Africa gears up for IoT transformation
(Left to right) Bas de Vos, IFS Labs; Deepti Dhinakaran, Frost & Sullivan; Fadzai Deda, Frost & Sullivan; Luis Ortega, IFS.

Africa gears up for IoT transformation

A recent global survey by HP Enterprise of 3,000+ IT and business decision makers at the end of 2016, found that the Internet of Things has hit an inflection point in their minds. IoT is moving from good to great. Expectations from IoT are sky-high, and those who have implemented IoT in the right way have found their expectations surpassed. IoT it seems is good for business efficiency, innovation and profitability.

The most common explanation of what is IoT, given by the executives who were surveyed, is that it adds Internet connectivity to everyday objects. Yet Kevin Ashton, the technology pioneer who coined the phrase Internet of Things in 1999, in his new book, Making Sense of IoT, states: If the Internet of Things meant products like home appliances with the word smart added to their names, the Internet of Things would not be interesting.

Bas de Vos, Director of IFS Labs based in Netherlands, explains that it may be cool to connect sensors, devices and assets and generate some analytics. “But until you actually start doing something with your observations you basically have not earned a single pound, single euro or whatever. Only if you are able to actually take your observations and transform that into business optimisation then you start earning your money back.”

Vos distinguishes between executive dashboards presented by competitor products that are not really what he calls actionable intelligence. Actionable intelligence is when the analytics being presented on the dashboard goes a step further and is integrated with the ERP of an organisation. Actionable intelligence gives an indicator of the business impact of a certain action that is indicated based on analytics from the data streams originating from the Internet of Things. Being integrating with the ERP, an organisation is able to evaluate the business impact of executing an alert.

In order to facilitate ease of use and efficiency into actionable intelligence for an organisation, IFS have created its IoT Lobby and Enterprise Operational Intelligence. Luis Ortega, Managing Director MEASA at IFS, distinguishes between the two. “IoT Lobby sits on their transactional system and is more focused on end-users of the ERP. Enterprise Operational Intelligence sits on top of that, on top of your whole organisation and is more oriented to running your end-to-end strategy.”

Since an organisation may have more than one application other than ERP, enterprise operational intelligence sits on top of all the systems, and helps in understanding the implications of the transactional systems and business strategy.

Ortega points out that IFS’ IoT Lobby and Enterprise Operational Intelligence, help end-users to make the most of the Internet of Things, by providing them actionable intelligence that is meant for their level in the organisation. “IoT lobby is specifically for the people that work with that information from a day-to-day basis and that is the operational view. The end-to-end strategy and end-to-end view of your business and the impact of this technology in your business you will see it on the Enterprise Operational Intelligence. One of the main drivers for how we develop our business applications is the information that everyone in the organisation needs at their own level.”

Unlike most enterprise application dashboards, IFS’ Enterprise Operational Intelligence does not just present the information. It offers senior management the choice of implementing actions and managing them at an organisational level.

IFS have segmented its IoT solution stack into four key stages. The first stage is the device, asset and connectivity stage, where IFS will work with partners rather than provide its own products. This is also the Internet of Things stage. The second stage is called discovery where the various big data streams from the Internet of Things are consolidated using the cloud based Microsoft Azure IoT Suite and other ready to use, third-party cloud platforms. The next two stages which includes operations and optimisation, is where the results of the analytics are integrated with IFS tools. The discovery stage and the combined operations and optimisation stages are connected using IFS gateways and IFS controllers.

The IFS gateway is a software application programmed interface that is positioned between the Microsoft Azure IoT Suite platform or any other hosted third-party platform managing the discovery stage, and the IFS application platform managing the operation and optimisation stage. The purpose of the gateway is to ensure that data exchange between the two platforms takes place securely and without customization and without configuration.

“This gateway is really a software component that makes sure the customer should not be concerned with actually getting that observation into the ERP. The end to end stack will be different by industry, but what we are securing with the IFS IoT business connector basically is we have a plug and play at that boundary of the stack,” says Vos.

