3 Revolutionary Ways of Providing Global Internet Coverage

Despite the constant internet penetration, according to a report by UN’s Broadband Commission, 54% of world’s 7.4 billion population still don’t have access to basic internet services. Two third of globe is also still lacking any internet coverage, making it extremely costly and financially unfeasible to provide internet access for some 700 million people living in these areas.

While almost everyone agrees on the importance and the great impact that internet connectivity can bring to these 4 billion of world’s population, this seems unlikely to happen through the known conventional methods of internet connectivity because:

  • Fiber cabling would be extremely costly and impractical for covering such extremely large and disbursed locations.
  • Mobile networks (or other kinds of ground wireless solutions) would be also not practical as they would need establishment of large towers at every 50 km or so which would have huge CPEX and OPEX costs and would not be feasible for mobile operators.
  • VSAT solutions would be more practical for such locations, however they are currently too expensive to be affordable for majority of the unconnected population.

So how would it be possible to practically provide low-cost (or even free) true global access to internet? The answer is low-orbit transponders in Sky!

Standard VSATs depend on Geostationary satellites located on Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) some 35,000 Km above the ground. Only at this orbit, the satellite speed of circulating around the earth would be equal to the speed of earth’s circulation around itself, causing a fixed satellite position so you can adjust your dish antennas towards the satellite. The drawbacks however are high costs of satellites and their launch, need for costly equipment on the ground including big directional antennas and also high latency as every data needs to travel 35,000 Km up to the satellite and back down to earth.

To solve these problems, the satellites or alternative transponders/repeaters should be positioned at lower distances from the earth (Low Earth Orbit – LEO). However by doing this, new problems arises:

  • Unlike a GEO satellite that could easily cover one third of globe’s surface, LEO solutions would only cover a few tens of kilometers and hence, to make true global coverage, hundreds or thousands of them would be required.
  • It would be extremely difficult and expensive to maintain a repeater at LEO heights at a fixed location. In case of LEO satellites to maintain within their orbit, they have to circulate around the earth at high speeds.
  • Due to above facts, to maintain link connectivity, the repeaters should be able to seamlessly pass on every single connection between each other.

Therefore, providing a solution consisting of hundreds or thousands of repeaters in the sky at LEO orbit, while keeping the solution low-cost and affordable is the challenge that needs to be tackled.

In this article, I will briefly explain the 3 revolutionary ways to provide global internet coverage:

  1. Using gas-filled balloons acting as satellites
  2. Using unmanned aircrafts with very large wings acting as satellites
  3. Using LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellites

These 3 revolutionary ideas are actively and seriously persuaded by 5 leading companies: Alphabet (Google), Facebook, Space X, Boeing and OneWeb to tackle this challenge.

Google’s “Loon” Project

The Alphabet (Google) solution for providing global internet coverage is called the “Loon” project. The idea is to use a fleet of gas-filled balloons hovering around the world and powered by solar cells at estimated height of 20-30 km above ground. Each balloon is expected to operate for about 3 months at a time.

One of the main challenges of this project is how to maintain the location of these balloons. Google is trying to solve this challenge by using “software algorithms to determine where its balloons need to go and then move each one into a layer of wind blowing in the right direction”

If this challenge is resolved, the benefits of Google solution is it’s relatively lower cost of each balloon and the ability to maintain a balloon in a relatively small geographical area which would lessen the number of needed balloons.

Google has been testing some of their balloons but they do not yet give a clear timeline for when it would be put in real work, probably due to predictable very tough technical challenges.

Facebook’s “Aquila” Project

Facebook has selected to invest on unmanned aircrafts with very large wings (wingspan of about 40 meters) covered by solar cells, enabling them to stay on the sky for about 3 months at height of about 20 Km from the ground. Unlike Google’s solution that uses LTE technology, Facebook’s “Aquila” is investing on using laser beams to deliver high-speed internet within an 80 Km radius on the ground below.

What stage this project exactly is? I couldn’t find any clear public information. But the main challenges of the project in my opinion would be the durability of the drones and keeping them cost effective.

OneWeb’s LEO Satellite Fleet

OneWeb in partnership with Qualcomm and Airbus, has taken a more “classic” approach – by setting up a fleet of about 700 low-costs satellites circulating on LEO orbit at about 1200 km altitude. Actually, this is not a new concept and is already in place by Iridium – a network of 66 satellites orbiting at a height of about 780 Km and providing global phone and low-speed data coverage for Iridium devices since 1998. (Iridium has now started launching their new Iridium NEXT fleet of satellites what would provide data connectivity with speeds up to 8 Mbps)

What makes OneWeb’s solution different from Iridium is that they are investing on mass-production of satellites to considerably decrease the costs per satellite and of course to provide high-speed internet connections at much lower costs. Also, OneWeb’s user terminals would provide LTE, 3G and WiFi internet connection to surrounding areas.

