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IoT simple as ABC

There is no doubt that the Internet of Things (IoT) can solve everyday challenges using technology, and with IDC predicting there being over 20 billion connected devices by 2020, we are seeing an emergence of more IoT technology, creating even more choice. However, when it comes to designing your own IoT solution, all this choice can be simplified.

IoT is as simple as ABC…D. That is, Application + Backend + Connectivity + Device. This means to design an IoT solution is as simple as making four choices. Just on partners.sigfox.com alone, there are 71 applications (A), 99 backend platforms (B) and 524 devices (D)!

But what about connectivity (C)?

Recently, there have been several announcements around different network rollouts (C). How do you decide which network is most suited for you? According to Phathizwe Malinga, Managing Director of SqwidNet, deciding on the best network for your solution, like the other IoT elements, A, B and D, are dependent the problem you are trying to solve.

“There is space in the market for all different technologies,” he says. “We work with some great technology partners in the country and often when they are designing a solution, they use a combination of these technologies. For an IoT deployment to succeed, one must consider the challenge, context and the type of data that will be transmitted before deciding on the most suitable network, because each application is unique in its requirements.”

SqwidNet was launched in November 2016 as the Sigfox operator in South Africa. Sigfox today has a presence in 53 countries and covers over 1 billion people with its global network, allowing Sigfox Ready™ devices to roam at no extra cost. The SqwidNet network currently covers over 85% of the South African population, enabling millions of physical devices to be connected to the digital world.

“Each of the network technologies has their own advantages and disadvantages,” says Malinga. “Broadband, for example, is at the top end of the spectrum and it is used for communication that is data-intensive, such as sending video and images and making voice calls. The disadvantage of broadband is the high cost of data, and high data and power usage.” Just below that lies the LTE-M spectrum. It is used for powered devices like traffic lights, using less data and costs a little less, while still being high on power usage. “The mobile operators have then tried to go a little lower by creating narrow-band IoT (NB-IoT). Their focus here is strongly on connecting cities, and NB-IoT manages to get devices to use battery power, but the cost of connectivity isn’t significantly lowered.”

SqwidNet, on the other hand, operates a network that is a low-power wide area network (LP-WAN). There are currently two popular low power networks operating in this band in South Africa. “LoRA is a network that gives you the technology to deploy within a city, private residence or a mine, for example, and uses low power. The network, however, is usually run like a local area network (LAN) or Metropolitan Area Network (MAN),” he says. “Because LoRa is based on open-source principles, it means that there can be and are many connectivity providers. This means your LoRa device can only talk to the network that it’s signed up to. On the one hand, this is a nice security advantage because it means LoRa is well suited to stationary devices located in a remote town, like a mine. On the other hand, this means you cannot track assets-in-transit as soon as they leave that localised network.”

Sigfox sacrifices open-source and focuses on creating a shared economy business model. This means that ONE network provider runs a ultra wide area network across 53 countries! Malinga continues, “We operate in a very low band providing a low cost, low power network designed to extend the battery life of devices significantly, in some cases up to 15 years.”

Sigfox is an ultra-narrowband technology that operates in the Industrial, Scientific and Medical band. It is free to operate in that band, albeit sparingly, which is why it is more cost-effective.

But which is the best network to deploy IoT solutions on?

“The problem and the actual solution will determine which is the most suitable network to use,” says Malinga. “Take, for example, a self-driven car. In this case, you cannot afford to have any latency, so the most suitable technology would be 5G. The use case for a self-driving car is CONTROL. If, however, you are monitoring assets in remote areas with no access to electricity, then Sigfox would be a far more suitable and cost-effective option. The use case here is VISIBILITY.”

The IoT use cases that are out in the market vary across industries, with increasing demand in the retail, utilities, agriculture, and asset tracking fields, but essentially, they are all about control versus visibility. “The beauty of ultra-narrowband is that it extends the penetration of the signal significantly. Even when it is used in mine shafts, for example, you can use self-contained repeaters to extend the signal and ensure that any device tracking an asset is covered. This makes it much more suited to visibility,” he says. “Another key benefit of the Sigfox technology, particularly in the South African context, is that it is not jammable, so we are starting to see massive interest in the vehicle tracking space because of this feature. I do stress, however, that as your technology partner designs your IoT solution (choosing A+B+C+D), they will encounter the need for both use cases. We have seen some technology partners even mix the two use cases. An example of this is using Sigfox to detect movement, and then switching on a Wifi HD-Camera based on the alert received.”

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Veeam passes $1bn, prepares for cloud’s ‘Act II’

Leader in cloud-data management reveals how it will harness the next growth phase of the data revolution, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

Veeam Software, the quiet leader in backup solutions for cloud data management,has announced that it has passed $1-billion in revenues, and is preparing for the next phase of sustained growth in the sector.

