Brainiacs STEM and Robotics is an end to end technology solution provider that provide services in training and enhancement for children and young adults (creativity pack), application and systems development and technical support for institutions in research and analytics. Integration of hardware to smart systems has been part of Brainiacs key focus in the last twelve months.

Not sure what to expect but we have been curious to learn from the large pool of techies in the city of Lagos particularly being the new kids on the block. So we thought about having a meet up believing the geeks will turn up to share their experiences with us.

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We chose 12th of November, as the date and posted an invite on www.eventbrite.com. All 50 tickets posted were taken within the first week with more people calling to book a slot off the platform. No surprise considering the level of interest in the subject and the opportunities it provides in the next few both within Nigeria and the global tech market in the next few years. Depending on your sources, one has to believe that IoT is the big thing for now in the technology market.

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The meet up kicked off with a presentation on the various IoT solutions in use today and how they could be applied to our country Nigeria. After the presentation came a round table discussion on the applications of IoT to various areas of the Nigerian society – education technology, health care, security, manufacturing and so much more.

Opportunities

The opportunities in IoT in healthcare, energy, education, industry and agriculture were brought to the fore. At the end of the program, every participant left the meet up with the knowledge IoT would have a profound impact on business and companies.

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Idemudia Dima Okojie (@idemudia) observed although opportunities do exist however the deployment of hardware is a major constraint in taking advantage of this opportunities.

Technology is transforming the way we live and the homes we live in as smart gadgets connect to the future. Little innovation have we seen in the context of our home in this part of the world.

When you’re not home, nagging little doubts can start to crowd your mind. Did I switch off the pumping machine? Did I set the security alarm? Are the kids doing their homework or watching television?

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With a smart home, you could quiet all of these worries with a quick glance at your smartphone or tablet. You could connect the devices and appliances in your home so they can communicate with each other and with you. Your phone tells you whether you have enough drinks in the fridge and adjusts the water heater to ensure perfect timing for your early wake up bath. In this market, there has been a lot of major players with likes of Philips creating smart lightening devices, GE, Samsung and several others.

More and more new cool devices and technologies arrive at our homes every day. But though they are all aimed at enhancing our lifestyle they all lack one important feature: a common language they could speak to each other to create a really automated and smart environment at home. Fragmentation and lack of interoperability of the various platforms and players looks like the main barrier to a truly connected home. OpenHAB helps to provide an integration platform to fix this issue.

OpenHAB is that engine that powers our Smart Home solution. OpenHAB controls “things”, and it can talk to the outside world: it sends e-mail, speaks XMPP, launches programs, stores state in SQL (or other) databases, but it does only what you want it to. OpenHAB can do things like execute a program when a particular event is detected (press a switch on the UI, fire up a UNIX program), send an e-mail or even use Twitter for notifications. OpenHAB has given us the ability to create a true connected smart home.

One of the biggest challenges of living in Lagos is the traffic jams. In a recent report, Lagos State Governor, Akinwumi Ambode disclosed that Lagos state loses N42 Billion yearly due to traffic congestion.

In recent times, Google has enabled its live traffic map alerts to work in Nigeria. This system uses real time traffic data to predict areas of traffic congestion thus allowing users of Google maps to avoid areas of high traffic concentration.

The above use case represents an already established area of IoT application in Nigeria. But IoT can also be used to improve the efficiency of service providers.

The BRT service run by the state government is an area due for service improvement. At the moment, there doesn’t exist a single unified platform to make customers aware of the arrival and departure times of buses. This is means that service delivery is efficient at the moment.

Hospitals can use IoT in inventory management, workflow optimization and device integration.

With inventory management, the state of storage of temperature sensitive vaccines can be monitored so that vaccines are not denatured by high temperatures.

Workflow optimization means that operations in a hospital can be streamlined to efficiently allocate resources to critical areas. This monitoring will not only improve the service delivery in hospitals but allow hospitals remove bottlenecks from their operations.

The use of wearable devices in Nigeria is steadily on the rise. Paired with a mobile device, a wearable becomes a means of collecting information about a user and monitoring the health of the individual over a period of time.

In the event of extended periods of treatment and rehabilitation, wearables can be used to monitor the improvement of the health of the patients on an outpatient basis.

If you asked someone in agriculture 100 years ago how the industry would change in the century to come, they’d probably focus more on climate conditions or water usage than on machines and sensors gathering and transmitting actionable data.

For farmers and growers, the Internet of Things has opened up extremely productive ways to cultivate soil and raise livestock with the use of cheap, easy-to-install sensors and an abundance of insightful data they offer. Prospering on this prolific build-up of the Internet of Things in agriculture, smart farming applications are gaining ground with the promise to deliver 24/7 visibility into soil and crop health, machinery in use, storage conditions, animal behaviour, and energy consumption level.