OneWeb’s solution is expected to begin its services by 2019.

SpaceX and Boeing Satellite Solutions

There are also other companies racing with OneWeb on setting up large LEO satellite fleets to provide global internet connectivity – namely SpaceX and Boeing.

Many of us know SpaceX for its services to the International Space Station. They have exposed a plan to launch some 4000 small, low-cost, disposable satellites at about the same altitude as OneWeb. This project is also funded by Google and tests are expected to begin in 2016.

Boeing joined the battle just this June, by revealing its plans for deploying some 3000 satellites, 1400 of which are to be put in orbit within 6 years. Interestingly, Boeing is also planning to have its satellites at the same 1200km LEO orbit.


While we should wait and see who would win the battle of technologies for providing low-cost, global internet services, all these attempts show a promising future where everyone on the planet would have low cost (if not free) access to internet which has been just recently acknowledged by a UN resolution as a basic human right.

The Role of VSAT in Supporting NGOs during Disasters in Africa (Part 2): Zambia and Cape Verde

This is the second article of the two-part series “The Role of VSAT in Supporting NGOs during Disasters in Africa”. The first article focused on telemedicine projects in Mozambique and Uganda. This article will look at the role of VSAT during disasters in two more African countries: Zambia and Cape Verde.

Emergency telecommunications play a critical role in the immediate aftermath of disasters by ensuring the timely flow of vital information that is much needed by government agencies and other humanitarian actors involved in rescue operations and providing medical assistance to the injured. The impact of disasters is even worse for those living in remote and isolated areas with no access to basic information and communication facilities that are essential in providing the alerts so vital to saving lives.

The best emergency solution to utilize during emergencies is VSAT technology. VSAT is not affected by natural calamities like earthquakes, floods, and storms as much as terrestrial networks. This is why VSAT technology directly supports many NGOs and military operations, allowing them to cope with contingencies. Because of this, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) considers emergency telecommunications such as VSAT to be a core element of its projects that integrate telecommunications/information and communication technologies in disaster prediction, detection and alerting.

Emergency VSAT Solutions – Saving Lives During Disasters

1) Flood in Zambia 2008

The main emergencies that occur in Zambia are very much water-related and are predictable. Every year, there are floods along the river areas, primarily the Zambezi belt. When floods occur, people are often displaced. In 2008/2009 floods, over 4,000 people were displaced along the Zambezi belt. The 2008/9 rain season peaked in January 2009 with all parts of Zambia receiving normal to above normal rainfall The heavy precipitation in the country, coupled with similar rainfall in neighboring Angola, caused flooding along the Zambezi and Kwando Rivers, which displaced over 102,000 households, damaged growing and matured crops, and caused significant threats of waterborne diseases.  The five affected provinces were the Western, North-Western, Eastern Luapula and parts of the Northern Provinces. The government undertook rapid assessments in the affected districts, detailing the immediate need of food aid, shelter, clean and safe water, and rehabilitation of infrastructure.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) provided VSAT satellite terminals to Zambia to assist officials in their relief efforts after severe floods affected 19 districts across the country. The floods destroyed roads and terrestrial communication links, hampering the coordination and delivery of assistance. This deployment of emergency VSAT solutions proved critical for the government and allowed humanitarian aid agencies to conduct rescue operations, medical assistance, and recovery. The VSAT mobile terminals deployed by the ITU were easily transported by road and air to the affected regions, and the VSAT terminals facilitated the coordination of relief operations by both government and humanitarian agencies to aid the victims.

2) Volcano Eruption in Cape Verde

The eruption of the Pico de Fogo volcano began on the 23rd of November, 2014 and continued until the 8th of February, 2015. By the end of the eruption, the lava had covered an era of approximately 520 hectares with an average 8-meter height lava wall. The 88 days of intense and effusive eruption culminated in the total destruction of all houses and community infrastructures of the localities of Portela and Bangaeira – Chã das Caldeiras, forcing the evacuation and displacement of 994 people. As of the 8th of December, 2014, lava had destroyed 90 buildings, including the national park headquarters, wine production facilities, a primary school and a hotel, as well as more than 429 hectares of land, resulting in great material and economic loss and leaving many without a source of income.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU)  deployed VSAT communication equipment following the eruption of the Fogo Volcano on the 24th of November 2014, which affected most of the population of Fogo Island. The VSAT equipment was used for coordination and relief activities on the ground. The ITU deployed Iridium satellite VSAT communication terminals to support the preparedness and rescue activities.

