Africa: New SA IOT services player eager to link up with Africa

Global distributed information networks provider Thingstream, a division within Swiss tech firm Myriad Group, is fresh onto the African IOT services scene, having entered the South African market in early 2018.

The division is really modeled as an MVNO and is comprised of technical expertise sourced from various other silos of the Group. It is assembly of specialist software skill sets that have found application within various technical areas such as footprint firmware for devices, instant messaging and USSD.

Thingstream’s value proposition is to leverage USSD messaging capability and tackle power supply and cost, which it says are the two main barriers to entry into the IOT space.

It does this through the rollout of a global IOT connectivity platform which connects via GSM networks using a unique combination of MQTT and USSD messaging protocols.

The company says it has the resources to offer out-of-the-box coverage in South Africa, with no cross-border roaming charges and a fixed monthly cost.

Neil Hamilton, Thingstream’s VP for business development, said, “While machine-to-machine (M2M) solutions have been in use in some sectors in South Africa for several years, many industries and small- to mid-sized businesses have not been able to harness the potential of IOT due to data costs, complexity, and critically – the battery power required to run the devices.”

“(The) new technology’s simplicity and low power consumption is making it a compelling proposition or where IOT devices might be dispersed across a vast geographic area or situated in inaccessible locations. Because a low-power IOT filed unit might need a new battery only every five years, low-power IOT systems become a feasible option for sectors such as agriculture, forestry, mining and logistics,” he added.

According to Hamilton, the company has attracted interest in the technology from vehicle tracking firms, the manufacturing sector, as well as from supply chain and logistics companies.

Partner network

The company plans to expand into South Africa via its partner network which includes First Technology Group (Pylot division), Digital Twin and Activate Group.

But, Hamilton is aware of the increasing level of maturity of South Africa’s IOT market and competition that exists.

As ITWeb has reported, South Africa’s IOT market features established players like SqwidNet, Comsol, Vox and Vula Telematix.

Hamilton agreed that South Africa’s market has matured, with rapid innovation taken quickly to market with solid use cases (such as smart farming), attention to STEM education and contribution of engineering firms.

At the same time, the company is acutely aware of the opportunity that Africa represents.

Hamilton said the intention is to broaden service delivery to other regions, with Kenya as the first port of call.

“We have a team in Kenya as well, so we naturally looked at that market as kind of maybe the next step … its seems to be where the regional partners are, who have the technical prowess and existing customers, they seem to focus on these two markets, South Africa and Kenya … we were drawn to this market, partly because of enquiries – people were reading about what we are doing and our innovative use of the USSD channel.”

Hamilton highlights that the open standard protocol MQTT is specifically designed for IOT and Thingstream anticipates a significant shift in more companies adopting and leveraging this technology in Africa going forward.

Source: IT Web Africa



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