South Africa’s SqwidNet is fast-tracking the deployment of its open-access Internet of Things (IoT) network infrastructure to enable developers to provide intelligent solutions to solve problems faced by their clients.
SqwidNet’s IoT network has been deployed across all of South Africa’s eight major metros and cover more than 49% of the population, and expected to exceed 85% population coverage by the end of the year. For more read: SqwidNet’s IoT Network Goes Nationwide, Now Covers All South African Cities
Working with partners to deliver IoT Solutions
Brace yourself, IoT solutions are coming to the country, thanks to SqwidNet’s infrastructure.
Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), also known as the Industrial Internet, brings together brilliant machines, advanced analytics, and people at work. It’s the network of a multitude of devices connected by communications technologies that results in systems that can monitor, collect, exchange, analyze, and deliver valuable new insights like never before.
Speaking at the company’s headquarters this week, SqwidNet CEO Reshaad Sha told Techfinancials in an interview that the provider has been focusing on building its IoT network in the past six months and ensuring it has a large footprint to start attracting customers on its infrastructure.
The Centurion-based firm is working with channel partners to bring solutions to the market and connect them to its ultra-narrowband open-access IoT radio network.
“We are working with few large system integrators and have signed them as channel partners,” says Sha. “Also, some small and medium businesses that are either device makers or solutions providers, who operate in specific niches.”
He said: “There is somebody who is a vehicle tracking device maker that we are working with closely who will release (IoT) product to the market soon. We are also working with a couple of utility guys, who will be releasing water meters that will be going to the market very soon. Some of them were already in the market.”
The low cost and security provided by SqwidNet’s IoT network means it is a seamless backup service for primary and secondary devices used by companies such vehicle tracking firms and is resistant to jamming technologies used for tracking cars and trucks.
The provider is relying on the Sigfox ecosystem for sourcing IoT devices.
Sigfox has a vast network of IoT device makers that develops all sorts of devices that can be used on its network, from relatively simple sensor-based products to more complex solutions.
To exemplify, Flashnet provides a smart street lighting control solution with in-depth grid management, that reduces energy loss and offers advanced maintenance optimization tools.
“It’s a massive catalogue of partners. So, all the Sigfox partners are automatically our partners and we can leverage them and bring solutions from them or introduce them to our local partners,” Sha told Techfinancials.
What’s exciting also is that SqwidNet’s IoT network is very low cost providing connectivity services from as little as R6/device per year and up to R112/device per year. Furthermore, an IoT device enablement for a device maker could cost as much as $1.80 through Sigfox.
Sha said that SqwidNet is not a solutions provider in an IoT space.
“We are an enabling platform for IoT solutions providers and we work with them. We do build prototypes for some of our customers, but just to help them get off the ground to solve real problems,” he said.
Sigfox has also developed with a partner a Sens’it IoT device full of sensors, which enables users through SqwidNet’s IoT network to measure things such as temperature, sound, movement an accelerometer and monitor if/when a door opens and lights if are still on, etc.
Space to provide IoT connectivity is heating up in South Africa
The SqwidNet’s IoT network is being built on technology developed by France’s Sigfox, which is a mobile style system that is able to listen to billions of objects broadcasting data, without the need to establish and maintain network connections.
However, SqwidNet is not the only operator building IoT network in South Africa.
Comsol IoT is building IoT network in South Africa using LoRa Wide Area Network (LoRaWAN) technology, which has already been deployed nationally in countries such as The Netherlands, South Korea and Japan.
While under exclusive licence from global innovations company Ingenu, Vula Telematix is rolling out the Machine Network SA, the country’s first public wireless telecommunications network dedicated to machine-to-machine communications.
But SqwidNet is unique as compared to both Comsol IoT and Vula Telematix as it provides an open-access connectivity to its network and using a technology that has been deployed by Sigfox to more than 32 countries.
Asked whether SqwidNet was keen to work with the mobile phone operators, Sha said the IoT connectivity provider was in various talks with the telcos.
“(Mobile phone operators) see us as complementary to their NB-IoT and LTE,” he added.
Vodacom and MTN in partnership with Huawei are deploying NB-IoT (Narrowband-IoT).
NB-IoT is a new technology that will extend the utilisation of IoT by making it more efficient to connect objects requiring a long battery life and are in hard to reach areas to the Internet by ways of mobile connectivity. This Low Power Wide Area technology will connect more objects to the Internet of Things.
Clearly, the competition to provide IoT connectivity and solutions is heating up in South Africa.