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Vox Telecom showcases the value of IOT for African farmers

Vox Telecom showcases the value of IOT for African farmers

Vox Telecom has rolled out a suite of IOT solutions under its Vox IOT offering that is initially being targeted at Africa's agricultural community. The solutions include smart collars and leverage big data collection and advanced analytics to enhance asset and animal tracking.

While the technology is not limited to this sector alone and is expected to have far wider take-up going forward, Vox Telecom believes the use case in agriculture is powerful and reflects the many opportunities IOT offers businesses.

Jacques du Toit, CEO of Vox Telecom said the company has hosted a series of direct engagements with the market and is pleased with the level of response by potential investors.

"Farmers don't understand and I don't think they want to understand IOT. We are actually redoing our collateral to take out the word. Listen, they are not technology adverse - but they don't understand IOT, so we've got to deliver this message in a different way. The second lesson was about practical implications. (The) mindset was that it is expensive and so we could only ever manage to track a very valuable asset. Now it is cheap, so we have to get the mindset changed to understand that one can track a chair, a briefcase or anything that I want to..."

"The last lesson is an internal lesson more than anything else and that is that we've got to go to all these symposiums with something that the customer can walk away with. He can relate to his own environment and knows he needs ten asset trackers – you've got (to) then give them to him the trackers, roll out his application and off he goes. To have a PowerPoint presentation and think you are going to sell afterwards is a no-no."

Du Toit confirmed that Vox IOT includes smart collars that use GPS technology to track movement of farm animals and/or wildlife, as well as their behaviour. The goal is to be in a position to foresee the impact of movement/ behaviour on livestock, i.e. when and why they fall ill, for example.

"The fact is that there is uptake (by farmers) the moment they understand what IOT can do for their lives ... you can't stop them from talking – it is just phenomenal," he added.

According to Vox Telecom its host of tamper and tracking, asset, animal, utility and security devices are now being deployed on movable assets.

This is because end users can now draw more than just location information and receive proactive notifications of unusual behaviour and activity, and begin to then identify and track relevant trends depending on the specific business.

Vox adds that it has positioned itself as a network neutral platform provider and will support NB-IOT, LTE-M1, LoRa and Sigfox technologies. Its initial partnership is with Sqwidnet which, according to Vox Telecom, has the lowest price point from a hardware and connectivity perspective with the technology extending to more than 42 countries.

Du Toit says the company has found that while there is limited use of NB-IoT and LTE-M1 currently, LoRa will be definitely be added to its connectivity partnerships in the IOT space the moment it is no longer a closed network.

He says Low Powered WAN technology like Sigfox & LoRA work better in situations where devices send small amounts of data over a wide area while maintaining battery life over an extended period of time.

Deon Oosthuysen, Senior Product Manager for IOT at Vox Telecom said after almost three years, Sigfox's population coverage in South Africa is nearing the 100% mark – and this adds to the IOT solutions attraction to the rest of the continent.

"We are already in talks with Sigfox directly to basically start looking at South Africa's neighbouring countries, but they also have firm commitments and contracts signed in other countries with one of them being Nigeria, of course, and then some in Kenya and in the DRC as well. There are more countries coming online and when they do we will be able to get that African footprint. We need to use as a trial and POC. The more we are successful with device activations on the back of Sigfox's network in South Africa ... then we will grow. We are in talks with fleet managers in South Africa that are moving trucks across borders and they want to use this technology."

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