Vizocom has an NGO Support Program, where Vizocom will provide fast and reliable communication services with exceptionally low prices to support NGOs and their causes.

The Role of VSAT in Supporting NGOs during Disasters in Africa (Part 1): Mozambique and Uganda

Natural disasters such as floods, fires, and storms affect thousands of people in Africa. From the destruction of buildings to the spread of disease, natural disasters can devastate entire countries overnight and seriously disrupt the community with massive human, material, economic and environmental losses. To prevent these losses during disasters, emergency communication systems are critical in terms of safety, and ensuring the continuous operation and rapid recovery of emergency communication systems is more important than ever.

The best emergency solution to utilize in these situations is VSAT technology. VSAT solutions act as very dependable backbones for communications during and after calamities. The inherent nature of VSAT communications via satellite and its connectivity advantages makes VSAT the ideal means of communication during emergencies.

During disasters, the first action should be to connect the affected site to multiple other sites, and this can be done quickly using VSAT. The other important tool for communication is the satellite phone , which does not rely on ground infrastructure for connectivity. Below are examples of how VSAT solutions have directly supported the NGO’s relief operations during disasters.

Emergency VSAT Solutions – Saving Lives during Disasters

1. Cyclone in Mozambique in 2008

The tropical cyclone Jokwe hit northern and central Mozambique on the 9th of March, 2008. The Category 4 cyclone had winds of up to 170 Km per hour and brought torrential rains, prompting the government to declare a Red Alert, which is the highest level issued for natural disasters. The red alert was issued for the Provinces of Nampula, Zambézia and Sofala, as well as the coastal areas of the Districts of Maganja da Costa, Pebane, Moma, Angoche, Mogovolas, Mogincual, Mossuril, and Nacala. A lesser Yellow Alert was issued in the central provinces, specifically in the districts of Inhassunge, Chinde, Marromeu, Chiringoma and Dondo. According to the Government National Institute for Disaster Management (INGC),tropical cyclone Jokwe killed 7 people, damaged around 30,000 houses, 200 schoolrooms, and dozens of health clinics, prisons and other public buildings. An estimated 41,000 hectares of maize were destroyed.


The Emergency Telecommunication Cluster (ETC), with support from Telecom sans Frontieres, installed VSAT equipment and provided support to INGC and the humanitarian community in each of the emergency operation centers in Caia, Mutarara, and Mopeia. Data connectivity was provided in Caia through an ETC VSAT station; in Mutarara, through the World Vision VSAT station; and in Mopeia, using UNICEF‘s BGAN portable satellite terminal. The emergency VSAT systems in place helped the NGOs conduct rapid emergency procedures. Telecom sans Frontieres also installed a BGAN and proxy-server in Caia to decrease the usage load on the VSAT at the CENOE office. Lacking outside contributions, the Emergency Telecommunication Cluster used advanced funds from UNICEF and WFP.

2. Flood in Uganda

Unusually heavy rainfall from July to November of 2007 led to flooding and water-logging across a number of districts in eastern and northern Uganda, particularly in the Districts of Soroti, Amuria, Katakwi, Bukedea, Kumi, Lira and Sironko. This gave rise to a major humanitarian response across all sectors. An estimated 20,000 households were severely affected and 58,000 people were displaced. With about 80 percent of crops destroyed by floods, food insecurity was imminent. The flooding disrupted delivery of social and economic services like education, health, trade and agriculture – which resulted in increased risk of communicable diseases especially as the floodwater receded. Malaria and diarrheal disease incidences greatly increased by over 30%. Several districts were ravaged by torrential rains and flash floods that swept through the country, destroying road and communication links, and submerging crops, which compelled the Government to declare a state of emergency.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) deployed 25 VSAT terminals to help restore vital communication links in the aftermath of severe floods that affected the eastern and northern regions of Uganda. With the restoration of the communication links, designated government officials and other humanitarian agencies were able to coordinate relief operations efficiently. The ITU provided bothThuraya hand-held satellite phones and Inmarsat Global Area Network (GAN)terminals. The Thuraya satellite phones used both satellite and GSM networks to accurately locate the GPS coordinates for the aid relief and rescue. The Inmarsat GAN terminals were mainly used for voice communications and high-speed data.

This article will be continued in the second part of this series titled: The Role of VSAT in Supporting NGOs during Disasters in Africa (Part 2): Zambia and Cape Verde.

Vizocom has an NGO Support Program, where Vizocom will provide fast and reliable communication services with exceptionally low prices to support NGOs and their causes.

