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Kenya: Machine-to-machine communication on the increase

May 29, 2014 • East Africa, Mobile and Telecoms, Top Stories

President of Kenya, Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta (image: REUTERS/How Hwee Young/Pool)

President of Kenya, Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta (image: REUTERS/How Hwee Young/Pool)

Machine-to-machine (M2M) communication is gaining acceptance in Kenya as the country increasingly embraces global trends in terms of new technologies. Indeed, Kenya has witnessed increasing uptake of M2M connectivity services across various vertical sectors, according to the recently released results of IDC’s ‘Annual Europe Middle East and Africa (EMEA) WAN Managers Study 2013 Survey’.

In Africa, Kenya stands out as one of the early adopters of M2M communications, with approximately 50% of the survey respondents having already deployed M2M technologies and 27% planning on using M2M communications within the next three years. The bulk of the surveyed companies in Kenya are currently using more (or planning to use more) M2M technologies than other enterprise technologies such as unified communications, videoconferencing, and cloud computing.

The survey also shows that Kenyan enterprises appear to be using M2M-enabled vending machines, security monitoring, and fleet management. Advanced M2M applications such as smart metering, pay-as-you-drive-insurance, and intelligence building are not currently widely used in Kenya. “This is due to the numerous inherent complexities involved when attempting to implement and manage such advanced M2M technologies,” says Mervin Miemoukanda, a senior research analyst for telecommunications, software, and IT services at IDC South Africa. “Likewise, the shortage of IT personnel and the limited service capabilities of providers are hampering the deployment of such technologies within enterprise IT environments.”

The survey also found that service providers’ support capabilities for devices, applications, and networks are of paramount importance to Kenyan companies using M2M communication. Indeed, these factors are the key decision-making criteria when selecting partners for M2M projects. Another critical factor, says Miemoukanda, is the international coverage offered by service providers, particularly for fleet management: “As there are lots of cross-border trades between Kenya and other East African countries, IDC advises Kenyan service providers to demonstrate that they have strong cross-border communication capabilities. There is no doubt that strong cross-border communication capabilities can be a critical source of competitive advantage for Kenyan service providers.”

“As Kenyan companies become increasingly comfortable with M2M technologies, service providers need to serve up strong network, device, and application support for their enterprise customers,” continues Miemoukanda. “To achieve this, service providers need to partner with other M2M providers and engage more closely with their enterprise customers in order to better understand their requirements. This will help them provide superior customer service, thereby augmenting their overall customer satisfaction rates.”

IDC expects the Kenyan M2M market to grow significantly over the next three years as an increasing number of companies are looking toward IT to support business transformation and spur continued growth. Interestingly, emerging technologies that have already had a tremendous impact in global markets — such as smart metering and mobility — are also beginning to see demand and adoption in Kenya. However, issues around staffing, the lack of in-house capabilities, and the inability of service providers to provide full-fledged M2M offerings will remain as the key challenges for Kenyan companies looking to use M2M communication.

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