Using IoT to solve water scarcity in South Africa - CNBC Africa

Using IoT to solve water scarcity in South Africa

Southern Africa

by Tendai Dube 0

Using IoT to save water in South Africa. Photo: Flickr.

As water scarcity drowns the globe in worry, scientists are looking to more innovative technologies to maximise the use of what resources we do have.

A recent study found that more than 4-billion people experienced severe water scarcity over the past year and predicts it to get much worse in the next 15 years, South Africa has to take into consideration the various ways it can best use the allocation of funds by government to drought relief.

“Everything is mobile-first, in South Africa we have a lot of people accessing the internet but primarily via their mobiles so if you extrapolate this trend to mobility, there is something we call the Internet-of-Things (IoT),” said Lee Naik, Managing Director at Accenture Digital.

Naik adds: “Objects, be it desks, tables and pot plants are starting to go online by having sensors on them and as these sensors start getting connected to the internet, the question remains, can we extrapolate that data for new ways of how we work, how we run things and how we drive the economy.”

In an era where drought is common, could IoT actually help?

There are two examples as to how it could through agriculture and water piping.

“One - there’s a huge trend globally and a lot of acquisitions happening in this space, organisations are starting to put sensors on to the actual tilling equipment that ploughs the land and what happens is as you start to plough the land, as opposed to the farmer deciding what seed to plant, the sensors tell you based on the chemical composition which is the right seed to produce for that year to maximise outputs for the farmer and his revenue stream,” said Naik.

 

“Second, the use of IoT sensors when it comes to water, electricity and other key government utilities, what we start to see is they start to fit sensors into their piping infrastructure so before a leak occurs they actually know about it in advance and deploy teams to resolve the problem.”

Through those methods says Naik, we can proactively practice “predictive maintenance”, however the challenge comes in when one can get overwhelmed by data.

“In many cases we find that in South Africa that most organisations have many big data analytic-type technologies but very few have actual outputs that originate from these technologies.”

The key point Naik makes to those organisations is to ask the right questions in advance such as which seeds performed the best in the last ten years?

"Most of our utility players have run trial runs with this technology, so the future looks quite bright as far as IoT and South Africa" is concerned.

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