Systems of Things: The building blocks for the next internet revolution
By Pfungwa Serima, CEO of SAP Africa
The promise of the connected world we live in is an alluring one. Someday, we will be healthier because our doctors will have access to all the data they need about our health. Our vehicles and appliances will monitor themselves and will let us know when it is time to service them. We will never have to make a decision without the data we need to make smart decisions.
Thanks to the so-called Internet of Things, that day is coming sooner than you think. We all know there are more connected devices then people in the world today. By 2020, it is estimated there will be 50 billion connected devices globally. However, businesses and society will not benefit from connected devices if there are no systems in place to gather, analyse and gain insights from the massive volumes of data generated by these connected devices.
Today, we are witnessing another massive revolution where enterprises will need to build Systems of Things in parallel to Systems of Engagement to harness the Internet of Things. As the previously dumb devices on the edge become intelligent and get connected, Systems of Things will be needed to source, capture, analyse, predict and act on the data in real time.
What does this mean for us in Africa? I believe it’s a great opportunity for us not only to create entire new business models for companies, moving the value proposition from products to services, but to use technology to make a real impact at socio-economic level.
In the utility sector, Africa’s utility companies need to meet the growing demands of urbanising populations and booming industrial sectors. IoT can help with smart metering and distribution, to be able to accurately measure and predict demand and generation. In agriculture, we could be using IoT technologies to improve yields. In healthcare, there’s a real opportunity to use IoT to use our human capital more effectively, and deliver better services. In the capital goods sector, we could be streamlining industrial processes and helping marginal mining operations do more with less.
What do African companies need to do to take advantage of this? For the Internet of Things, and billions of connected devices, to become useful, we need Systems of Things – and luckily, the foundational blocks of this are the same as those of Systems of Engagement and Systems of Records: big data, fast data, predictive analytics, cloud, and mobile. If African companies get these building blocks right, and are able to embed their Internet of Things applications directly into their existing business processes, they will be able to chart their own destiny.