IFS wraps the stages into a single product designed to manage connected assets and is standardised across all industries. However, the discovery and analytics are stages that can be more industry specific. A key disruption area for connected assets is the transformation from corrective maintenance to predictive maintenance.

In order to facilitate actionable intelligence, IFS has created IoT Lobby and Enterprise Operational Intelligence.


Vendor solutions

Other than IFS, another vendor that has built product extensions to support IoT solutions is Kaspersky. The products include KasperskyOS, Kaspersky Secure Hypervisor, Kaspersky Internet Security for Android via Smartwatch, amongst others. Based on a new, developed entirely in-house microkernel, the Kaspersky Lab solution utilises well-established principles such as Separation Kernel, Reference Monitor, Multiple Independent Levels of Security and Flux Advanced Security Kernel architecture. KasperskyOS was designed with specific industries in mind and solves security issues, and addresses challenges related to secure application development for embedded systems.

“KasperskyOS is not a general-purpose operating system,” says Riaan Badenhorst, General Manager at Kaspersky Lab Africa. “Globally, it is designed for embedded devices and aimed at three key industries: telecommunication, automotive and industrial.” In addition, Kaspersky Lab is also developing deployment packages for the financial industry including secure POS-terminals, thin client, enhancement of critical operations for general-purpose Linux-based systems and endpoints.

KasperskyOS can be used as a base on which to build devices like network routers, IP cameras or IoT controllers. It addresses the needs of the telecom industry, critical infrastructure applications and emerging development of Internet of Things. KasperskyOS is now commercially available to OEMs, ODMs, systems integrators and software developers around the world.

Kaspersky Secure Hypervisor makes it possible to execute applications with strict control over how they communicate with each other. It addresses the needs of telecoms, automotive industry and general security purposes, up to the secure operation of endpoints.

Android continues to be the second most attacked platform after Microsoft Windows. At the same time, the Internet of Things market is rapidly developing, attracting more and more users. This means that security solution vendors need to make it possible for customers to use IoT in combination with their protection solutions. The Kaspersky Internet Security for Android suite, has an option for the user to pair their mobile and android smartwatch to a security application and use it as a control hub. Based on this feature, users get to experience improved performance speed and protection quality for on their Android Wear devices.

“The massive numbers of connected things and the explosion of data generated by connected devices will change the way we do business forever. The journey a company takes to get from Things to Outcomes is becoming the catalyst for digitisation. IoT is not necessarily new to most companies. However, most are collecting and storing the data and may also have the ability to visualise it,” explains Umesh Sita, Manager of Digital Transformation at SAP Africa.

SAP has developed Leonardo to help end-users innovate on their IoT and digital transformation journey. The in-built components include Connected Products to provide visibility into compliance, Connected Assets to track and monitor fixed assets, Connected Fleet to track and monitor moving assets, and Connected People to promote safe practices.

Another vendor that is actively adapting its solutions to secure IoT applications is Fortinet. “To stop IoT threats, organisations need the ability to have complete network visibility. Security solutions can authenticate and classify IoT devices to build a risk profile and assign them to IoT device groups,” explains Perry Hutton, Vice President Africa at Fortinet.

Once the enterprise understands its IoT attack surface, it can segment IoT devices and communication into policy-driven groups. This keeps threats from accessing and moving between groups. IT can apply security policies based on device type and network access requirements. IoT policy groups grant or limit IoT communication based on risk profile and usage requirements. Internal network segments provide layered gateways to inspect traffic and keep unauthorised traffic from reaching mission-critical systems or resources.


Market opportunities

The global IoT survey by Aruba HPE at the end of 2016, found that IoT has the greatest impact on the industrial sector when it is used to monitor and maintain operating infrastructures. “This is no surprise,” says Morten Illum, Vice President EMEA at Aruba, HPE. “For decades, the industrial sector has understood the need for systems, processes and machines to remain interconnected, from modern equipment to legacy technology. Adopters of IoT reported significant increases in business efficiency 83%, innovation 83%, and visibility across the organisation 80%. These points are important for achieving a long-term vision for IoT in this sector.”