What is WiMAX and How Does it Differ from WiFi?

When speaking about wireless networks, you might have heard the term WiMAX increasingly used as a technology that will replace WiFi. If you are curious on what the differences between these two are, then this article is meant to exactly answer your questions.

WiMAX stands for “Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access” and is a standard-based technology for providing a wireless alternative to cable and DSL connections.

This however is also one of the usages of WiFi. Although WiFi wireless devices are mainly used for short-range wireless connection of end user devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones, they are also used for site-to-site interconnections.

Before I explain the core difference of the two, let’s first take a look at the table below which gives some of the basic differences between the two wireless standards:

Specifications WiMAX WiFi
IEEE Standard 802.16x 802.11x
Versions of standard 802.16a, 802.16d and 802.16e 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n
Official Release 1997 2004
Frequency bands supported 2.5,3.5 and 5.8GHz supported 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz supported
Data rate 30-40Mbps, but lately updated to 1Gbps 54Mbps, but lately up to 1.2Gbps
Channel Bandwidth Flexible (1.25 to 20 MHz) 10 or 20 or 40 MHz
Normal Ranges 30+ Km 100m for end-user devices (up to 5Km for outdoor point to point connections)

What is the main technical benefit of WiMAX?

WiMAX is not a replacement technology to WiFi – instead, while WiFi is the de-facto global standard for wireless interconnection of end-user devices, WiMAX has addressed a specific technical deficiency of WiFi for interconnection of multiple sites.

The main drawback of WiFi technology for a point-to-multipoint connection is that it is a connectionless type of protocol named CSMA/CA (Carrier sense multiple access with collision avoidance). Without going into deep technical details, this means that as in WiFi networks all the devices of the network share the same frequency channel, to prevent collision in data transmissions, each device “listens” to make sure no other device is transmitting and then it transmits its data. I.e. there is no centralized management in the network. While this makes the network setup very simple and straightforward (which is a benefit for end-user devices), it creates major problems in larger networks especially when the distances are increased.

scheduling algorithm. Unlike a WiFi network, in WiMAX you should define and setup each subscriber station (SS) on the base station including specifying what bandwidth each SS should be given. By doing this, the base station knows the exact number of subscriber stations and allocates a time slot (access slot) to each. This protocol synchronizes the transmission of data between all the stations on the network and totally eliminates the collision issues of a WiFi network. This enables efficient and reliable connection of as many as 80 subscribers on a WiMAX network with guaranteed QoS (Quality of Service), while on an outdoor WiFi network, adding more than 10 CPEs would cause great deficiency with unpredictable quality of service.

To give an example, WiFi is like a crossroad with no traffic light where cars need to check and make sure no-one else is crossing before moving on, while WiMAX is when you have a traffic police (the base station) giving turn to each car to pass.


While WiFi is and will be widely used for short-range wireless connection of end-user devices, WiMAX is the correct, efficient wireless solution for long-range connection of multiple sites such as providing internet connection to multiple homes or interconnection of multiple buildings in a large compound.

5 Key Factors in Designing a Point to Point Microwave Link

Wireless and microwave point to point links are widely used as a quick-to-deploy and cost effective alternative to fiber optic cabling for interconnecting the network of two sites with distances of few hundred meters and up to 50 km or more.

However like any other solution and probably more than many others, establishing a reliable and high-quality microwave point to point link can be quite challenging, and if it is not properly designed and implemented, it can cause major quality issues such as lower throughputs, link instability, and longer than expected latency.

In this article, I have tried to very briefly explain some key factors that should be considered in a proper point to point microwave link design – so that IT managers and engineers who are not experts in the field would have enough idea to enable them to properly evaluate and control such work.

What is a good point to point microwave link?

The quality of a point to point microwave link can be determined by below measurements:

1) Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR):

This ratio is measured by dB and shows the strength of signal vs the noise level for that frequency channel. The higher the value, the better but it should be at least 20 dB.

2) Bit Error Rate (BER)

This figure shows the % of bits of data with errors vs the total number of bits that have been transmitted during a period of time. The value is usually expressed as 10 to a negative power. The lower this figure, the better is the link quality. Good BER rates are usually in range of 10 -8 or better.

3) Bandwidth Throughput

This is the actual amount of data that can be transferred per second and is expressed by bits per second – for example a bandwidth throughput of 100 Mbps means about 100 megabits of data can be transferred by the link in every second. Obviously the larger this figure, the better the link.

4) Latency

Link latency determines how much time it would take to transfer the data – for a good microwave link, the latency should be fixed and not going over 2-3 ms. The easiest way to check the latency is to ping the destination device.

