Telcos in Kenya have adopted Internet of Things (IoT) technology through a variety of projects. Airtel has launched the ‘Always On’ solution to allow devices anywhere to stay connected after launching their eSIM, which has proven particularly useful in the transport sector for tracking cars.
IoT can also be deployed to smart metres and smart traffic lights. Telkom has an IOT tariff for organisations with multiple mobile devices and using digital mobile services. Safaricom on the other hand in 2021 worked on a number of partnerships with a local brewery, the national power distributor and a water sanitation company.
In the case of East African Breweries Limited (EABL), Safaricom is working with the brewery to connect beverage coolers distributed free of charge to distributors countrywide. This allows the brewery to monitor the number of drinks stored in the coolers and at what temperatures they are stored. The other two companies use smart metres to get real time information on electricity and water usage and track downtimes from across the country.
The use of GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) to provide real time connectivity to devices has had such unprecedented success according to the latest statistics from the Communications Authority of Kenya. The latest report indicates growth in machine to machine connectivity with more than 1.5 million SIM cards registered for this purpose by the end of 2022. This is a 5.7 percentage increase from the previous quarter.
Safaricom takes the lion share of these subscriptions with 97% of the subscriptions, a testament to the fruit borne through the projects mentioned which were launched in 2020. It also implies that the other two MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) need to scope for more opportunities and engage more with other companies on products that can use their platforms. Airtel has slightly over 40,000 subscriptions.
The applications of IoT are manifold particularly in the agricultural sector where sensors are being used to monitor irrigation and soil parameters for better yields. The industrial sector is another area waiting for the explosion of the use of these devices.