Globally, six in ten healthcare organisations are already using IoT, with patient monitors 64% and X-ray imaging devices 41% among the main devices connected to the network. The biggest IoT benefit for healthcare companies comes from using sensors to monitor and maintain medical devices 35%, cite it as the top benefit. On the other hand, at 42%, globally governments are further behind in their adoption of IoT. In fact, over a third of IT decision makers within government bodies claimed their leaders had little or no understanding of IoT, double the global average.

Across Africa, IFS are active in asset intensive industries like oil and gas, manufacturing, and telecom. It is active in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Namibia and South Africa. The differentiation offered by IFS’ connected asset solutions is being leveraged now for utilities and hospitality market segments. “We are working a lot in asset intensive industries in Africa and in countries where we are doing huge investments to modernise or to refurbish the current situation. There are important initiatives in the utility sector to modernise connectivity at the substation level,” says IFS’ Ortega. IFS are also working on a proof-of-concept with a hospitality end-customer in improving its facilities management operation, which is a usually significant cost head.

Across Sub-Saharan Africa, some of the primary IoT use case situations include fleet management, retail, energy, security and surveillance. Deepti Dhinakaran, Senior Research Analyst, Digital Transformation Practice, Frost & Sullivan lists the various applications. IoT solutions are being used in automotive, transport, logistics, market segments for fleet management to optimise routes and delivery schedules, improve vehicle utilisation, for real-time vehicle tracking, monitoring driver behaviour, and reducing fuel costs and emissions. In the retail segment, applications include distribution of mobile prepaid airtime, payment of electricity via mobile money and collection of insurance premiums. In the energy segment, applications include pay-as-you-go energy for off-grid homes using technologies like solar generation and low-energy LED lights.

Perry Hutton, Vice President Africa at Fortinet, indicates that the primary African market segments suitable for IoT solutions include oil and gas, mining, healthcare, agriculture and education.

“Africa is not dissimilar to many markets globally. The challenges we face and the opportunities that are present are common to both the developed and developing nations. The immediate benefits can be realized in industries that do not already have a high penetration of technology,” says SAP Africa’s Sita. For SAP in Africa, key market segments driving demand for IoT solutions are agriculture including crop growth and distribution of farm products, smart city and citizen services, and health and safety during construction.

Kaspersky Lab Africa’s Badenhorst points out, “KasperskyOS has been designed for embedded devices in key industries including automotive and industrial. KasperskyOS was built with security for safety paradigm in mind and this approach is ideal for the modern and future automotive industry, which will consist of connected vehicles.”

KasperskyOS helps automotive and part manufacturers to design connected electronics with secure operating system based on architecture designed to ensure software is executed securely, including non-secure applications. KasperskyOS provides protection in the event of random software errors that helps to maintain specified level of safety. For industrial production, KasperskyOS helps automation vendors to add cybersecurity capabilities to their equipment connected to the Internet.


Fortinet Africa’s Hutton, believes that Platform as a Service, is the way that Africa will move forward, being driven by the IoT opportunity but hampered by the lack of technology skills. “In many cases, African entrepreneurs acknowledge the requirements for systems to enable their businesses and people. Due to the lack of operational skills, more and more businesses and institutions are leaning towards Platform as a service.”  The demand around IoT solutions will drive the development of Paas for application, integration, IoT management, orchestration and business process management. The benefits of this are significant, in terms of having the ability to orchestrate systems dynamically and still have control and measurable information services through Big Data.

Frost & Sullivan’s Deepti, lists another opportunity area that can help accelerate the adoption of IoT solutions across Sub-Saharan Africa. This includes steadily growing data connectivity, especially with mobile communications penetration in Seychelles, Mali, Gabon, Botswana, South Africa, Libya and Tunisia. Fadzai Deda, Best Practices Research Analyst, Digital Transformation at Frost & Sullivan, points out another driver is the overall interest in smart city solutions around traffic management and congestion.

