The loo can let you know it does not feel well by sending you an SMS
The concept the Internet of Things have moved into the buzz phase. As recent as two years ago, it was just a novelty, now it is moving into the application stage and in some cases, it has even become commonplace technology, that is, if you happen to stay in the right country or the right city.
However, here in our beloved sandy, bushy patch, the Internet of Things is still only an idea. We read about it, and we experience a low-level version of its application in some fancy, pricey cars, and for those who can afford it, the ability to download and watch movies live, but that is it.
We are not yet at the stage where the fridge orders milk and bread, the car takes itself for a service, stocks for critical medicines are ordered automatically, farmers monitor their water troughs, and the municipality reads your water and electricity consumption from an automated console.
The applications are far from mature and the learing curve is still steep while the concept is evolving by the day but that it can be done, is beyond doubt, and that it will become a very significant part of everything we do everyday, is also a given.
I believe we are only at the very beginning when it come to the Internet of Things. And while some of the proposed applications are truly mind-boggling, it is the future that interests me most. There really are no limits to what can be achieved by applying the Internet of Things concept, to literally everything. For us in Africa, I think there is even more promise than what we realise now. In my mind, we are on the cusp of a whole new technological revolution, and although we may not know it now, our horizons and the inherent opportunities will increase a thousandfold.
Already there are small retro-fit devices available for a host of household appliances, to make them connectable to the internet. Then there is the issue of connectivity, whether by landline, wi-fi or satellite, and the actual connecting. All these functionalities, can be developed into mature businesses by the new generation who understands digital applications.
Turning the Internet of Things into reality holds enormous potential for us. Whereas the older generations view these new technological developments with a sense of skepticism, I see the many promises it holds for the younger generations. The Internet of Things is creating a plethora of new possibilities, which in turn creates a host of opportunities for budding entrepreneurs.
It encompasses such a vast sphere, the opportunities for new entrants are limitless. Young people who understand the potential of the technology, can start their own businesses selling and fitting the devices that upgrade, so to speak, older appliances to internet level.
Business people who sell and service appliances, both domestic and commercial, can start focussing on all the benefits of having a customer base where all the units in the field provide updates on their condition, either according to a preset schedule or on demand.
Diesel generators can be modified to send in information on how much diesel there still is in the tank, when the next service is due, how much power was sent through the invertor, and with a little bit of inventiveness, small rural energy grids can be upgraded to report their own conditions.
Similarly, rural clinics can be connected to central computers where updates are generated automatically and sent to the person responsible for dispatching medicines. There is no end to all the new opportunities the Internet of Things is creating for the technologies we already have, and there is also no end to the number of new technologies that can be introduced.
Furthermore, the Internet of Things, in addition to the technical and the entrepreneural types, will also require a host of programmers, technicians, installers, monitors, maintenance people and developers of new applications.
In Africa, because it is still such a novelty, it holds vast potential for a new breed of entrepreneur and/or technical person.
Think of it, you can design a device that can be fitted to the toilet and connects to the internet through a SIM card that sends you a message when the system is blocked. Go figure how many toilets there are in Namibia, then you get a sense of the enormous potential encapsulated by what is now, for us, still only a concept – the Internet of Things.