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The Internet of Things is about to change how we live and work

January 2, 2018 Leave a comment

intel_iot-m1Last 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.

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Categories: IoT Tags: , , ,

Broadband as a value add? Yes, Its about the eyes.

June 5, 2015 Leave a comment

InternetThe days of ISPs making super profits are long gone. The margins being created by ISPs world over are thin. Also, should Internet connectivity prices go lower due to either more competition or legislation, ISPs stand to create even thinner margins in future. There will therefore be little if any revenue/profit oriented incentives for ISPs to be in business.

Having worked in the industry for about 12 years now (That’s eons in Internet growth terms), I have seen the ISP industry evolve both on the technology front and its value proposition to customers. The liberalization of the sector in most countries has also attracted many investors into the industry, this has created a stiff and competitive market, this has brought with it diminishing returns on investments. Small ISPs are dying or being bought out as they cannot stay afloat. Large ISPs are also merging to create economies of scale to survive.

With the coming projects such as Google’s project Loon and Facebook’s Internet.org (and subsequent Internet by drones project) and many more that aim to provide nearly free Internet to the worlds’ unconnected, there will be no financial incentive for a commercial ISP to go into business anymore.

So what do ISPs need to do?

There has been a lot of talk in the market about value addition and that ISPs should stop selling ‘dumb pipes’ and offer value over and above just the internet pipe. All this has already happened and at the moment ISPs have been outmaneuvered by OTT providers who are providing this value addition type of services over the links the ISPs are providing to their customers. For example, some years ago, all ISPs were offering VoIP as a value add, now with the likes of Skype and Whatsapp calls, ISP-provided VoIP is a dud. Another example is dedicated hosting at ISP provided ‘data centers’ (a room with access control and cooling 🙂 ), with the maturity of cloud services, such a service is also not appealing anymore to customers. ISPs are at the end of their rope.

If you carefully analyze all recent ISP mergers and buyouts in Africa (and beyond if you have the time), you will realize that buy out decisions are less and less being based on an ISPs profitability or revenues and cash flow position. They are now based on subscriber numbers. But what is the commercial point of buying a unprofitable or low revenue business? Answer: Its about the eyes.

ISPs are and will no longer be about direct internet pipe derived revenues but about indirect revenues. Sources of these indirect revenues include online advertizing, OTT services and content delivery and purchase. This is the very reason why giants such as Google and Facebook have entered the ISP business, Its about the eyes. An ISP with more subscribers and loss making is now more attractive to buy than one with few subscribers and super profitable. Unbelievable isn’t it?

End to end control.

OTT operators such as Facebook have been blamed by traditional ISPs for using the ISPs network infrastructure to do business with the ISPs end users. Attempts by ISPs to make these operators pay for delivery of content has been met with opposition due to fears that such an arrangement can result in a tiered internet and with that a demise of net-neutrality that has been one of the key characteristics and a supposed catalyst of internet development. Attempts to camouflage net-neutrality-flouting arrangements by use of ISP led offers such as Facebook’s Internet.org where users on certain networks access Facebook and Whatsapp for free outside their data plans have also been meeting resistance. Being so froward thinking, I am of the opinion that these companies foresaw the resistance to their initiatives to offer their content for free by paying the traditional ISPs, this is why they are all rushing to roll out their own infrastructure to provide free or near free internet to the masses. At the moment, other than their Satellite/baloon projects being tested in New Zealand, Google is already testing out high speed fiber -FTTH in select American cities. This will give them end to end control of the broadband supply chain and therefore quell concerns of creation of a tiered internet. This of course assumes they will come up with a way to show regulators that they have fair access policies for all third party traffic.

The future

As i see it, the traditional ISP will die a natural death if they don’t adapt to the coming changes. What was once a value add will become the product and vice versa. Internet broadband will be a value add to content and OTT services. A content provider such as Facebook or Google will offer you free internet to access their content. Internet broadband provision will be a value addition to content providers. As someone once said, if the product/service is free, you are the product. The free internet will come with privacy strings attached so as to enable advertizers track your habits and offer more targeted adverts. This targeting is getting more accurate and spookier if the tweet below is anything to go by.

glasstweet

The use of browser safety features to disable cookies wont work as companies such as Google are now using what is known as device finger printing to identify you. Device finger printing works on the basis that your computers OS, installed programs (and the dates they were installed), CPU serial number, hardware configuration (RAM/HDD/attached peripherals) will give your computer a unique identifier if applied to an algorithm. Therefore your computing device is unique and can therefore be tracked without the need to set cookies.

Nigeria Information and Collaboration Conference 2010

September 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Last week I presented a paper on the state of broadband in Africa at the 2010 Nigeria IT collaboration conference with emphasis on the fact that even with the arrival of fiber optic cables, VSAT still has a major role to play in Africa in the longer term. I also presented on the need for development and hosting of local content within Africa. Here is another blog link with excepts: http://itrealms.blogspot.com/2010/09/vsat-remains-cheapest-accessible.html