentum of adoption shall be steady. With any new technology, there are early adopters and the curve should need to reach a critical mass before it shoots up.

Comparatively, in which market segments is Liquid Telecom getting the early adopters of IoT?

We see interest in all major use-cases. Manufacturing, logistics, health, agriculture. But what we’ve seen people most excited about is service and product tracking. People are seeing IoT solutions as being far superior in terms of capability, cost and features. Second most popular use case is smart metering, it allows people to check on their systems and see whether there are any leakages or any optimizations that need to happen. Those are the two early adopter use-cases.

In the same context, what interests would you find our education institutes taking on if they were to partner with you, in relation to preparing the future work force, are there any footprints that you have set within those areas?

The IoT technology is really an ecosystem of several players that need to come together to make it a success. So from our side obviously we had deployed the network, we need the platform, we need devices and we need the right people with the right capabilities to actually leverage the opportunities that this technology can provide. The workforce can come in several ways. There is an opportunity for the work force in terms of electronics, manufacturing, to support this IoT ecosystem.

What has been the impact of IoT service rollout since Liquid Telecom partnered with Sigfox in a bid to effectively penetrate the Eastern Africa market?

Even before elaborating about Liquid Telecom’s partnership with Sigfox, it is extremely important to understand that Internet of Things presents a previously untapped potential for new business. Sigfox is the technology which we are deploying. The technology has allowed us to launch an IoT network, as we connect the middleware solutions and the compatible devices with ease. It is important to note that leveraging on the experience of Sigfox follows its presence in over 70 countries all over the world. Of importance in this regard is that Sigfox has granted us an opportunity that has the potential to continually offer low cost and harness low power as we rollout the ubiquitous connectivity across East Africa. We are getting an edge as we connect the un-connected!

To what extent has the did the recent launch of the AI and Blockchain Taskforce Report in Kenya, grant Liquid Telecom hope in seizing business opportunities in the country, if any? 

Being an interested party, Liquid Telecom was eagerly awaiting this report and we are delighted to note that it was really visionary. It’s great that the ministry, and the authorities have set up a very competent task force to look at the opportunities of the emerging technologies and how Kenya can benefit from them. Summarily, the report is a very good one. Specifically, related to IoT, we are delighted about agritoken which the report points out will benefit the farmers, or farming commodity producers. With an agritoken, secured in a blockchain or IoT capable token, it will allow the the farmers to track easily the location, quality of their produce and secure their produce and further make sure that information being shared abot the commodities in relevant and timely. So obviously we are very happy that this report not only looks at the high level strategy or plans but also gives specific examples where technology such as IoT can benefit the various sectors.

As an instrumental player in the IoT space, what can we expect from Liquid Telecom as you engage with industry players during the East Africa IoT and AI Summit in Nairobi Kenya?

The summit is timely and a good opportunity for Liquid Telecom to modestly share that we have deployed the first low power IoT network in Kenya and already very ready for use. We’re very excited and happy that we are in a position to provide the country with cutting edge technology that has the potential to improve lives and support the economy as we all purposed to make things better for everyone. The second message is really a plea to walk the journey with us, and to support this investment. Let’s take initiatives and jointly implement them for the common good of the country.

There are obvious risks in any business, are there any obvious ones that perhaps are hindering some institutions that you may have been projecting to be front runners into the IOT adoption?

When we talk to customers, I think the main point is that people do not know. Being ignorant is a big risk. IoT is unfamiliar to people. Second point is that it requires a certain bit of work. IoT solution is not an off the shelf thing that one can just buy, plug and use. It is an IT solution tailored to specific entity that needs it to make an impact in value chain. So there is a learning curve first, for the provider and the user to try to understand what is it that we trying to address or achieve as a business while fixing a problem or tapping into an opportunity.

What’s your advice now to the sectors that haven’t seized the opportunities of IoT yet with this promising innovation despite your availability to support them all the way?

As indicated earlier, there are always early adopters in any industry. Everyone needs to ask themselves what they need to do to make this unstoppable technology pay-off for them. The industry should appreciate partnership and uphold the spirit of partnerships since it is the only way that delivers desired results to people. Together, in my view, we should  continue sharing the gospel and explaining what this new innovations are about. Lastly, for our industry and our partners is really to work together and see how we can make this to consistently work for the common person.

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