5) Link Availability

This parameter is expressed in % and determines for what % of time the link has been established over a certain period of time, usually in a 12 months period. A reliable microwave link should have link availability as good as 99.999%.

As microwave links can be well affected by time of day as well as many other geographical factors, for critical links it would be important to have a constant test of at least 48 hours.

5 Key Factors for a Stable Microwave Link

Below are 5 key factors you would need to ensure about for having a reliable and stable microwave link:

1) Frequency Selection

Microwave links range from 2.4GHz to 42GHz spectrum. The higher the frequency, the higher the available capacity but at the same time, the effective range is lowered and the link would be more susceptible to rain or high humidity. To use a frequency, a license should usually be obtained from the legal authorities of the country. There are also a few frequency bands that are “license-free” – mainly 2.4GHz, 5GHz and 24GHz.

While these license-free bands are in much greater use, professional solutions more depend on utilizing licensed frequencies which would guarantee a free-to-use spectrum greatly improving link reliability.

2) Calculating Capacity

The required capacity (bandwidth throughput) of a point to point microwave link is a key design parameter.

As the capacity increases, you would need to design the link for a higher SNR, resulting the need for stronger equipment and antennas.

3) Calculation of Line of Sight and Path Loss

For point to point microwave links, the antenna on the two sides should be in line of sight of each other. The line of sight can be limited by natural or man-made obstacles and also by the earth’s curvature which limits the practical distance of microwave links to 50-60kms (which would call for 100m tower heights and large dish antennas to achieve).

There are now many computer applications that can accurately predict the line of sight and path loss however a visual survey by an experienced engineer is also necessary.

4) Interference and Fading

Interference and fading is another issue that if not handled correctly, can considerably affect the link reliability.

Apart from issues such as Fresnel zone, rain fade, and multipath fading which require proper consideration during the path loss calculation, there are also other factors causing interference such as installing the radios adjacent to other radios which would greatly affect the receiving sensitivity of the radio (like when you try to hear a weak voice when standing beside a big speaker that is playing music).

5) Redundancy

The reliability of the link can be greatly increased by applying redundancy. In frequencies of 7GHz and above, dual redundant radios can be connected to the same antenna.

But this is not possible in lower frequencies and two independent radio links should be installed with sufficient frequency and space diversity.

Who can design and implement a successful point to point microwave link?

Design and implementation of a successful and reliable point to point microwave link requires good theoretical knowledge about RF design and antennas, as well as good deal of practical experience.

The concepts mentioned above are the primary information you can ask an implementer to make sure they have the required knowledge and expertise. You should also ensure you receive clear test reports for the established link.

6 IoT Applications that Improved People’s Lives in Africa – A Story of 6 Countries

As explained in the previous posts “What is IoT? A short, simple explanation” and “Top 5 Ideas for IoT That Could Change your Life“, the Internet of Things (IoT)-related technologies are currently booming at an unprecedented pace. There are hundreds of thousands of new ideas on how businesses can benefit from the IoT concept, and this list is expanding every single day.

The last seven years have seen a rise in activities geared towards IoT across the globe among technology practitioners, private businesses and education institutions. Back in 2013, it was estimated that there were about 80 things being connected to the internet per second, and by 2020 it is estimated that about 250 things will be connected to the internet per second, that’s´ about 50 billion things in total all connected the internet.

With this massive number of interconnected things, businesses all over the world are positioning themselves to tap into the huge potential that IoT brings. The African region has been markedly slower in embracing the IoT concept compared to most developed nations, but Africa is now increasing it level of intake of IoT. Businesses in countries all over Africa are now using IoT applications to improve their business environment and to improve the lives of the citizens.

IoT adoption in Africa is now an area of great interest. Below are great examples of how IoT has helped businesses and revolutionize peoples´ lives in 6 countries in Africa: Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt, and Namibia.

1. Preventing Oil Pilferage in Tanzania

Usangu  Logistics is  a heavy  transport  company with a fleet of over 100 trucks and tankers dedicated to serving thousands of customers in Tanzania with oil,  lubricants,  and  other bulky products. One immediate challenge that the company faced was that after a tanker is loaded with the product for transport to various locations, the drivers would often pilferage the oil along the way, and would later sell the stolen oil in the black market. The company’s trucks and tankers used a combination of a lock  system  intertwined  with  a  metal  loop  that  is  fitted around the closing mechanism of the tank’s hatch. However, the system could not prevent the driver in possession of the lock’s combination from opening the hatch. The company could not completely control the drivers and did not know when, where, and how much oil has been stolen along the way. This resulted to a big loss for the company, and it prompted an immediate solution that would solve the problem.

