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OpenLabs, Huawei's key to unlocking IoT value

OpenLabs, Huawei's key to unlocking IoT value

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a reality for businesses in Africa, and the overall market expectation is more widespread solution development and adoption across the continent.

It is a trend that multinational ICT solutions providers are eager to take advantage of, and some, including Huawei, have been aggressive in voicing strategies to engage the South African and African markets.

In November 2016 Huawei used its participation at AfricCom to reinforce its technical offering, with emphasis on the OceanConnect IoT platform and partner ecosystem, as well as its alliance with MTN to launch Narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) solutions.

Huawei has also revealed that its LTE-based NB-IoT technology will also be made available to other telecom operators for the delivery of ubiquitous, cellular IoT.

More recently, the Chinese firm participated at CeBIT 2017 in Hannover, Germany and again used the opportunity to highlight its advances in IoT application within the Smart City context, whilst emphasising the role IoT plays in facilitating centralised, realtime data communication and automation.

The company announced the launch of 15 new OpenLabs as part of a three-year investment plan, one of which will be established in Johannesburg on 20 April and will be used to manage, among other local technology adoption, the rollout of IoT solutions.

The firm plans to ally with SAP and Oracle on power IoT solutions.

Dave Holescher, marketing director for IoT solutions at Huawei, says the message to the South African market is that IoT has moved from being mere discussion and is happening right now.

"Using narrowband networks to connect to a lot of hard-to-reach devices is, I think, a really important trend," says Holescher.

He cites the use of IoT applications by General Electrics in its engines, as well as the use of this technology for predictive maintenance, and application in key verticals including aviation, government and manufacture, as examples of South Africa's readiness (and that of the rest of the continent) for the next phase of development within IoT technology.

Currently, the company is leading several projects on the continent, including in Nigeria, where the company is busy with its advanced metering infrastructure solution to facilitate prime of use billing.

Holescher is excited and very optimistic about the level of IoT technology adoption and application in Africa.

"I think especially South Africa, represents the whole African market... very similar to the US, where we see things happening in Silicon Valley, we know that if it's bleeding edge, it's going to happen in California first and then you know that, hundred percent, it's going to happen in the US as a whole, over time. South Africa really has that kind of role on the African continent," he continues.

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