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The Internet of Things has proven to be a transformative technology for Nigeria. Its people have shown themselves to be adept at leveraging its potential to improve their work and private lives, but where will the IoT take the country over the course of the next decade and beyond?
Nigeria is currently the third largest Internet of Things (IoT) economy in Africa. Over the next 10 years, it will look to leapfrog South Africa and Kenya for top spot.
Most people are familiar with the idea that our tools, appliances and services are interconnected, speaking to each other via the power of the web. But it seems only a few are aware of what the IoT actually means.
The IoT has altered the way human beings live, work and trade, and few places have put it to work in such a forward-thinking way as Nigeria.
Nigerians are comfortable harnessing the power of their smartphone and the internet to manage their home security, entertainment and even their personal health and fitness.
Government and business also seem excited and motivated to embrace the money-saving (and money-making) applications of the IoT, and the nation’s current intellection − of cashless smart cities, working prudently for their inhabitants, managing pollution, transport, commerce and entertainment − is a clear indicator of the level of belief placed in interconnected technologies.
It’s easy to understand why there is such a buoyant level of support for the tech across the country. An estimated 63 per cent of IoT users say they have seen significant returns on their investment, according to Vodafone. And as network technologies develop, such as the deployment of 5G, the IoT’s impact on life and earnings will increase exponentially.
As things stand, the IoT is already a key aspect of Nigeria’s revenue.
By year-end it is projected to be worth $93 million, and that number will climb along with the number of connections across sub-Saharan Africa, which is expected to skyrocket from 11 million in 2016 to 75 million by the end of 2022.
Moving forward, Nigeria must look both inward and outward if it is to move to the top of the IoT table in Africa, and investment from both private business and government is vital.
Smart logistics, including driverless trucks and IoT-enabled pallets, will enable companies to minimise losses and maximise return on their fuel investment, and truly smart traffic management will remove the daily headache of traffic jams, simultaneously reducing pollution in urban areas.
But for such innovations to be successful, driverless must be widely embraced by the Nigerian government.
Logistics won’t be the only industry that is overhauled in the future.
Diabetes has been on the rise in recent years, and almost five million Nigerians currently suffer from the disease. By implementing technologies such as OpenAPS, an artificial pancreas system, lives of those affected could be transformed.
There are myriad other technologies that could reduce the burden on healthcare infrastructure and improve the people’s lives, including smart blood testing, connected inhalers and even ingestible sensors.
Smart metering for home energy users is likely to become the norm, and the proliferation of smartphone-based home security systems will also ease the burden on law enforcement institutions – and make our cities safer.
The IoT isn’t solely for the benefit of tech-based companies. It’s already having a big impact on agriculture.
Savvy Nigerian farmers are already using sensors on their cattle to track milk production, and on their soil to determine the best times to plant and harvest.
Lessons can be learnt from Kenya, where smart farms are reaping notable returns on their IoT investment. Infrared sensors are able to stream data to the cloud, while smart greenhouses can text farm managers, letting them know when crops need to be watered.
Disaster and accident prevention is also an area in which Nigeria could learn from its neighbours in the south and east. Sensors can warn of flooding and fire, and prevent loss of life, property and earnings.
If handled correctly, the expansion and dependence on IoT technologies will make the country safer, more productive and, critically, much more attractive to outside investors – something that will positively affect the health and wellbeing of all Nigerians as we look toward the future.