The IoT Solution – RFID

The immediate solution came in the form of an IoT application though the use of radio frequency identification (RFID). An  IoT-enabled  gateway  device  is  attached  to  the  truck’s  cabin area,  and the  seals are tagged with  RFID-enabled  tags which are  fastened  to the tracks´ hatch. The tag transmits signals to the gateway device every eight seconds, and the signal is sent to HQ or main office for interpretation and further action. The software will store the seal status and location of the trucks, so the truck and seal information can be monitored in real-time. Any attempt to open the hatch is recorded, and the culprit can immediately be known. The implementation of this IoT-enabled solution resulted to a very severe drop in cases of pilfering of the oil that the trucks and tankers were carrying.

2. Electronic Tolling System in South Africa

IoT began  in  South  Africa  over  a  decade  ago,  and  has  been shaping  the  country  for  the  last  ten  years  even  without many people noticing it. South Africa has been building IoT technology for many years, including the building of a nationwide network of sensors to connect everything from electricity  grids to traffic  controls.

E-toll System in Gauteng Highway

At  the  beginning  of  2012,  the  South  African National  Roads  Agency  Limited  (SANRAL)  introduced an IoT-based E-tolling system in Gauteng Highway. The E-toll system called  the  Open  Road  Tolling  is  meant  to  collect  tolls electronically  without  human  intervention  since  there  are no physical booths on the highway. The IoT system charges all vehicles using the highway without them slowing down or stopping. Simple overhead gantries are fitted with toll  collection  devices which have the capability  to  recognize  an electronic tag  attached  to  the  vehicles  as  it  passes  through  the  gantries. The vehicle owners  are  supposed to  purchase the IoT-based electronic tags and fit  it in  their  vehicles,  and the  tags  can  also  be  loaded whenever  the  credit  gets to zero.  With this IoT-based technology, traffic jams have been reduced dramatically. The IoT-based tags can be easily purchased or reloaded at stores around the country.

3. Waste Management Systems in Kenya

Nairobi County in Kenya have been grappling with waste management issues for a long time. In order  to  tackle this  problem, Nairobi officials approached  IBM  to  develop  an  IoT- based  application  for  waste management. Basically,  the  idea  is  to  develop  a  solution  that can  be  installed  in  the waste  collection  fleet  to  monitor them in real-time. The IoT application is also meant to create a digital map of the Nairobi streets.

oT-Based Smart Sensors for Waste Management

The IoT-based solution called for the fleet of waste collection trucks to be installed with smart sensors that would tell when the vehicles are in the garage or on the road. The IoT-based sensors can also check dumpsites to see if they are full and need to be drained, checks how long the waste collection truck has taken in traffic, and the time they take to collect garbage. The  IoT application  is  also  expected  to automatically monitor the driver’s behavior, detect  speed  bumps and  potholes,   and check  fuel  usage  by  the  driver.  The IoT-based initiative has  enabled  Nairobi County to  track  the  garbage  fleet  and  ensure that  the  trucks  are  doing  their  job  at the allotted  time.  The smart sensors allowed Nairobi County to see great improvements during the trial period as collected waste volumes tremendously increased.

4. Product Verification Initiative in Nigeria

Faced  with a perennial  drug counterfeiting  problem,  Nigerias´  National Agency for Food  and Drug  Administration and Control (NAFDAC)  in  2010  resorted  to  the IoT-based product  verification initiative  to curb drug counterfeiting by using Radio  Frequency  Identification  (RFID). The IoT-based technology was carried out in collaboration with Verification Technology Limited (VTL). The IoT solution  used  tags equipped  with  RFID  to  secure  the  integrity  of  the  drugs throughout  the  supply  chain,  starting  from the manufacturers,  to the distributors,  wholesalers,  retailers, and consumers.

RFID Tags to Prevent Counterfeit Drugs

The RFID tags are expected to track down the drug’s path as it moves across the supply chain. In order to verify the drug’s authenticity, special RFID scanners will be placed at the port of entry. It is also expected that RFID scanners will be purchased by hospitals, pharmacists, and manufacturers in order to have a collective effort in dealing with the problem of drug counterfeiting in Nigeria.

5. Remote Appliance Control in Egypt

Egypt has shown that IoT solutions can be used to solve societal problems through innovation. A  Cairo -based  technology firm called Integreight announced that it has developed an IoT chip that can be integrated  with  modern appliances  like  refrigerators,  cameras, TVs, washing machines, etc. This IoT-based application named 1sheeld gives users the capability to use their appliances remotely by simply connecting the chip to their smartphones.

