Safaricom’s forays into the Internet of Things (IoT): What’s in it for you?

Simply put, the internet is the vast network that connects computing devices around the world. Or, as I was taught many years ago, a global system of interconnected computer networks that uses a protocol (TCP/IP) to facilitate communication between networks and devices. Now, what does that make the Internet of Things (IoT)?

As we explained last year in our podcast, the Internet of Things is, quite simply, a network of devices, however tiny, that have sensors that allow them to exchange data and communicate with other devices. Amazon Web Sevices defines IoT as a “collective network of connected devices and the technology that facilitates communication between devices and the cloud, as well as between the devices themselves”.

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Now that we have that out of the way, to you as a Kenyan, how does this apply? Are there certain IoT use cases you are aware of or you should be aware of? Or, in what ways are you going to be using the Internet of Things now or in the days to come?

Currently, there are many applications of IoT globally. Locally, IoT deployment may be limited or we may not even recognize it at all.

For instance, I have seen on sale and in use, locally, smart door access systems, smart lighting in homes (starting with my own), smart parking sensors and the like. Basically, the whole concept and implementation of the smart home, as we know it locally, is based on, and driven by, the Internet of Things. The bulbs in my house have their own IP addresses that allow them to connect to my home network router. And, are we forgetting the CCTVs that are all over the place? What of those nanny cams we have installed in our houses?

That brings to us two use-cases: personal and enterprise/business use cases. The most direct personal use case, in my case, is the smart home system. The most direct business use case many of us locally may know or not know are the parking sensors we encounter in shopping malls in the country’s major towns and cities.

As days go by and we get better connectivity (we expect things to be better as 5G gains ground), more and more use cases, locally, are being booted.

On the frontline of pushing for – and facilitating – such use cases is Safaricom. Obviously, there’s a reason for this. As the country’s foremost network operator, it is a no-brainer.

Since IoT devices require connectivity, at the moment, Safaricom offers a plan for those that have deployed IoT devices to subscribe to and manage them. It offers a Global IoT SIM Card as well as a web-based platform for managing the devices. (An aside: connectivity, alongside cloud computing, analytics, AI/machine learning, and others, are some of the building blocks of IoT).

Outside its direct responsibilities as a network operator, Safaricom also offers a number of other IoT services.

The company can retrofit existing water meters to bring smart features to them that allow owners to monitor usage and, thereby, be able to have exact data on consumption as well as detect leaks where the collected data shows patterns that don’t add up. The “smart water” system, as it is known, can come in handy in detecting major bursts as well as, for households and farm managers, knowing when certain set consumption thresholds are being hit/approached. Those are the use cases that Safaricom talks about but I also think it should fit in very well for anyone in agriculture. Think irrigation.

A partnership with bottlers in the country has seen the telecommunications company introduce a “Connected Coolers” service targeting soft drink and mineral water bottlers and brewers. The first partner was the Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL). The service works by having sensors in fridges which monitor everything from stock movement to the prevailing temperature and then using an internet connection to relay the information to those monitoring the same remotely. The upsides to doing this are many. For fridges located in public areas without any direct ties to a commercial property (like a storefront), this makes it easy to monitor, remotely, supplies and replenish stock as it gets depleted. For others, like the partner brewer, it allows them to maintain the appropriate/desired temperatures for their product so that clients enjoy it at optimum temperature. Think “Tusker baridi” people.

Last time we checked, the connected coolers were being offered free of charge by Safaricom. A business only needed to get in touch with them to join the pilot programme. However, that could change with time (by the time you come across this article).

That does not end there. For fleet owners and fleet managers, Safaricom has something for them too with its IoT provisions. Its telematics offerings, available in six packages (Bronze, Silver, Gold Lite, Gold, Premium and Platinum), cover everything from the basics of fleet management like route monitoring and driver behaviour analytics to complexities like crash detection, remote engine operation and more.

Have something that you believe I need to have a look at? Hit me up: echenze [at]