Where is South Africa’s industrial internet of things innovation?

South Africa is home to a variety IIoT initiatives, but some enterprises have difficulty making a business case for the technology.

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A growing number of inventive startups has fed expectations that South Africa can be a hub for innovation in the industrial internet of things (IIoT). And while there has been progress and examples of the deployment of IIoT-related technology in the industrial sector in the country, there are roadblocks to more rapid growth, typically involving difficulty in making the business case for implementing new applications.

IIoT is a subset of IoT that includes connecting devices and machinery in industrial sectors to monitoring, control and data analysis systems. It involves the merger of enterprise IT with  operational technology, or OT – the instrumentation of physical devices and processes.

In South Africa, 2019 was to be the year that home-grown startups would lead innovation in the sector, according to Frost & Sullivan's 2019 ICT trends for South Africa. Whether the actual number of IIoT deployments has lived up to expectations may be debatable, but there appears to be broad interest in field. Evidence for this could be seen by the turnout at the MTN IoT awards in October, according to Jeremy Potgieter, SADC (Southern African Development Community ) regional head at Eseye, which offers highly managed global IoT cellular services.

IIoT applications target different sectors

At the awards, the Discovery Vitality Drive Sensor, a telematics solution that collects data about drivers’ behaviour for insurance and safety purposes, won best commercial IoT solution, while Exxaro’s earlyROM Mining Production System took home the honours for most disruptive IoT solution. Overall winner, Informed Decisions offers applications such as SmartDraught for the beverage industry, ConnectedRestaurant, and appliance offerings that track that products arrive at their destination undamaged.

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