Remote Control through 1sheeld

The 1sheeld technology uses an Arduiono board, and the 1sheeld application can then be accessed from a smartphone by using Bluetooth.  Using  the 1shield  library, codes can be written into  the  Arduiono  software application  before  uploading  it to  the  board.  This allows the control of many different sensors that are available in the board. There are other IoT-based proposals underway in Egypt, including using sensors to undertake precision potato farming and bee keeping.

6. Electronic Dispensing Tools (EDT) in Namibia

The small South Western African nation is not to be left behind in the field of IoT. In order to improve the effectiveness of antiretroviral drugs, Namibia implemented an IoT-based electronic dispensing tool.  Pharmacists must dispense the correct medicine in correct amounts to patients, and if a patient misses medication or is given too much, it becomes a very big health problem.  Pharmacists  require  at least some  minimal  information  about  the  patients’ medical history,  and this  is extremely necessary  if  the  patient  needs optimized  care,  and  for  the  pharmaceutical  providers to effectively manage their medicine inventory.

EDT for Accurate Dispensing of Medicine

Electronic Dispensing Tools help pharmaceutical providers to collect, manage, and generate the necessary records that are useful for accurate dispensation of medicine. The data collected includes the patients’ profiles and the medicine inventory. The IoT-based devices can also manage the inventory and logistics of the medicine, alert patients of upcoming appointments using SMS, allow users to work on the same database at the same time, and allows for customized medical reporting functions.

To learn more about the IoT Progress Report for Africa, you can read the very comprehensive paperby Nashon Onyalo, Hosea Kandie, and Josiah Njuki, which was published in the International Journal of Computer Science and Software Engineering (IJCSSE).

In Africa, almost all the countries have developing economies, and they will benefit the most in adopting applications developed with IoT platforms. IoT will change peoples´ lives and improve processes, services, and ways of life. IoT is a cutting-edge technology that is best suited to developing markets, bringing with it flexible connectivity for devices across the entire African region.

Top 5 Ideas for IOT That Could Change your Life

As I explained in my previous post “What is IOT? A short, simple explanation”, the “Internet of Things” or IOT-related technologies are booming at an unpredictable pace. There are literally hundreds of thousands of new ideas on how we can benefit from the IOT concept and the list is expanding on an hourly basis.

In this post, I’ve tried to share the top 5 IOT ideas that can considerably change the way we live in the next few years, noting that the technology for all the ideas is already available:

1) Integration of Virtual Reality Glasses and IOT

Virtual Reality is probably one of the most hot technology topics that is expanding at an extraordinary pace these days. Now imagine that you are wearing your new, nice-looking VR glasses that include a small speaker-mike and is also connected to the internet through IOT – you will have all kind of possible facilities:

  • You are automatically informed of emergency messages and can quickly read the ones you decide to read or have them read for you.
  • When walking in the street, the people you know are highlighted in the crowd (being detected by their mobiles or IOT devices)
  • You can speak to the VR headset asking for the closest drugstore and the directions are shown in front of your eyes and when the store is in your eyesight, it is specifically highlighted.
  • You can have your shopping list shared and as you pass by each store, whatever is in your shopping list that is available in the store is listed with their prices.
  • And an endless list of other features and possibilities…

2) Medical Wearables

Imagine that you and your family have smart watches that also monitor each person’s location, movement, health status, and all are connected to the Internet:

  • In case of an abnormal health condition, the watch automatically alerts you and suggests the primary medical recommendations.
  • If required, concerned people are automatically informed of the survival emergency, or an ambulance is called to the location while constantly sharing the health status of the patient.
  • If a child goes out of the defined geo-boundaries, parents are automatically alerted.
  • If a grandparent is sensed to have not moved for an unreasonably long period, or is in an unexpected location, an alert is sent to concerned people, specifying the exact location.
  • If you are under medication monitoring and your heartbeat goes higher than anticipated, your doctor is automatically informed and your health condition is shared.

3) Intelligent Home Appliances

Intelligent home appliances that are internet connected are definitely one of the interesting usages of IoT in very near future. Some examples are:

  • Your fridge checks the contents (identified through RFID tags placed to each food package) against a list defined by you once a day and automatically orders for the shortage through your selected shop.
  • Your coffee maker automatically prepares the coffee by sensing your approach to home through your smart watch location.
  • Your music station automatically continues playing the music you were listening to while driving in your car, from the point you took out of the car to enter your home.
  • Your TV set automatically senses when you are present watching the TV and would inform you of any emergency messages you might have received on your phone or through email.

