The Internet of everything: Is Zimbabwe Ready?

By Ngonidzashe Katsamba

Internet of Everything

The Internet of Everything (IoE) or Internet of Things has become a catch-all phrase to describe adding connectivity and intelligence to just about every device in order to give them special functions. This includes smart cars, smart phones wearable technology and all sorts of internet connected house appliances. According to Gartner there will be nearly 26 billion devices on the Internet of Things by 2020. In another research by ABI Research, more than 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the Internet of Things (Internet of Everything) by 2020. Such growth is being fueled by new technologies like IPV6. IPV6 is a new IP address system which eliminates limits on available IP addresses creating enough address capacity for every star in the known universe, that is about 4.8 trillion addresses.

IoE is changing our world, its effect on daily life will be most profound. We will move through our days and nights surrounded by connectivity that intelligently responds to what we need and want, something that’s called the Digital Sixth Sense. Dynamic and intuitive, this experience will feel like a natural extension of our own abilities. We will be able to discover, accomplish and enjoy more. The Internet of Everything (IoE) will create $14.4 trillion worth of business globally which is a combination of increased revenues and lower costs that are created or will migrate among companies and industries from 2013   to 2022. According to John Chambers, CEO of Cisco, IoE will have an impact of $4.6 trillion in the public sector alone. He believes it will have a dramatic impact on everything from city planning, first responders, military, health and dozens of other sectors. 

Currently, 99.4% of physical objects that may one day be part of the Internet of Everything are still unconnected. About 10 billion of the 1.5 trillion things globally are connected. At a more personal level, there are approximately 200 connect-able things per person in the world today. Even so, the growth of the Internet has been unprecedented; Cisco estimates that there were about 200 million things connected to the Internet in the year 2000 but now, everything is getting connected. For instance,  Sleep Number beds even announced a smart bed that monitors sleep patterns with 500 sensors built into the mattress, sending the results to an app on your smartphone or tablet. Driven by advances in mobile technology and the “bring your own device”(BYOD) trend, among others, the number of connected devices has increased to approximately 10 billion, putting us squarely in the age of the Internet of Everything (IoE) 

Number of Devices on the Internet

Number of Devices on the Internet

Zimbabwe, a country which badly needs new revenue streams should try and get as much of the projected US$ 14 trillion as it can. However is it ready, or even close to ready? To answer this question we will discuss the conditions for and implications of the IoE.

Increased focus on connectivity reliability

Connectivity reliability considers network coverage and consistency of service or downtime. As more of the customers’ life depends on the Internet, connectivity will become a must have making unreliable connections intolerable. Currently close to 85% of the country’s 390,580 kms² is covered by cellular data networks, however true broadband speeds can only be experienced in towns and cities making service inconsistent in most parts of the country. To ensure everyone benefits from IoE there is need for operators to invest in ensuring 100% network coverage and optimizing network speeds so that the whole country receives standardised true Broadband speeds.    

Demand for faster Internet speeds

Demand for bandwidth will grow as IoE will mean more devices connecting to the Internet including cars, kitchen appliances and personal belongings. This will put a lot of pressure on the country's current Internet infrastructure. Currently Zimbabwe's average Internet speed sits at 3.05Mbps which is way below the global average of 17.9Mbps. Zimbabwe is  ranked 106 in the world in-terms of Internet speed. At such speeds not much can be done in the connected world thus a lot of investment needs to be done to improve the bandwidth capacity to make sure that everyone benefits from the Internet of Everything. Imagine your car not braking in time to avoid an accident because the Internet is too slow. Operators can learn from places like  Hong Kong which at 64.5Mbps has the fastest Internet in the world. 

Growth of On-line Security concerns

Lastly IoE will mean an individual’s personal life is available online; sleeping habits, driving route to work, health records, everything will be out there. This will lead to a growth in on-line security concerns as more and more of people’s lives move to the cloud. Zimbabwe's on-line security track record is sadly shoddy far below the global minimum . With a lot of hack attacks on critical National websites happening in 2013 and 2014 one wonder how robust the country's on-line security system is if ever there is such a thing. Based on this track record, it is evident that there is need to educate the populace on online security, its importance and also investment in robust firewalls and appropriate security systems by local cloud hosting companies. 

The final verdict is that Zimbabwe’s infrastructure is still far from the required standard to ensure successful implementation of the Internet of Everything, however far does not mean never.

Ngonidzashe Katsamba is a passionate Telecoms marketer who holds Honours in Business studies from the University of Zimbabwe, an Advanced Diploma in Telecommunications and Digital networks engineering from City SND Guilds UK, a Professional Diploma in Marketing from CIM (UK) and is currently work towards Chartered Marketer status. Ngoni has been working in Zimbabwe’s Telecoms industry for the past 5 years and he has seen Zimbabwe’s Telecoms industry consumption from purely voice to a mixture of voice and data with data on the growth trend.