IOTFA2019: SqwidNET CEO, Phathizwe Malinga speaks on the IOT Dilemma

The potential hidden in 4IR hype, myth, and conversation
Phathizwe Malinga, managing director of SqwidNet.

SqwidNET CEO, Phathizwe Malinga gives speaks on the IOT Dilemma

One of the leading IoT focussed events in Africa is set to take place on 26 to 27 March at the Gallagher Convention Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Now in its third year, the highly anticipated Internet of Things Forum Africa 2019 will bring together thought leaders, IoT ecosystem participants and experts from across Africa. It will create a platform for industry players to share their knowledge of real-world IoT trends, challenges and solutions.

Under the theme “Driving Performance, Growth and Profitability” with the power of IoT, the conference is set to unpack how your business can harness the “business value” of IoT today.

Phathizwe Malinga, CEO at SqwidNET, spoke to IT News Africa prior to his presentation at the upcoming IoT Forum Africa 2019 on the IOT Dilemma, as well as on how SqwidNET is helping African organisations transform digitally.

How is SqwidNET helping organisations transform digitally?

SqwidNET gives an organisation that is on a digitisation journey access to an Ecosystem of hundreds of plug-and-play devices, and we offer business-grade nationwide coverage.

We make the conversion process for making existing assets speak simple, almost plug and play. We make it easy for an organisation’s existing technology partner to become part of the SqwidNET IoT Ecosystem.

This IoT Ecosystem is made up of companies that provide the ABCD of IoT. The Application, The Backend platform, The connectivity and the Device. This gives the organisation access to over 100 applications and over 600 devices when transforming their various assets. As the C. company in the ecosystem, we give the organisation business-grade nationwide coverage when it comes to tracking or monitoring their assets, including in-transit or rural areas.

How does IoT afford organisations continuous relevant asset data?

IoT allows you to be present. It gives you, the humans in the business, real-time visibility to asset behaviour that requires you to act in order to improve production or prevent damage.

IoT is about improving your customer’s experience with your products and services. This makes IoT asset data is continuously relevant.

SqwidNET operates a low power network that is dedicated to IoT, known as LPWAN.  LPWAN is not the first technology to connect devices to the Internet, we have had this for years with things like Machine-2-Machine. What is different with LPWAN is in order to use as little power as possible, assets only connect to the Internet when an event has occurred, and these events are all that matters. Previously technologies stream lots of data, leaving you with the task akin to looking for a needle in a haystack when you want to gain insight that will help you improve the products and services you offer your customer.

What are some of the obstacles that businesses face when adopting IoT?

The two biggest obstacles are over-analysis when the plug-and-play are commercially available, and not prioritising assets that help you improve your customer’s experience. And these are already in your asset register.

Technology is cool, and it is fast becoming ubiquitous. Tech is fun to play with, the possibilities are endless and it’s easy to lose sight of the imperative to digitise our business. We need to become intimately aware of our production abilities so that we can offer to our customers and the broader market what no other company can.

Because innovation is coupled with improvement, it is easy to lull one’s self into an “if it ain’t broke, don’t improve it” mode of operation. This luxury ended when the Berlin wall came down. This is a global market, even if you only sell to your local neighbourhood. Every day, start-ups are able to get the product into your customer’s hands that will eventually look better if you don’t improve what they already get.

You need to drive improvement initiatives constantly, and IoT helps you to be ever-present.

What are some of the security risks when adopting IoT?

For organisations, there are no new risks than we currently have in IT if we treat IoT with the same respect we have shown to IT. We solved the problem in IT by deferring to expertise. Don’t cowboy your IoT, you have these IT experts already.

For the smaller guys, look for business-grade IoT like the one the SqwidNET ecosystem affords you. Of course, the more technical you are, the more risks you expose yourself to as you disable more safeguards that the experts build in.

You know I worked with a guy who bought a desktop, back in early 2000, and stripped its components and re-assembled them into a briefcase. This was because he didn’t want to pay what he felt was too much for a laptop.

You can do that with IoT, it’s so simple to put together. But my friend accidentally spilled coffee on his briefcase and there was smoke… and no more laptop. He was paid by the hour and he had to dash to incredible connection and buy a new laptop… And then re-do all the lost work.

There’s no security risk if you treat IoT with the same respect you show to your e-mail, or your iPhone…

How can IoT be applied to drive business value and improve the lives of citizens?

You can’t improve what you don’t measure. As a business, IoT allows you to increase the granularity of your meaningful data. And using cloud computing and algorithms it allows you to look for patterns, for insight, that you can the ensure you take into account when improving your products and services. As citizens, it helps us make better decisions about our scarce resources.

What advice would you give to future leaders who are starting out within the IoT industry?

It’s about business first. IoT is an enabling technology, it helps you drive improvements within a business.
So know the business. And business is about satisfying customer needs. The customer is what matters.
IoT gives you a lens into how you do things, and most importantly, the micro-events, usually undesired, that threaten how you intend to do things.

And then, people people people. Technology brings us closer. It allows us to be more intimate with more people more often.

By Neo Sesinye
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