• Today more than ever, governments, businesses, and consumers are looking for means to ease their businesses as well as save on costs.

    To ease the way of doing businesses, these entities are adopting the use of Internet of Things (IoT) and Big data to come up with new business models, to improve the delivery of services, to increase productivity, as well as to enhance the well-being and human welfare.

    According to International Telecommunication Union (ITU), since 2005 the development of the Internet of Things as a function of the hyper-connected world has encompassed a set of technological advances from different fields. These include wireless and mobile connectivity, nanotechnology, radio-frequency identification (RFID) and smart sensor technologies.

    A report by ITU and Cisco called ‘Harnessing the Internet of Things for Global Development’, noted that when all these advances in these technologies are combined, they could help Africa and the rest of the world realize a miniaturized, embedded, automated Internet of connected devices communicating regularly and relatively effortlessly.

    IoT can best be described a set of related technologies that can be used together to achieve exciting ends and it includes the use of sensors, nanotechnologies and identification systems (chips and SIMs) among others.

    Apart from being used for greater monitoring and measurements of humans, machines and things, IoT and various related technical developments are also enhancing greater and more rapid awareness of and information about status, function, and the environment.

    Additionally, the innovation has brought a shift from human-to-human communications to Machine to Machine (M2M), something-to-everything, and everything-to-everything communications.

    Already groundbreaking model systems are being implemented in some African nations and the results are commendable.

    Applications and impact across different sectors in development

    With an aim to tackle regional development challenges, IoT interventions across Africa are being utilized in a range of development activities.

    Healthcare

    Adoption and use of IoT in healthcare has the potential to effectively improve the health and well-being through greater efficiency.

    Moreover, through the technology, users are able to enjoy remote telehealth as well as monitor their own health on a daily basis.

    The report further argues that it can be used to improve well-being and better manage conditions like stress, encouraging exercise, healthy eating, diagnose medical conditions more quickly and recommend treatment regimes.

    A good example of how IoT has been used to address immediate challenges in humanitarian response is in West Africa, in the wake of Ebola.

    Through connected wearable technologies, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supported and employed IoT solutions.

    Through the Sensor Technology and Analytics to Monitor, Predict, and Protect Ebola Patients (STAMP2) in 2015 USAID used the tech for its Ebola treatment strategy in Liberia. STAMP2 collects patient data, including ECG, heart rate, oxygen saturation, body temperature, respiratory rate, and position.

    These data are sent to a central server or platform so they can be monitored and analyzed over a long period of time and alert physicians of abnormal changes in a patient’s behavior or health.

    STAMP2 can help to improve the Ebola response initiative at-large by decreasing emergency response time in critical areas. It also enables emergency responders to detect Ebola patients earlier and monitor them more efficiently.

    Agriculture

    In agriculture, IoT technologies can be used to enhance crop production, improve the storage and distribution of food.

    By gathering and utilizing local weather, farmers and other stakeholders can use this information for their benefits.

    To cut on the operation costs when using traditional weather monitoring equipment, IoT is being used for micro-weather stations to deliver on a range of activities. These include the dissemination of information to farmers on nutrient requirements, the prediction of weather patterns, and the provision of inputs into localized crop insurance schemes.

    Syngenta’s Kilimo Salama (“Safe Farming”) project in Kenya is a connected weather station that monitors agricultural events and facilitates linkages with insurance firms. The project is aimed at mitigating the risks associated with adverse weather, thereby providing a much-needed safety net for farmers while promoting agricultural investment and improved livelihoods.

    Using a mobile banking system (Safaricom’s M-Pesa), Kilimo Salama is able to keep index insurance premiums more affordable. This, in turn, transforms smallholder farmers into a commercially viable market segment for insurance firms.

    Other IoT applications include resiliency, climate change, and pollution mitigation strategies. In Kenya, Red Cross has installed an application to help explore the widespread installation of connected alarm systems across high-density urban slums to quickly notify residents of fast-moving fires.

    Isolated projects across Africa include M-Kopa project that helps customers access solar panel systems that provide steady electrical power to low-income families. Others are, pressure loggers to measure piped water supply intermittency in urban Tanzania and motion sensors to measure monitor hand-pump functionality in Rwanda.

    Logger data can be used to analyze service patterns, such as the number and duration of outages, and average hours of water service per day. On the other hand, the motion sensors in Rwanda helps in dispatching teams only to water points identified for repair or check-up.

    There is a continuous demand for technologies to ease the means of doing businesses across the sub-sectors. By linking the physical and digital worlds, there could be much more economic gains up to $11.1 trillion a year by 2025.


    Image credit: Africa Business Magazine