As the Internet of Things (IoT) grows in popularity, managers are quickly beginning to realise the huge impact this technology has on Return on Investment (RoI), productivity and efficiency. As a result, bridging both the physical and digital worlds, IoT is being adopted at a rapid rate across industries and businesses.
Africa, in particular, is benefitting more than most, with its lack of legacy infrastructure allowing the region to leapfrog forward. Estimated by Accenture to produce economic gains worth $14 trillion by 2030, this flood of IoT devices that are generating data and powerful analytics will have an instrumental impact. Empowering companies to reap greater financial gains, improve safety and optimise work processes, IoT will allow for the total transformation of operations even within industrial or remote locations.
The importance of IoT
An IoT implementation involves a series of devices ranging from sensors to remote-controlled equipment, wearable technologies, and cameras which are all connected by one network. This then allows for data to be driven to specialist analytical software capable of delivering intelligent information that managers can act on. From making smarter decisions about worker safety to reducing bottlenecks highlighted by the network, IoT devices can have huge benefits.
Not only is this intelligence available locally but can also be accessed regionally or at corporate head offices with a combination of surveillance, dashboard, and remote-control systems making it possible to operate equipment from a distance. In some cases, technology can go a step further by acting automatically when it notices changes that require some form of intervention, long before human managers could.
The most capable IoT systems are well-designed to reduce downtime, improve environmental compliance, increase productivity, protect against damage and theft and prevent injury and loss of life. By standardising and speeding up the responses to problems that occur, IoT simplifies the flow of information and allows situations to be dealt with from miles away whilst enabling higher workloads without additional staff. All this is only possible though with high-quality, reliable connectivity.
High-quality connectivity is essential
The International Data Corporation (IDC) reports there will be over 41 billion devices globally creating almost 80 zettabytes of data by 2025. For IoT to be truly successful within Africa, it is critical that there is access to high-quality connectivity to handle the mass scale data capture and communications required. This poses a serious challenge for sites located in far-flung areas of Africa where there is a lack of any wired and cellular internet networks and tough environmental conditions.
At wellheads, mines, in remote process plants, encampments, and aboard ships, the complexity of installation and operation of any such network is high, with the options for reliable connectivity extremely limited. Yet this is where IoT contributes the most: protecting workers, tracking assets, predicting maintenance needs, and enabling remote management.
Making the right technological choices
Success depends on harnessing the most appropriate technologies, solutions, and communication providers. By implementing an automated end-to-end solution, companies get the reliable, cost-effective connectivity needed that can be tailored to the project’s specific requirements whilst having a platform that can harness every application. From bringing together devices from best of breed technology partners such as trackers or sensors to a network service, an IoT control platform, and field engineering and technical support, businesses will have an IoT network that excels and delivers a whole range of benefits.
For remote sites in Africa, a fully managed network can integrate a seamless mix of cellular, microwave, Wi-Fi, low-bandwidth satellite, and VSAT services to deliver the high-quality connectivity required. For the best performance possible, applications can be balanced where those needing just a few kilobits a second can be given less bandwidth, compared with those needing hundreds of megabits per second.
Alongside this, smart network management such as SD-WAN can automate satellite beam switching to turn multiple transmission paths into a single wide-area network. This allows for the dynamic selection of the best price-performance ratio from circuits offering a range of capabilities and costs. In contrast, this avoids the bottlenecks and stranded capacity associated with static network designs that often fail to meet user needs and end up costing far too much.
Additional features include boosted efficiency from running applications within virtual machines and Cybersecurity-as-a-Service (CaaS) ensuring the protection of critical, sensitive information. By working with a provider of end-to-end IoT services, companies also receive advanced field engineering and technical support which is critical when it comes to the speed of deployment and preventing any downtime.
Delivering success through IoT
Once the correct IoT solution is in place, businesses across a range of industries can start to reap the many rewards this technology has to offer. From energy to mining, military to construction operations, IoT has a huge role to play within the African economy where the industry is a major contributor to the region’s wealth.
An energy company operating within Africa and the Middle East was able to centralise operations thanks to a large scale IoT deployment. They set a goal of having remote management with a 360-degree view, enabling them to receive information from a range of locations that allowed for decisions to be made at their company headquarters control room. Achieving this required a mass scale deployment at the wellheads with extremely reliable connectivity. As a result, the company was able to achieve a 30 per cent reduction in total production costs.
Another example is a major NGO that used IoT to monitor and maintain communication with around 3,700 emergency vehicles. With vehicle tracking, driver identification, telematics, a driver panic button, and display screens for messaging, the organisation can ensure the safety of employees. The system enables route tracking and timing on stops deters theft and ensures the immediate notification of any hazards putting personnel at risk.
Smart surveillance was enabled at a significant oilfield services company, where an IoT network provides real-time monitoring of employees and Man Down capabilities, geo-fencing that triggers alerts when an asset leaves a set location, and telematics on heavy machinery allowing for predictive maintenance scheduling. Real-time analysis of the video feed from surveillance camera alerts managers of any human error that endangers people or operations. As a result, this system has not only improved safety, but has identified significant bottlenecks in operations, increased uptime, and reduced theft whilst also boosting crew morale and the continuity of operations.
Enabling a revolution
As IoT widens in popularity, it will become critical to the future success of industries and businesses across East Africa, revolutionising operations with the deep insight it affords allowing for smart and intelligent decision making. To benefit from the full extent of IoT, it is essential companies incorporate a full end-to-end solution that provides the much-needed high quality connectivity and other features allowing for every aspect of operations to be controlled and monitored.
With IoT having a major impact particularly in remote areas and relying on the transmission of large amounts of sensitive information, businesses must make having reliable connectivity a priority. Solutions such as the ones offered by Speedcast, allow for the seamless integration of a range of services, to offer the best possible performance. This combined with smart network management and a fully managed network, ensures every requirement of the project is met. Alongside this, a comprehensive IoT platform aids industries with remote management and the real-time monitoring of all assets, staff, and operations allowing for increased safety and productivity.
By James Trevelyan, Senior Vice President of Sales, Enterprise and Emerging Markets at Speedcast
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