4) Smart Vehicles

Smart vehicles are already in their final stages of development by most well-known car manufacturers. Some ideas you can find very commonly used in the next few years could be:

  • While you drive, you would be informed of best paths to reach destination, of any nearby car accidents, high traffic situations, road conditions, or danger zones.
  • Your vehicle would talk to you as your assistant and would follow instructions such as answering an email, to reserve a restaurant or flight ticket, to connect a phone conversation or automatically answer is phone call.
  • After you get out of the vehicle, your vehicle would automatically park itself in the free available location in the parking lot, sending the parked location to your mobile.
  • It would automatically alert you on any possible accidents or even take control preventing one.
  • It would brief you on the closest hotels or restaurants and would lead you to the one you select.
  • It would sense if you are falling sleep or not conscious enough to drive and would recommend a rest or would enforce it if necessary.

5) Automated Homes

IOT would certainly also change the future of our homes in the next few years. Almost all parts of the home, from lights, doors, windows, air conditioning systems, and even trash bins are expected to be part of IOT. The homes would be also expected to be equipped with intelligent CCTV camera systems.

This would enable many facilities that might not be currently easily imaginable – just as a few examples:

  • The home’s lighting and temperature is automatically adjusted based on tracking the locations of people and each individual’s habits.
  • Doors are automatically opened for approved personnel with no need for a key while preventing access to unauthorized people.
  • Kids’ movements are intelligently tracked and an alert is sent to parents if needed.
  • An emergency number is called in case of any accidents or emergencies happening in the home.
  • Your mirror automatically reminds you of the agenda for the day after sensing who is standing in front of it every morning.
  • Trash collection is automatically requested once the trash bin is full.


Above are only a few ideas that are mostly already available or in the final stages of development. As mentioned before, we are entering a new arena of internet technology based on the IOT concept which will probably prove to be the turning point of technological revolution that started with invention of the internet and had a major breakthrough in the presentation of mobile devices and cloud computing. Are you ready for it?

What is IOT? – A short and simple explanation

The Internet of Things or “IoT” is probably one of the hottest technical topics of 2016. Although the concept is not new and goes back to the 1980s and 1990s, it is right now that it is really gaining momentum and can become one of the fastest growing businesses in the next 5 years (predicted up to trillions of USD).

There is a huge amount of posts, articles, and white papers on the internet, trying to explain what IOT is, what possibilities it would create, and what its challenges are.

In this post, I’ve tried to explain the topics as simply as possible for those who want to get an idea of the concept in a very short time and without all the fuss.

What is IOT?

IOT is about connecting “Things” to the “Internet”. This connection can be wired or wireless.

The term “Things” is wisely chosen as it can include literally everything: from obvious things such as computers and smartphones that are already connected to Internet, to home appliances, wearables, vehicles, factory machines, to tagged animals and consumables.

What are the key components of IOT?

The key components of IoT can be summarized as follows:

  • Sensors: sensors enable us to collect data about the status of the “Thing”. Sensors are probably the most important components of IOT and can include data such as temperature, GPS location, speed, and all other usable data about the “Thing”.
  • Controllers: IoT is not just about collecting data of the status of things. It can also include controlling the “Thing” over the internet – such as turning off or on a device, stopping a vehicle, locking/unlocking a door, adjusting the temperature of an oven and any other controllable aspect of the “Thing”.
  • Software: apart from the required hardware that should be embedded to every “Thing” that is connected to internet as part of “IoT”, probably the most exciting part of IoT is the software. Once you know the devices that can be sensed and controlled over the internet, you have the needed tools for endless ideas and creativity through the applications that can be developed to provide automated or semi-automated solutions based on human-device and device-device communications.

What “Things” are expected to be part of IoT?

It is very hard to predict what IoT will cover in the next 5 years – the concept is exploding with new ideas every day. Some ideas include:

  • Home appliances: fridges, cookers, coffee makers, heaters, HVAC, TVs, DVD players, lights, doors, windows …
  • Wearables: clothes, shoes, hats, watches, heart monitors …
  • Vehicles: cars, buses, bicycles, trains …
  • Factories: machines, robots, warehouse shelves, parts within machines, tools …
  • Agriculture: biochip transponders on farm animals and plants, farm humidity and temperature sensors …
  • Food: sensors for monitoring the condition of food.

Challenges and Risks

Without a doubt, the most critical challenge and risk of IoT is its security, and how much it would be immune against cyber-attacks, hackers, and unauthorized intruders. With billions of “Things” connected to the internet, it would also mean that by unauthorized access one can create disasters that we’ve already watched in so many science fiction movies.