Most companies have heard of the Internet of things (IoT), the idea that a vast network of objects, from cameras to air conditioners, can be connected to the Internet to create a vast network of controllable systems.
It’s an idea that promises to make business much more automated and efficient, able to better manage resources remotely and analyse data more effectively.
But integrating IoT sensors and other devices into corporate IT systems is difficult, not least because of the volume of data involved and the complexity in integrating disparate hardware and software systems. A lack of standardisation makes the challenge harder still.
Now a South African start-up, IoT.nxt, has created a platform to allow companies to integrate their IT platforms with IoT devices seamlessly. And it’s planning to take the solution global.
The company’s “technology agnostic” offering acts as a conduit between sensors and other IoT devices at the edge of the network, and the application layer in companies’ IT departments, says IoT.nxt CEO and South African ICT industry veteran Nico Steyn.
“One of the biggest challenges in IoT, if you deploy thousands of sensors and are monitoring them every 200 milliseconds, is you have a huge amount of traffic that hits your network,” says Steyn.
“We have engineered and built a field gateway that manages the data flow effectively. We can pre-set the thresholds for all the devices. We can set it up so that only alarms that happen outside a threshold get sent over the network.”
The secure field gateway, called the Raptor 1000, handles the “edge ecosystem” of IoT devices, in effect ensuring they don’t overwhelm the network with their data. The gateway has a configurable hardware and software stock designed to support hundreds of input and output devices proliferating the IoT world, says Steyn.
The company has also built a software platform that offers a single user interface and collaboration point for all the deployed applications and devices. This “Commander Software” can be installed onsite or as a cloud-based solution. “You can have a control room anywhere in the world getting real-time data fields from all the devices deployed in your ecosystem,” says Steyn.
Finally, IoT.nxt has a business process modelling tool called Workflow that provides an interface for companies to embed their business rules and processes.
Steyn believes his company is onto a winning ticket as there is “very little interoperability” between IoT devices and solutions, making integration a major headache for corporate IT departments.
“We are able to create relationships [between systems and devices]. If diesel in a generator is running low, for example, the system can then send an alert, telling a service provider they have four hours to refill it,” he says.
“The system can check automatically if they have done the job by getting an updated reading from the fuel gauge and it can even create a work order in the ERP (business software) system.”
A year ago, South African companies showed little interest in IoT, but Steyn says this has changed dramatically.
“It’s a little bit like a tsunami now. It’s on multiple levels, not just driven by efficiency. Customers want to use it to improve sales and customer interaction, to improve their security systems.”
IoT.nxt, which has raised funding from investment holding company Talent10, has just shy of 30 employees and is based in Centurion, near Pretoria. Rather than engaging directly with corporate clients, it works through channel partners and specifically systems integrators. Its solutions are built on the Microsoft stack, using the C# development environment. “We see Microsoft as very strategic to us,” says Steyn.
The company is now eyeing international opportunities. “We have big plans to globalise the product. We are working on some super opportunities,” he says, declining to elaborate further. — (c) 2016 NewsCentral Media