How IoT services are changing lives across Africa

The Internet of Things (IoT)-related technologies are currently booming at an unprecedented pace in Africa. There are hundreds of thousands of new ideas on how businesses can benefit from the IoT concept, and this list is expanding every single day.

The last seven years have seen a rise in activities geared towards IoT across the globe among technology practitioners, private businesses and education institutions.

Back in 2013, it was estimated that there were about 80 things being connected to the internet per second, and by 2020 it is estimated that about 250 things will be connected to the internet per second, that’s´ about 50 billion things in total all connected the internet.

With this massive number of interconnected things, businesses all over the world are positioning themselves to tap into the huge potential that IoT brings.

The African region has been markedly slower in embracing the IoT concept compared to most developed nations, but Africa is now increasing it level of intake of IoT. Businesses in countries all over Africa are now using IoT applications to improve their business environment and to improve the lives of the citizens.

IoT adoption in Africa is now an area of great interest. Below are great examples of how IoT has helped businesses and revolutionize peoples´ lives in 6 countries in Africa: Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt, and Namibia.

1. Preventing Oil Pilferage in Tanzania

Usangu Logistics is a heavy transport company with a fleet of over 100 trucks and tankers dedicated to serving thousands of customers in Tanzania with oil, lubricants, and other bulky products.

One immediate challenge that the company faced was that after a tanker is loaded with the product for transport to various locations, the drivers would often pilferage the oil along the way, and would later sell the stolen oil in the black market.

The company’s trucks and tankers used a combination of a lock system intertwined with a metal loop that is fitted around the closing mechanism of the tank’s hatch. However, the system could not prevent the driver in possession of the lock’s combination from opening the hatch.

The company could not completely control the drivers and did not know when, where, and how much oil has been stolen along the way. This resulted to a big loss for the company, and it prompted an immediate solution that would solve the problem.

The IoT Solution – RFID

The immediate solution came in the form of an IoT application though the use of radio frequency identification (RFID). An IoT-enabled gateway device is attached to the truck’s cabin area, and the seals are tagged with RFID-enabled tags which are fastened to the tracks´ hatch.

The tag transmits signals to the gateway device every eight seconds, and the signal is sent to HQ or main office for interpretation and further action.

The software will store the seal status and location of the trucks, so the truck and seal information can be monitored in real-time. Any attempt to open the hatch is recorded, and the culprit can immediately be known.

The implementation of this IoT-enabled solution resulted to a very severe drop in cases of pilfering of the oil that the trucks and tankers were carrying.

2. Electronic Tolling System in South Africa

IoT began in South Africa over a decade ago, and has been shaping the country for the last ten years even without many people noticing it. South Africa has been building IoT technology for many years, including the building of a nationwide network of sensors to connect everything from electricity grids to traffic controls.

E-toll System in Gauteng Highway

At the beginning of 2012, the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) introduced an IoT-based E-tolling system in Gauteng Highway. The E-toll system called the Open Road Tolling is meant to collect tolls electronically without human intervention since there are no physical booths on the highway.

The IoT system charges all vehicles using the highway without them slowing down or stopping. Simple overhead gantries are fitted with toll collection devices which have the capability to recognize an electronic tag attached to the vehicles as it passes through the gantries. The vehicle owners are supposed to purchase the IoT-based electronic tags and fit it in their vehicles, and the tags can also be loaded whenever the credit gets to zero.

With this IoT-based technology, traffic jams have been reduced dramatically. The IoT-based tags can be easily purchased or reloaded at stores around the country.

3. Waste Management Systems in Kenya

Nairobi County in Kenya have been grappling with waste management issues for a long time. In order to tackle this problem, Nairobi officials approached IBM to develop an IoT- based application for waste management.

Basically, the idea is to develop a solution that can be installed in the waste collection fleet to monitor them in real-time. The IoT application is also meant to create a digital map of the Nairobi streets.

IoT-Based Smart Sensors for Waste Management

The IoT-based solution called for the fleet of waste collection trucks to be installed with smart sensors that would tell when the vehicles are in the garage or on the road. The IoT-based sensors can also check dumpsites to see if they are full and need to be drained, checks how long the waste collection truck has taken in traffic, and the time they take to collect garbage.

The IoT application is also expected to automatically monitor the driver’s behavior, detect speed bumps and potholes, and check fuel usage by the driver. The IoT-based initiative has enabled Nairobi County to track the garbage fleet and ensure that the trucks are doing their job at the allotted time.

The smart sensors allowed Nairobi County to see great improvements during the trial period as collected waste volumes tremendously increased.

4. Product Verification Initiative in Nigeria

Faced with a perennial drug counterfeiting problem, Nigerias´ National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in 2010 resorted to the IoT-based product verification initiative to curb drug counterfeiting by using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).

The IoT-based technology was carried out in collaboration with Verification Technology Limited (VTL). The IoT solution used tags equipped with RFID to secure the integrity of the drugs throughout the supply chain, starting from the manufacturers, to the distributors, wholesalers, retailers, and consumers.

RFID Tags to Prevent Counterfeit Drugs

The RFID tags are expected to track down the drug’s path as it moves across the supply chain. In order to verify the drug’s authenticity, special RFID scanners will be placed at the port of entry. It is also expected that RFID scanners will be purchased by hospitals, pharmacists, and manufacturers in order to have a collective effort in dealing with the problem of drug counterfeiting in Nigeria.

5. Remote Appliance Control in Egypt

Egypt has shown that IoT solutions can be used to solve societal problems through innovation. A Cairo -based technology firm called Integreight announced that it has developed an IoT chip that can be integrated with modern appliances like refrigerators, cameras, TVs, washing machines, etc. This IoT-based application named 1sheeld gives users the capability to use their appliances remotely by simply connecting the chip to their smartphones.

Remote Control through 1sheeld

The 1sheeld technology uses an Arduiono board, and the 1sheeld application can then be accessed from a smartphone by using Bluetooth. Using the 1shield library, codes can be written into the Arduiono software application before uploading it to the board.

This allows the control of many different sensors that are available in the board. There are other IoT-based proposals underway in Egypt, including using sensors to undertake precision potato farming and bee keeping.

6. Electronic Dispensing Tools (EDT) in Namibia

The small South Western African nation is not to be left behind in the field of IoT. In order to improve the effectiveness of antiretroviral drugs, Namibia implemented an IoT-based electronic dispensing tool. Pharmacists must dispense the correct medicine in correct amounts to patients, and if a patient misses medication or is given too much, it becomes a very big health problem.

Pharmacists require at least some minimal information about the patients’ medical history, and this is extremely necessary if the patient needs optimized care, and for the pharmaceutical providers to effectively manage their medicine inventory.

EDT for Accurate Dispensing of Medicine

Electronic Dispensing Tools help pharmaceutical providers to collect, manage, and generate the necessary records that are useful for accurate dispensation of medicine. The data collected includes the patients’ profiles and the medicine inventory.

The IoT-based devices can also manage the inventory and logistics of the medicine, alert patients of upcoming appointments using SMS, allow users to work on the same database at the same time, and allows for customized medical reporting functions.

To learn more about the IoT Progress Report for Africa, you can read the very comprehensive paperby Nashon Onyalo, Hosea Kandie, and Josiah Njuki, which was published in the International Journal of Computer Science and Software Engineering (IJCSSE).

In Africa, almost all the countries have developing economies, and they will benefit the most in adopting applications developed with IoT platforms.

IoT will change peoples´ lives and improve processes, services, and ways of life. IoT is a cutting-edge technology that is best suited to developing markets, bringing with it flexible connectivity for devices across the entire African region.

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