Monday, July 25, 2016

Internet Of Things (IoT) use in Ghana

In the recent beautiful Ghana Weekly Tech Roundup sent recently by +Claude Ayitey, he added that the WAZIUP Internet of Things Project Launches In Accra+iSpace Foundation is part of a number of organizations working on this cool WAZIUP "Internet of Things (IoT)" project, centered around agriculture. He also added that Vodafone M2M Is Now Vodafone Internet of Things, but you know of that because I blogged about that already. So I started wondering, how are Ghanaian organizations using IoT? Yes, we are. #Morevim to us!

Photo by Kwamena Bolton
I've known about Herman Chinery-Hesse, the Bill Gates of Africa, for a long time. I love how he and his team at SoftTribe, arguably the largest software development company in Ghana, focuses on developing tropically tolerant solutions for this environment. Kwamena Bolton, the technical director of SoftTribe said that they have over the last few years been focusing some research and development on UAV / Drone technology. Kwamena said: "We are developing both fixed wing and multi-rotor aircraft for different applications. Our fixed wing models will have long range capabilities of between 100-200km, with flight times of 2-3 hours and can be programmed to fly and land autonomously anywhere within that range". Imagine the possibilities for a moment. He continued, "The aircraft can be used for multiple purposes, whether it be carrying a payload to a destination or performing long range surveillance missions.  For example, marine patrol, border patrol, illegal forestry and mining surveillance over inaccessible areas, oil and gas pipeline inspection, electricity line inspection, etc". You should watch some videos of these possibilities via Kwamena's Instagram.

That brings us to AeroShutter! I started seeing their stuff on Twitter and when +Nana Fynn Class-Peters shared some media with the +GhanaThink Foundation crew. They've been taking really awesome pictures of places like Takoradi, Middle Class Housing in Accra, Zaina Lodge, Elmina (my hometown), Adomi Bridge, Stone Lodge, Our famous DC 10 Airplane, Rattray Park (Day) &(Night) in Kumasi, Sogakope, Nzulezu, Dumsor spotting in Accra, Tema Harbour, Ashesi, etc, with drones. I've seen these drones in action at various events too - it was used to shoot some of the famous SkinTight (#MusicWeDeyFeel) video too at Zaina Lodge! I also understand that even the TV stations (including one of my faves, TV3) are using drones.

The Kofi Annan Center of Excellence for ICT is one of the major proponents of the tech ecosystem in Ghana. With an eye on trends, their annual Innovation Week -iWeek (September 12-16) would focus on IoT. They'll have a number of organisations implementing IoT including drones. There was also the 2nd Technology Salon which focused on this topic - themed "How Can Drones Accelerate Ghana's Development?" Hosted at PenPlusBytes, this was attended by Kwamena Bolton and Kwamena Hazel as well. Here's a cool publication about Drones for Development inspired by the event. Watch this video from the event. 

Ecoband is an ISP I'm starting to like more and more. At Ecoband, they use ioT to monitor all electrical inputs from ECG, power banks and generators. They also use it to monitor temperature of all outdoor cabinets and motion detection for the enclosures. Claude also brought my attention to Trackhab. It is labeled as Ghana’s first indigenous Internet-of-Things company, and it provides asset tracking and monitoring devices which enable vehicle owners, and owners of other assets to have an overview of their asset’s location and condition at anytime. They have a wide-range of IoT devices too! TrackHab was incubated by SMSGH and it is doing some business with MTN. Everywhere you go things, I believe. Read more via Gharage.

Gharage, which I hope becomes Ghana's premier tech news site, reported that the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority hinted it would regulate drone use. #Somewaybi. But anyway, actually, as you can see, there is a lot brewing in the IoT space in Ghana. Stay tuned for more. :-)

Friday, July 8, 2016

Strengthening networks for an internet of things economy

Thanks to technology services, there is a lot of data about users and uses cases, which allow organizations to be smarter and technology to work even better. In addition to this value in data explosion, there is enormous growth in intelligent use of the data. Platforms must orchestrate the data in hand to deliver value. They have to help users shift out the requisite information out of the chaff they see. The attention span of users and subscribers for that matter is very minimal, and so they
need to be served with relevant information and data they need quickly and conveniently.

We celebrate our mobile phone penetration in Ghana (35 million subscriptions for a nation of 25 million people), We have multiple devices connecting us for communication, but there is a wide range of other connected devices. By 2025, there would be 9 billion connected devices. Ghanaians must be part and parcel of those numbers with a lot of IOT use.  There has been very small uptake with mobile application use in Ghana, due to lack of trust in technology, failed use cases and stories and access and affordability of internet data. IOT services need a smarter and tech loving population to thrive.

Vodafone's bespoke, innovative SIM and SIM chip solutions are designed to address IOT business models and service requirements. At the recent Vodafone Ghana IoT workshop, a representatative spoke about this. Vodafone already enables connections for millions of users and devices today in Ghana, its business solutions would add the ability to manage these connections as added value.
This single SIM can be used worldwide, amongst the countries that Vodafone operates in. Vodafone owns and operates networks in 26 countries and has partner networks in over 50 additional countries. It has more than 500 million connections (second globally behind China Mobile). For companies doing business in the West Africa sub-region, it's critical to be able to move data and communicate effectively across. This is also true for connecting devices and being able to seamlessly move information briskly and efficiently. 

