Ross Hickey the CEO of Trinity Telecom, a South African national IoT platform provider with offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town, sat down with IT News Africa at the inaugural Internet of Things Forum Africa last week.
Since its early beginnings in the late 90s, Hickey has been involved in IoT. He has led over four different companies all involved in different aspects of the IoT value chain, from global distribution from the Far-East to manufacturing of IoT devices in Asia as well as Africa. Hickey is currently involved in the next IoT wave through Trinity’s “smart” platform. With clients such as Multi-choice, MRD, Vodafone Spain and MTN South Africa, Hickey and Trinity could play a pivotal role in the development of IoT in Africa.
Hickey spoke to IT News Africa about himself and Trinity Telecoms, IoT in the 90’s and how much it has changed since then, Trinity’s smart platform and the IoT opportunity in Africa and the challenges that come with it.
1) Can you give me a brief overview of yourself and Trinity Telecoms? I have been involved in the Machine to Machine industry for over 20 years, that has now evolved into what is more commonly known as IoT. We started off selling chip sets into the industry and we essential evolved up the value chain into the software services layer.
2) What attracted you in the late 90’s to IoT? I was based in Hong Kong working for a French telecoms company when MTN and Vodacom launched in South Africa. They were obviously interested in selling telecoms products into Africa. That’s what brought me back originally and then the growth of wireless telecoms in Africa brought me into it. We then started working with a really good product from France called wavecom and that’s what really started our IoT journey.
3) Just how much has IoT changed since the 90’s and how much more change are you anticipating? In some senses the ingredients that go into it, the requirements for a back end service , the requirements for hardware and the requirements for the developer input probably hasn’t changed. What is changing is the ability for it to be utilised in far more applications that were never envisioned before. This is driven by the knowledge that has grown amongst developers and companies in IoT and driven by the telecommunications costs.
4) Can you tell me more about Trinity’s smart platform? The smart platform essentially evolved out of a business problem. Our original role in this industry was at the bottom where we were importing the chip sets and selling them to various companies in South Africa. So we had 3000 customers but only 10 people doing all the business for us, so we realised there was a business problem for us and that it couldn’t just be us, it was an industry problem. From There we worked out that many companies were looking for the same tech layers, to actually get their products to their users. It is that layer which we have developed and called our smart platform, which is broken down into an application enablement layer, device management and connectivity.
5) How would you describe the IoT opportunity in Africa? The IoT opportunity in Africa is enormous. There are obvious structural issues related to connectivity and price of connectivity but because we don’t suffer from the same structural and cost issue you may find in Europe. I foresee Africa as being a very fast adopter of IoT applications but it will take a lot more work on the connectivity layers to make this feasible.
6) What do you see as the main challenges with regards to the implementation of IoT in Africa? Price of hardware is still an issue but I also think the more Asian companies that are producing the cheaper units definitely helps and it also drives many of the innovation initiatives. So connectivity and price are key, but also technological knowledge is vital and we need to ensure we have the technical know how which I think we are developing and soon it wont be a problem.