The internet of things will help our customers grow

MTN Business is bringing the Internet of Things to life in a move that it says is the precursor of a distinctive value proposition geared toward helping its customers grow their business and improve operational efficiencies.

“We believe this is the beginning of a journey for MTN,” Sfisio Dabengwa, Group President and CEO of MTN Group said on Thursday 14 May 2015 at the launch of the MTN Business Internet Of Things (IoT) Platform. “This is part of our strategy of further developing our abilities in terms of how we find and deliver solutions to our customers and partners. It’s quite clear that the Internet will continue to change the way we work and do things, and more importantly how it impacts our economy.”

The solution that was launched consists of a dedicated machine-to-machine (M2M) network that allows customers to connect, manage, monitor and control remote devices. This type of telemetry is considered the next big thing in enabling organisations to gain unprecedented advantages as devices and networks become more intelligent.

This type of functionality is already evident in systems such as fleet tracking solutions, to some extent in courier delivery and tracking, and in the consumer world in devices such as wearable computers such as fitness trackers.

Mteto Nyati, MTN Group Chief Enterprise Officer, explained that the introduction of the IoT Platform was part of the telecom group’s strategy to become an ICT partner of choice.

“Instead of trying to do many things, we are going to focus on enabling our customers to grow. That really is the thing that defines most of the activities you are going to see from us, and this is just the beginning of that journey,” he said.

He explained that the offering comprises three primary value propositions: a dedicated M2M network separated from traditional voice and data traffic, a single rate for M2M data carried on any of its networks across Africa, and a platform that places control of remote devices and systems directly in the hands of customers.

MTN Business’s Global SIM that enables the single-rate billing is seen as a key differentiator that will enable companies to expand their geographic footprint with ease and financial certainty. Although the Global SIM is currently only available for MTN-owned networks, Nyati said the telecoms operator was in negotiations with network operators in other territories to be able to offer the same cost benefits.

The significance of the dedicated M2M network is chiefly in reduced latency, which means that active monitoring of moveable or moving assets becomes more accurate.

This benefit is allied to the level of control that customers are provided.

Apart from the web management console that allows them to connect, manage, monitor and control remote devices, the MTN Business IoT Platform also features a marketplace for pre-built applications that can be deployed for common uses.

This ranges from applications to remotely monitor vehicles or moveable assets, to reading smart meters for electricity or water consumption, or controlling standard switchgear in a manufacturing environment.

Companies, as well as software engineers, will be able to develop proprietary solutions or make them available on the marketplace for purchase. A software development package that provides the necessary frameworks to do such development is available for organisations and individuals with the technical skills.

Nyati said the first steps toward populating this marketplace have been taken with the MTN Business Mind2Machine Challenge that has attracted more than 50 teams competing for honours. Competitors have been asked to produce solutions to common problems in the areas of utilities, transport and logistics, retail, financial services and asset monitoring.

“We are excited at the level of proposals that have come from the people we have issued the challenge to. Through this platform we will have solutions that speak to the challenges of our country,” he said.

“In the process we are going to help startups and entrepreneurs to be partners with us because as we take those solutions to market we will have a revenue sharing model with them. In South Africa, the wholesale M2M market is already worth an estimated R350 million and expected to grow to R1,2 billion by 2017. This means there are significant business opportunities for aspiring developers in South Africa and the rest of the continent.”

The MTN Business IoT platform and functionality certainly holds tremendous for potential for organisations who have already tapped into the possibilities this technology holds. The unknown potential is probably the most exciting part of this platform, particularly on a continent that has shown exceptional adoption and adaptation of basic mobile communications services and devices.

“We will not rest and we will continue to be looking for ways to help our customers to grow and in the process help the continent to grow and help our company to grow,” Nyati said.

This article has been paid for and approved by MTN Business