Sustainable IOT through ‘less is more’ approach

Dharmesh Goshalia

Johannesburg, 22 Oct 2021

In recent years, due to an explosion in the number of internet-connected devices, IOT networks now process billions of messages each month from the billions of objects connected to it. Is it possible to imagine a network that optimises the world’s resources to deliver IOT solutions that have the lowest environmental impact, is able to digitise the physical world by capturing transformational data at the lowest total cost of production and connecting the once unconnectable assets? Let’s find out…

Connecting the world through communication devices and dedicated IOT networks is already a vast, expansive and fast-changing industry. With billions of connected devices around the globe, you can imagine the importance and necessity for stable and trusted networks that span across borders and have an international footprint. However, the question remains, is there a way to achieve global communication in a sustainable and smart way?

With the world moving towards a more sustainable approach, there is an increasing number of industries that have embraced a greener approach to their daily operations. Technology and IOT is not an industry exempt from this, with some conglomerates pivoting their daily operations to promote safeguarding the Earth’s biosphere while encouraging human civilisation. Sustainability is not just environmentalism and considers both social and economic factors.

Global IOT communication service provider Sigfox, founded in 2010, is a 0G network pioneer that offers a unique combination of low cost and low power technologies supported by a global network, owned and operated by 75 independent and exclusive local operators. The discovery of the network was premised on connecting physical objects with the lowest possible power consumption, over long ranges using a highly frugal network architecture that transmits small data packets.

Doing more with less!

Glen Robinson, Chief Revenue Officer at Sigfox, explained: The objective has always been to reduce waste, reduce loss and increase utilisation of re-usable assets as well as monitoring, management and billing of water, gas and electric utilities. “We are focused on delivering IOT solutions with the lowest total cost and environmental impact. Basically, proving that when it comes to IOT, less is more, and the planet will thank us too.”

The network enables businesses to gain visibility and track their assets worldwide, allowing large-scale businesses such as utility companies, manufacturing, supply chains, smart facilities and logistics service providers to deploy massive IOT solutions in a fast, cost-effective and highly scalable way, from tracking of shipping containers and monitoring fire hydrants, to securing buildings and helping farmers monitor irrigation levels.

The barriers to entry into massive adoption of IOT are still not sufficiently understood especially when it comes to connecting billions of unpowered, abandoned and widely distributed assets.

“Most wireless technologies are designed for high data volumes and high-speed throughput. This means more power consumption, more electronic componentry and more batteries in the environment. Through our frugal architecture, there is no pairing needed and no IT servicing or re-charging of the device for the lifetime of the asset. This is why 0G is mandatory for IOT to scale to its full economic and environmental potential,” added Robinson.

Let’s talk local – South Africa and sustainable IOT, how is it going?

Dharmesh Goshalia, Director for Africa, said: “South Africa’s adoption of IOT is at different stages of the technology adoption cycle, depending on the use case, for example:

  • Home security and stolen vehicle recovery has moved beyond the early adopters and is now a mainstream solution. They say necessity is the father of invention and unfortunately security is a key driver in this region. South Africa will continue to lead the world in the adoption of IOT to prevent crime. The simplicity, long range, low power nature of Sigfox technology enables the tracking and recovery of stolen assets, starting with home/commercial alarms and vehicle recovery, then moving to product shipment and eventually tracking at an asset level, for example, bicycles and scooters. In South Africa, multiple security companies continue to adopt this approach because of the anti-jamming characteristics of Sigfox connectivity. The architecture is asynchronous, meaning the device does not need to synchronise with the network in order to transmit messages. This makes the battery consumption low and predictable, making it a perfect solution for security use cases.
  • The insurance vertical in South Africa is world leading with companies like Discovery constantly innovating. The insurance industry relies heavily on data, and IOT is another rich source of data for this industry.
  • Gas and water utilitiesCurrently, multiple utility metering solutions monitoring water and gas supplies have already been deployed in South Africa and abroad, with this only expected to expand across the continent in the next five to 10 years, for both consumers and suppliers alike.
  • Asset tracking across postal, logistics and supply chains is seeing strong uptake in highly industrialised economies like Japan and Germany. The adoption in South Africa is still in the early adopter phase, with this projected to become a mainstream solution in the next decade.
  • South Africa is also proving very innovative in cold chain monitoring where pharmaceutical and foods cold chain monitoring is set to save this industry millions in lost product. This is still in the early adoption phase, but this area will grow significantly in the years to come.
  • Another area that continues to impress and excite is the number of start-up businesses emerging from IOT. For example: PoolSense @ ProAutomation monitors PH balance, chemical levels and temperature of your swimming pool, all managed from your smartphone.

A green tick for sustainable IOT

With more than 19 million devices and 75 million messages sent a day, the Sigfox network helps its customers to extract crucial data at the lowest cost of production and to accelerate their digital transformation in key areas such as asset tracking, supply chain and monitoring. The company is a dedicated LWAN service provider already deployed in 75 countries, covering more than 1.3 billion people and six million km2.

“South Africa is a key focus for us with the African continent having massive potential for IOT deployment, making life easier, creating employment and upskilling the next generation. We are working with CIVH and other partners on an initiative that will secure the sustainability and longevity of the network in SA as well as accelerate the adoption of IOT solutions in this region. It’s safe to say that Sigfox is here to stay and leading the market with its economically and environmentally sustainable approach to IOT,” concluded Robinson.