Now, it is unveiling what it calls Act II, following five years of rapid growth through modernisation of the data centre. At the VeeamON 2019conferencein Miami this week, company co-founder Ratmir Timashev declared that the opportunities in this new era, focused on managing data for the hybrid cloud, would drive the next phase of growth.

“Veeam created the VMware backup market and has dominated it as the leader for the last decade,” said Timashev, who is also executive vice president for sales and marketing at the organisation. “This was Veeam’s Act I and I am delighted that we have surpassed the $1 billion mark; in 2013 I predicted we’d achieve this in less than six years. 

“However, the market is now changing. Backup is still critical, but customers are now building hybrid clouds with AWS, Azure, IBM and Google, and they need more than just backup. To succeed in this changing environment, Veeam has had to adapt. Veeam, with its 60,000-plus channel and service provider partners and the broadest ecosystem of technology partners, including Cisco, HPE, NetApp, Nutanix and Pure Storage, is best positioned to dominate the new cloud data management in our Act II.”

In South Africa, Veeam expects similar growth. Speaking at the Cisco Connect conference in Sun City this week, country manager Kate Mollett told Gadget’s BRYAN TURNER that the company was doing exceptionally well in this market.

“In financial year 2018, we saw double-digit growth, which was really very encouraging if you consider the state of the economy, and not so much customer sentiment, but customers have been more cautious with how they spend their money. We’ve seen a fluctuation in the currency, so we see customers pausing with big decisions and hoping for a recovery in the Rand-Dollar. But despite all of the negatives, we have double digit growth which is really good. We continue to grow our team and hire.

“From a Veeam perspective, last year we were responsible for Veeam Africa South, which consisted of South Africa, SADC countries, and the Indian Ocean Islands. We’ve now been given the responsibility for the whole of Africa. This is really fantastic because we are now able to drive a single strategy for Africa from South Africa.”

Veeam has been the leading provider of backup, recovery and replication solutions for more than a decade, and is growing rapidly at a time when other players in the backup market are struggling to innovate on demand.

“Backup is not sexy and they made a pretty successful company out of something that others seem to be screwing up,” said Roy Illsley, Distinguished Analyst at Ovum, speaking in Miami after the VeeamOn conference. “Others have not invested much in new products and they don’t solve key challenges that most organisations want solved. Theyre resting on their laurels and are stuck in the physical world of backup instead of embracing the cloud.”

Illsley readily buys into the Veeam tagline. “It just works”. 

“They are very good at marketing but are also a good engineering comany that does produce the goods. Their big strength, that it just works, is a reliable feature they have built into their product portfolio.”

Veeam said in statement from the event that, while it had initially focused on server virtualisation for VMware environments, in recent years it had expanded this core offering. It was now delivering integration with multiple hypervisors, physical servers and endpoints, along with public and software-as-a-service workloads, while partnering with leading cloud, storage, server, hyperconverged (HCI) and application vendors.

This week, it  announced a new “with Veeam”program, which brings in enterprise storage and hyperconverged (HCI) vendors to provide customers with comprehensive secondary storage solutions that combine Veeam software with industry-leading infrastructure systems. Companies like ExaGrid and Nutanix have already announced partnerships.

Timashev said: “From day one, we have focused on partnerships to deliver customer value. Working with our storage and cloud partners, we are delivering choice, flexibility and value to customers of all sizes.”

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‘Energy scavenging’ funded

As the drive towards a 5G future gathers momentum, the University of Surrey’s research into technology that could power countless internet enabled devices – including those needed for autonomous cars – has won over £1M from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and industry partners.

Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) has been working on triboelectric nanogenerators (TENG), an energy harvesting technology capable of ‘scavenging’ energy from movements such as human motion, machine vibration, wind and vehicle movements to power small electronic components. 

TENG energy harvesting is based on a combination of electrostatic charging and electrostatic induction, providing high output, peak efficiency and low-cost solutions for small scale electronic devices. It’s thought such devices will be vital for the smart sensors needed to enable driverless cars to work safely, wearable electronics, health sensors in ‘smart hospitals’ and robotics in ‘smart factories.’ 

The ATI will be partnered on this development project with the Georgia Institute of Technology, QinetiQ, MAS Holdings, National Physical Laboratory, Soochow University and Jaguar Land Rover. 

Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the ATI and the principal investigator of the TENG project, said: “TENG technology is ideal to power the next generation of electronic devices due to its small footprint and capacity to integrate into systems we use every day. Here at the ATI, we are constantly looking to develop such advanced technologies leading towards our quest to realise worldwide “free energy”.

“TENGs are an ideal candidate to power the autonomous electronic systems for Internet of Things applications and wearable electronic devices. We believe this research grant will allow us to further the design of optimized energy harvesters.”

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