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Automation, analysis and AI fuel demand for IOT platforms in SA

Vendors, service providers, solution providers urged to back IOT, with call by member of IOT Industry Council for better information.

COVID-19 has pushed South African business in an entirely new direction, towards IOT, AI and machine learning – and has accelerated digital transformation. The shift has created an increased focus on IOT projects that lead to improved efficiencies, cost reduction and ROI.

This is according to Jeremy Potgieter, executive member of the IOT Industry Council of South Africa (IOTIC), who adds that there is a clear need for this technology and particularly within the manufacturing industry.

Potgieter says: “There is a clear change in digital direction taking place and this is seeing an acceleration in IOT projects, as well as a commitment to ensuring that these projects achieve their full potential. However, the local IOT manufacturer landscape is largely non-existent which has resulted in a huge dependency on imports and parts. There are a few outliers in this field that has, thanks to international funding, broken some ground, but not to the extent of making a notable impact.”

He believes the private and public sectors need to make more of an effort to drive local production of components, parts and solutions.

Potgieter adds, “Why? Because legacy systems are starting to reach their end of life means the move to digital is inevitable and, for those paying attention, profitable. As enterprises continue to centre automation, AI and service optimisation to increase revenue and diversify market opportunities, they need IOT platforms and services that will make them, and their customers’ lives easier. This means that the time for locals to become lekker is right now.”

E-commerce and smartphone drivers

Potgieter says there are several market factors influencing this. “E-commerce platforms are rapidly increasing due to the ease of shopping and growing smartphone penetration in the market and this is going to have a knock-on impact on the IOT market. There is a growing need for data analysis and the integration of analytics as well, both set to drive the use of IOT in the country and business potential.”

He says South Africa’s unique challenges and “complex situation” is encouraging innovation and represents “the perfect breeding ground for new and exciting home-grown IOT solutions.”

The challenge is to overcome some of the misconceptions that are impacting IOT development and innovation.

“We believe that this is the right time to release a definitive handbook of best practices and standards as this will overcome misconceptions around what defines IOT success and drive greater adoption,” says Potgieter. “We believe that vendors, solution providers, service providers and the market as a whole needs to come together to drive IOT adoption across multiple disciplines and to do so we need education and better information.”

Local manufacturing and sourcing could also be immensely beneficial in terms of managing local availability and service delivery in the face of global shortages across silicon and hardware components says Potgieter.

With a thriving South African manufacturing sector in place, the country could not only support local solution development and bypass reliance on international supply chains but improve job creation, time to market and economic growth, he continues.

“It is the right time – Southern Africa’s computing devices market recorded a 20,1% year-on-year growth in the second half of 2021 according to IDC, and there has been a recovery in the mining and manufacturing sectors across the continent. The iron, as the saying goes, is hot and now is the perfect time to strike. We need to drive local innovation through improved finance options, to focus on building IOT solutions that are highly relevant in the local space, and to support manufacturers as the IOT market finally opens up on the continent.”

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