By Deon Liebenberg, Managing Executive: Internet of Things, Vodacom
The world is changing at warp speed – we live in an age of intelligent machines that are in constant communication with the world around us. We’re in the midst of a digital revolution. The decade-long journey of building the internet of people is now behind us, and we’ve now set our sights on the connected future of the Internet of Things (IoT) and, ultimately, the Internet of Everything.
IoT, which was coined in the 1990s, has been around for decades. Only in more recent times did it become a familiar household term, as we came to the realisation that internet technology had far more potential than we had ever imagined. It held the key to our next smart evolution.
Let’s go back a decade or two, to a time when we as a country began to emerge from the slow adoption stages of IoT. Although IoT devices were around, the phrase would not have been the talk of the town, and chances are that the eminent take-over by Skynet - the fictional artificial intelligence antagonist that features in the Terminator franchise - was still fresh in people’s minds.
It wasn’t a case of us failing to recognise the benefits of IoT, but rather a question of how we were going to support its introduction. The biggest of our woes was undeniably the issue of connectivity, and the geographical reach (or the lack thereof) of some of our traditional networks. The future success of IoT relied heavily on our mobile network coverage and infrastructure. To address this issue, Vodacom recently introduced NarrowBand IoT (NB-IoT) – a solution that would see connectivity without limitations.
The introduction of NB-IoT means reliable coverage over large areas, even when devices are in deep, previously impenetrable areas, such as underground locations, or confined buildings. Not only that, but NB-IoT offers enhanced power efficiency, resulting in sensor-embedded devices running on batteries for 10 years or more, without recharging.
Fast forward to where the world is today, as the IoT revolution continues to gain momentum, and we have a Vodacom network of over 3.3 million connected things. We will continue to see the acceleration of adoption rates thanks to NB-IoT.
The opportunities made available through IoT are endless, for example; as a society, we’ve been tasked with becoming more energy efficient and reducing our carbon emissions. Using IoT, Vodacom has introduced the Energy Data Management solution: a system that can monitor our energy usage in real-time, verify billing accuracy and even gain insight to adapt consumption, resulting in energy savings across single or multiple locations. The integration of sensor technology into objects such as electricity meters, waste bins, traffic lights and street lights is steering our society towards a smarter way of living.
The beauty of the IoT journey is that it has only just begun. We are yet to push the boundaries of our digital transformation, as we continue to connect things that gather real-time data from objects – opening a gateway for us to analyse and manage our lives in a predictive, productive and proactive way.
The future of the Internet of Things will go beyond connecting things. Just think of getting into your smart car in the morning, as you prepare to go into the office and, instead of a notification for your next service, your car takes it upon itself to access your calendar and suggest an appointment date that slots perfectly into an opening you have in your diary. Your drive to work has become a breeze, thanks to smart traffic lights that alert you to traffic congestion on your route.
Gone are the days of coming home to a fridge that’s running low on milk and eggs. Instead, your smart refrigerator sends you a notification before you leave the office, suggesting that you make a pit stop at the grocery store around the corner, or alternatively pre-ordering for home delivery on your behalf. Best of all, you won’t have to comfort a grumpy cat because of yet another forgotten empty food bowl. Thanks to IoT, you’ll receive an SMS to let you know that your pet’s food needs replenishing.
IoT will create a connected ecosystem that addresses social challenges and improves our quality of life. The future of IoT is smart, connected and undeniably exciting.