Picture a smart city, connected car, precision farming, etc. Is it possible for any business to extract value out of these solutions? Or is it very tricky to monetize Internet of Things (IoT) solutions in an emerging market like South Africa?
South Africa’s first IoT network operator Vula Telematix seems to be proving that early investment in any industry may bring benefits.
Companies that invest early in IoT will be able to demonstrate vastly improved efficiency in all areas of operation, Vula Telematix’s CEO, Agnat Max Makgoale, believes so.
“As with all investments in major technological advancements, the benefits of introducing IoT will be incremental. There will obviously be immediate, short-term gains, but the bigger return will be on improved efficiency throughout the business in the long-term,” he tells me last year when I meet him to discuss the growth strategy of Vula Telematix.
“That is where both companies and investors will see the true value of a technology that has almost endless possibilities.”
How has Vula Telematix Pursued Value in IoT space?
Vula Telematix has deep experience and credentials in building successful networks.
Out of the Vula Group, WBS was born as the first dedicated wireless data network in the country which built the network which connected Uthingo, the first National Lottery in South Africa
Vula Telematix is enabling the Internet of Things in South Africa.
Vula Telematix, is a provider of “The Machine Network SA”, the first public telecommunications network in the country exclusively for the machine to machine communications.
The Machine Network operates on a universal spectrum, using patented Random Phase Multiple Access (RPMA) technology and is the proven standard for connecting Internet of Things (IoT).
Vula Telematix is owned by Vula Investments, a company chaired by Mark Headbush – an authority figure in the telecoms space behind the launch of Wireless Business Solutions and iBurst that powered the country’s first lottery network that supported Uthingo National Lottery machines countrywide. Cape Town-based 100% black-owned Unipalm Investment Holdings is also invested in Vula Telematix.
Vula Telematix is a nimble with less bureaucracy and is starting to deliver solutions to the market, which positions it as one of the most exciting IoT firms in South Africa.
Here are few exciting solutions that the company is delivering through its IoT network:
Vula Telematix is connecting the car of the future with digital solutions firm Ansys using Random Phase Multiple Access (RPMA) technology and a Connected Car platform called AiDR (Automotive Intelligent DriveR) to improve the way machines to machine (M2M) communications integrates into vehicles.
And there’s a lot of data that can be communicated. AiDR, and other systems like it, can access all of the on-board sensors a vehicle has. From the travelling speed to oil levels readings and who is wearing a seatbelt, all tagged with accurate GPS information. It’s a wealth of information that can be made useable for both drivers and owners alike, improving performance and monitoring of a fleet.
In-vehicle telematics are nothing new, but what separates the new generation from what’s gone before is the ability not just to transmit data, but to receive it as well.
On-board intelligence will not only allow vehicles to warn drivers of unsafe conditions and owners of bad driver behavior, they can be used to automate the process of issuing fines for obvious offences such as speeding or driving without a seatbelt.
Simultaneously such as system would give taxi owners a real-time overview of the state and position of their fleet, but most importantly would incentivise competition within the bounds of the law – since non-enforcement would become the exception rather than the norm.
Vula Telematix is working with various solution developers to establish smart municipalities across the country.
The network provider has already connected Drankenstein Municipality.
Drankenstein is a local municipality located within the Cape Winelands District Municipality, in Paarl, Cape Town.
“Drankenstein is growing full steam ahead and connecting on our IoT network powered by Ingenu,” Makgoale told Techfinancials in an interview last year.
“They (Drankenstein) are doing things such as smart metering for electricity and water,” he said, adding that they are looking at connecting street lights and few other crazy ideas.
Makgoale said the Drankenstein Municipality is an early adopter of IoT solutions.
Vula Telematix is running several projects around the country to deliver precision farming.
The firm says the goal of precision agriculture is to define a system to support whole farm management with the goal of optimising returns on inputs while preserving resources.
“We did an installation this week in Mkuze on a farm, where the farmer wants to put moist sensors and monitor nutrients in the soil. It’s a sugarcane farm,” Makgoale, said in an interview.
Mkuze is a small town in Northern KwaZulu-Natal and located about 350 km from the city of Durban. It is a farming community with concentrated sugar cane crops as well as isolated forest plantations.
Vula Telematix engages Land Bank
Makgoale said Vula Telematix was also exploring growth opportunities into precision farming with the Land Bank.
Land Bank is a specialist agricultural bank guided by a government mandate to provide financial services to the commercial farming sector and to agri-business.
The Land Bank wants to copy the process of buying a car facilitated by banks where a motor vehicle would not be released to the new owner with no insurance. The insurer would also not cover the car until it has a tracker installed by an accredited installer.
“The Land Bank is now looking at it and saying: If we give money to farmers we should also give them tools or recommend tools to them. That will make them more efficient to give us a better chance to get our money back,” said Makgoale.
He added that the tools provided by precision agriculture give farmers an opportunity to be more competitive.
There is no doubt that the Internet of Things is likely to expedite the next industrial transformation and Vula Telematix wants to be at the centre of this revolution.