Logistics and supply chain management play a big role in any economy and is a critical contributor to the competitiveness of a country. The demand for products can only be satisfied through the proper and cost- effective delivery of goods and services. With its ever-increasing demand for smarter supply chain management solutions, the logistics & transportation industry is an industry that can be a key force in the #IoT upswing in Nigeria.

Logistics providers can achieve high levels of operational efficiency in regard to fleet management, cargo integrity monitoring, and automated warehousing operations. Logistics providers and shipping container manufacturers can easily assemble smart containers that allow tracking location, safety, and storage climate conditions of the delivered goods.

Some discussed used cases for better logistics were:

  1. Embed IoT based electronics into regular containers and track cargo en-route from point A to point B.
  2. Using smart labels to track the condition of an individual item.
  3. Provide accurate shipping status for customers in real time especially for local based item delivery.
  4. Speed up warehousing operations with the real-time inventory tracking.
  5. Ensure accurate inventory control by automated scanning of inbound and outbound items.

“Smart” logistics operations as a tendency to show faster ROI and will do a remarkable job in terms of reducing core management complexities which are bothering a large number of companies from different lines of business. To grease their squeaky wheels, it is high time to apply the IoT technology and bring the supply chain management to a new, leaner level.

Zara Mohammed a student of Computer Engineering from ABU Zaria stated the need to support the security agencies with IoT solutions to help them address the security challenges affecting the country.

Technology Options

IoT requires the infrastructure of the internet backed up by reliable cloud solutions. The cloud solutions looked at include Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, IBM Watson, Google Cloud Platform and the Open Source KAA project. The need for analytics of data to provide context to the information collected was also discussed.

Tolulade Ademisoye (@toluade_ato) talked about the GE Predix a cloud based industrial IoT platform. Capture a bit more overview of the predix platform.

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Predix is General Electric’s software platform for the collection and analysis of data from industrial machines. Predix as a cloud-based PaaS (platform as a service) is claimed to enable industrial-scale analytics for asset performance management (APM) and operations optimization by providing a standard way to connect machines, data, and people. GE expects Predix software to do for factories and plants what Apple’s iOS did for cell phones.

Predix is a crucial next step that super charges industrial automation to achieve transformation to new levels of performance. Making an industry more efficient by a fraction of a percentage can mean a return of hundred of millions or billions of dollars. Achieving a 5 percent improvement can mean a return in the billions.

Idemudia Dima Okojie highlighted the need to keep the context of our environment in mind in the creation and deployment of solutions was also mentioned. The need to focus on the creation of solutions rather than on technology was especially highlighted as the Nigerian experience has shown that cloning of solutions from other environments rarely work. It was generally agreed that for most solutions to be successfully deployed in Nigeria, there is need to have.

Issues and challenges

Lack of Skilled Manpower: The challenges and issues faced in the deployment of IoT solutions in Nigeria were highlighted. The biggest challenge of IoT deployment in Nigeria comes from the lack of skilled manpower which is a reflection of educational system and the curriculum being followed. Participants agree that with participation in meet up as organised by Brainiacs and sharing knowledge with others, attending seminars and workshops and taking virtual courses will go a long way in bridging the skill gap.

Access/availability of hardware: to help students try their hands to developing open source IoT solutions was also identified as one the challenges leading to significant skill gap as most university labs don’t have the basic tools required for such developments. Brainiacs STEM and Robotics (www.brainiacs.com.ng) offered to support students with access to their facility and tools as long as the students have recognised referees. They also offered to provide rental option for micro-controller kit like Arduino boards and Raspberry Pi to students after paying small deposit and guaranteed by their departmental faculties. The team promised to roll out the program in Q1 of 2017.

Cost of internet access: Cost was high but now it has come down though everyone was concerned about the recent effort by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to increase the data rates in Nigeria. Participants agree that this move by NCC will further impact negatively on innovation and capability development among Nigerian youths and technopreneurs.

Mis-alignment between department supervisors’ understanding of the technology and its application to a wide range of fields. A student observed how her department is completely disconnected with her selected project topic because she wants to develop a program for data collection and analysis as against the traditional methodology applied in town planning.

Lack of sponsorship by corporate organisation – Most support goes to entertainment music and comedy rather than education, innovation and research. There is for the entire country to refocus its direction on education.

Lack of collaboration among tech hubs: At present in Nigeria, technology hubs operate in silos. As a result of this, innovations developed in one technology hub rarely diffuse to the rest of the country. This incidence is slowing down innovation in Nigeria.

Going forward

All participants agree that the way make any meaningful progress among the need for collaboration cannot be over emphasised. All agreed to invite more people to the next Brainiacs IoT Meet up schedule to take place on 25th March 2017.

Visit www.brainiacs.com.ng for updates on IoT and other upcoming events organised by Brainiacs STEM & Robotics, its sister companies and partners

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