— Vodafone Ghana (@VodafoneGhana) June 27, 2016
And a pretty bold statement at the end too right? As SIM cards become cheaper in many markets, they also need to be pre-provisioned and ready to use. Vodafone Ghana has addressed that. With their Machine to Machine solutions, business assets are connected to the internet. There are a whole wide range of uses cases for the Ghanaian market and beyond on the Vodafone website - aptly named Machine to Machine :-) Below is an intro video about Vodafone M2M.

Understanding & making use of the Internet Of Things revolution

Photo from
The internet of things (IoT) is the network of physical devices, vehicles and buildings and other items embedded with electronics, software, network connectivity, etc - that enable these objects to collect and exchange data. That's what Wikipedia says. With IoT, internet connectivity is extended beyond computers, tablets and phones to a whole wide of range of devices and use cases that will really blow your mind. The 4th Industrial Revolution is here! That means we need great #internet4all as well.

Various companies around the world use Internet Of Things to manage fleet while monitoring mileage and even engine health. IoT is useful in monitoring parking spaces availability in city congested areas. Even Diageo is joining fun whereby messages are sent out when a Johnny Walker bottle is opened! IoT can also be used in payment processing based in location or activity duration for public transport, gyms, theme parks, etc.

It can be also used to monitor the quality of tap water in cities and for monitoring of water level variations in rivers, dams and reservoirs. This sounds like something Accra really needs. Maybe the next AMA supported hackathon should focus on this? The Trotro Data Throwdown was cool though! Zoomlion would find the ability to detect rubbish levels in containers to optimize the trash collection routes very useful. E-Commerce is starting to thrive a bit in Ghana. IoT can enhance that by getting intel through point of sale with info on customer habits, preferences, etc. Remember iCow? Well, various companies in Ghana like Farmable are using technology in the agricultural sector to monitor cows, etc.

Have you heard of a Fitbit? That's IoT in action. Some friends of mine have been wearing it. It challenges to walk more, sometimes doing as much as 5000 steps in one day. I walk a lot anyway, so I don't really need a Fitbit (yet). I've seen a lot of Samsung made watches and Apple watches used similarly but these devices are able to do much more - phone calls, act as calendars, used for playing music, etc!

See the cow? Photo from Ogilvy
After too many run-ins with the Electricity Corporation of Ghana over dumsor issues and ECG payment wahalas, a smart meter has been fixed in my home. Here's IoT at work again. Smart meters are able to read how much energy you use (for instance) and communicate that to a central system. That's lovely. Because when I go to ECG now, they can give me better information on how much energy I used and how much I should pay, etc. You're surprised this wasn't the case 2.33 years ago? That's some of what we are dealing with in Ghana.

The possibilities for IoT are endless though. Imagine we have smart cars and a smart city transport system all communicating? We will get better traffic flow optimization, where traffic lights can pick up changes in traffic flow and different conditions. Drivers will get to know about traffic and street conditions, and we can have better mobility. I know Dumsor is back but if our electricity system is working like it should, this is possible!

At the heart of making IoT work, is network connectivity. There is no organization better placed to support this effectively in Ghana like Vodafone Ghana. They have the broadband connections, they have a wide network and millions of subscribers and even more SIM cards in the system. They don't say "Power to You", they're also a fan brand. Check out Vodafone's M2M website to learn more about their IoT solutions.

Vodafone Ghana champions Internet of Things with expert workshop

Many telecommunication companies around the world have been at the forefront of scaling innovation. Thanks to their huge subscription bases and financial muscle, they are also some of the best organizations to drive this. Due of user churn amongst other reasons, these telcos spend a lot of money on marketing as well. As companies that adopt technology and in many ways stay on top of trends, they also promote a lot of innovation in their marketplace. Vodafone Ghana is priming to continue this in Ghana and be a market leader.  It is in this light, that they are promoting the internet of things (IoT).

Vodafone Ghana organized a workshop recently at the Labadi Beach Hotel on June 27, 2016 to educate Ghanaians more on IoT. In attendance were many Ghanaian content and web developers.
What is IoT? It is seen as an amalgation of IT & OT. IT is about people talking to people, while OT is about machines talking to machines.  IoT is about machines and objects talking to machines and objects talking to people.

IOT is transforming the way organizations work. Matt Hatton, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Machina Research spoke about opportunities coming into the Ghanaian market for organizations here. He also shared some success stories.
With better use of technology and instituting more IoT into business, organizations can save millions of dollars. Don't take it from me, take it from the expert himself, Matt Hatton.

According to data from a Vodafone M2M Barometer survey in 2015, 64% of respondents (organizations) said they expect to have an IOT solution in place within 2 years. 59% of the respondents (organizations) using IOT said they are seeing significant return on investments (ROI). Many times, organizations are concerned with finding more money to invest in what they are doing for greater returns.

There are various Ghanaian companies starting to use IoT, including some startups. A group of them are working under the WAZI-UP IoT project. This workshop is the surest sign that Vodafone Ghana is willing to champion IoT in Ghana. When Vodafone Ghana supported our Tech Camp West Africa in 2015, Angela Mensah Bonsu, Head of Vodafone Business Solutions, gave a great presentation showcasing Vodafone Ghana's drive to showcase and implement innovation in our business ecosystem. At this IoT workshop, she said, "IoT is cementing Vodafone’s offering in Ghana exceeding its deliverables across varied and multiple sectors in Ghana". We need technology everywhere, indeed. Let's all deliver technology and trends for development in Ghana together. 

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