“IoT adoption is driven by the need to do things better. This is when companies and countries realise they must innovate to deliver a better consumer experience and ultimately compete successfully in a global economy,” says SAP Africa’s Sita.

“The main driver of adoption of the IoT platform across Africa is the convenience IoT provides, to both consumers and business professionals,” says Kaspersky Lab Africa’s Badenhorst.


However, the large scale of mass that is Africa and such an opportunity for growth and development, also works against the proliferation of IoT. SAP Africa’s Sita, explains that Africa has countries with varying laws and rules protecting data. This fragmentation is what is working against economies of scale and a single governance model. “The challenge is to build the trust, first in organisations and then in local and national governments, that data generated and transmitted by IoT devices to IoT cloud platforms are done in a secure manner and adhere to the countries legislation.”

On a global level, the proliferation of platforms and frameworks may be useful for innovation but for Africa this lack of standardization is counterproductive. “What Africa needs is adoption of an open standards framework for IoT connectivity between machines, sensor providers, network providers and platform and application solutions,” says Sita.

Moreover, IoT deployment is not possible without adequate bandwidth connecting urban and rural areas and with data transmission in real time. Transmissions must reach into buildings and inside underground mines. “There is no one provider that can do it all, so understanding the role players and the cost-benefit of each technology will provide a sense of security that a reliable communication layer can be adopted,” adds Sita.

Frost & Sullivan’s Fadzai, explains that early adopters with the necessary IT skills tend to implement IoT as siloed, focusing on one aspect of the business. The typical approach is to procure piece technologies from vendors in order to build a complete IoT solution. “Integration of these technologies may not be successful due to the lack of common standards, protocols, and technologies, leaving the enterprise wary of investing in any other form of IoT platform.”

Frost & Sullivan’s Deepti, believes there is low awareness and understanding in Africa about how an end-to-end IoT implementation can benefit the entire business. “This is one of the main inhibitors against the adoption of IoT in Africa.” For small businesses, lack of financial resources and lack of in-house skills, continues to restrain their adoption of IoT. Potential exposure to cyber-attacks is another inhibitor.

Fortinet Africa’s Hutton points out that incumbent service providers are also to the blame by, “ham stringing their service users by not being forward thinking and not embracing the idea of providing networks that are IoT centric.” Another fallacy is businesses have been converted into thinking that IoT will damage their organisations, when in actual fact it just has to be managed, like every other device. Kaspersky Lab Africa’s Badenhorst, believes that lack of telecommunication infrastructure and broadband availability is a major inhibitor.

The successful adoption and proliferation of IoT solutions will increase over time in Africa, with both positive and negative consequences. On the positive side, solution vendors will increase their presence and support services across the continent, thereby reducing the price point and driving further adoption cycles. On the negative side, Africa will become increasingly targeted for potential cybersecurity weaknesses in deployed IoT solutions.

“As Africa becomes more familiar with connectivity, cybercriminals will start to pay attention to the African market in the hopes that these regions are not as aware of cybercriminals tactics compared to the rest of the world. This of course leaves people and businesses vulnerable to cyberattacks. While we have seen some African countries starting to understand the seriousness of cybercrime, more needs to be done across Africa, in terms of awareness. This is why Kaspersky Lab is placing a strong focus on the African region,” says Badenhorst.

(Left to right) Morten Illum, Aruba HPE; Perry Hutton, Fortinet Africa; Riaan Badenhorst, Kaspersky Lab Africa; Umesh Sita, SAP Africa.

Key takeaways

  • Until you actually start doing something with your observations you basically have not earned a single pound, single euro
  • Gateway is a software component that makes sure the customer should not be concerned with getting that observation into ERP
  • It is designed for embedded devices and aimed at three key industries, telecommunication, automotive, industrial
  • Across Sub-Saharan Africa primary IoT use cases include fleet management, retail, energy, security
  • Africa needs adoption of open standards for IoT connectivity between machines, sensors, networks, platform, applications
Click below to share this article

Browse our latest issue

Intelligent CIO Africa

View Magazine Archive