Last week, the Communication Authority of Kenya released its sector statistics report for July to September 2017 showing that Internet penetration has hit 112.7% in the country. This is higher than the mobile penetration rate which stood at 90.4% for the same period.
The availability of Internet access presents a great opportunity for individuals and businesses to improve their lives and operations through efficiencies gained by adopting the Internet as a tool in their daily activities.
As the technology evolves, the Internet as we know it is also rapidly changing, it is now no longer restricted in virtual interfaces such as web browsers and apps such as WhatsApp or Youtube. The Internet is now moving out of the screen and into the real world and will soon be part and parcel of our living and working environments. Many items in our environment from the clothes we wear, furniture to electric appliances and homes will become part of the Internet in what is now known as the Internet of things or IoT in short.
By connecting all these items to the internet (and ultimately to each other), The IoT will present us with endless possibilities to better our lives from an individual perspective and also lower costs and create new revenue streams for businesses.
Take for example the idea of connected fabrics and wearables which will connect all your clothes and other attire to the Internet. This will enable your shirt for example to detect the chemicals in your sweat and send this information to your email or WhatsApp telling you that based on the chemicals in your sweat, you are about to come down with an infection, the shirt or wearable will also be able to take your heart rate and blood pressure constantly and warn you or even share this information directly with your doctor. Another example in IoT connected fabrics is wearing your favourite football jersey that immediately glows when your team or favourite player scores a goal. Connected homes will also present a great opportunity for families. Take for example a fully connected home where the fridge detects that butter is running out and automatically adds this to the your shopping list that is resident in your phone or tablet. The phone or tablet will then send you a reminder when it detects you approaching a supermarket that stocks that particular brand of butter that you love. Imagine also getting an early morning meeting appointment in your calendar and this automatically adjusts your wake-up alarm to an earlier time than normal bases on traffic conditions of the route you intend to use to the meeting from your house. This same alarm will also send a signal to switch on the water heater slightly earlier than normal.
On the business front, organizations stand to benefit a great deal from the IoT. Using the butter and connected shirt example above, the supermarket can place small screens on shopping trolleys that automatically display your shopping list when your phone is near the trolley and automatically deletes each item you pick and place in the IoT-enabled trolley, the screen can also have shopping floor navigation aids to help you easily locate shelves hosting the items in your shopping list. They can also place sensors at the shelves that will make your shirt give you a signal (this can be vibration or change in colour of the shirt) when you pass by the frozen display area where butter is kept. Businesses can also adopt IoT in their processes to improve efficiency. For example, insurance companies can use sensors embedded in cars they insure to accurately gauge driver behaviour on the road and offer lower premiums to good drivers and higher premiums to reckless ones. County governments can also leverage the IoT to improve efficiency in parking space management in cities and towns. For example, sensors under each parking slot can be connected to mobile app or to IoT-enabled cars to indicate free or occupied slots and automatically navigate the drive to the nearest free slot, they can also measure how long a particular car has parked and automatically bill the car owner on time spent basis. The county government can also implement different parking rates based on demand for space and for traffic control too (e.g slots farther from the CBD would be made cheaper than those in CBD.
The IoT can also bring significant efficiencies into the agricultural sector. Aquaculture farmers in Vietnam are already using IoT sensors to detect pond water salinity and automatically switching on fresh water pumps to dilute the pond water to the correct salinity, the pump switching system is also connected to an IoT-enabled mini weather station that will delay switching on if rains are forecasted.
Despite great strides made on the internet penetration in Kenya, more needs to be done to create a conducive environment for the growth and adoption of the IoT. This could include passing the necessary legislation on cyber security and privacy, two major concerns in the adoption of the IoT. It is estimated that there will be over 75 billion IoT devices in the world by 2025 making IoT enabled devices ubiquitous, this presents a great opportunity for Kenya to once again lead its peers on new technology adoption.