George Kalebaila, director of telecoms and IOT at the IDC, says a ‘me too' approach to adopting IOT is dangerous. "While some use cases will be relevant to all businesses in many developed regions, Africa's IOT journey may require a different approach and the starting point depends on the local situation."
Although there is a universal business case for adopting the Internet of things (IOT) in industries of all types across the US and Europe, the same can't be said for Africa, which is made up of many economically and politically diverse countries.
He cites the example of SA, where he says there isn't much appetite for connected cars, which is understandable given that many African countries have bigger issues to address. Many global tech firms have a Western perspective, and should understand there is a need in Africa for a localised approach.
According to Kalebaila, the IOT opportunity in Africa needs to address local problems, and should aim to develop IOT applications that can be shared across the continent and then gain traction.
"Few industries have yet to find a way to really monetise IOT," adds Steve Bell, senior analyst of IOT at Heavy Reading, who believes the IOT journey for a business always begins with cost. "The solutions must save money and the data must improve your product and services as well as better interact with your customers."
He says the issue of cost is multifaceted. The cost of hardware and network access needs to come down for African businesses to be able to afford IOT applications, and at the same time, the cheaper cost of labour on the continent, means there's no urgent need to replace people with automation.
Due to this, organizations need to carefully measure where the real opportunities for IOT deployment lie; for example, in areas such as agriculture, utilities and animal conservation where it is beginning to show value.
Another area where IOT can play a role is in improving physical security, as crime rates in Africa remain high. Huawei entered Africa in the late '90s and says it is seeing an increased demand for its IOT platform in SA, Nigeria and Kenya.
Jinwei Zhang, regional Solution Manager for Southern Africa at Huawei, says security is a big problem, particularly in SA, where the majority of homes have alarm systems and other security measures. "This has driven demand for smart home applications focused on improving security."
He says security can also play a role with connected cars, adding that through its partners, Huawei can help collect data location and behaviour on its backend IOT platform, which provides service analysis that can be utilised by the motor industry.
"There is a strong demand to more accurately monitor cars in order to prevent theft," Zhang concludes.