You are in your sitting room in the evening resting. Suddenly, your phone buzzes. It is a message from your cow Suzie telling you that she is on heat or about to go on labour. Quickly, you alert your farmhands and they get into action to help her.
From the other end of the farm, where you are growing vegetables, your soil sends you a message: The water is enough; I am drenched, turn off the irrigation…
During the day, another message arrives from the garden – birds are eating you produce! Okay, you might be wondering what this is all about or think it is crazy or farfetched. But it is not, thanks to the internet of things (IOT).
With IoT everything on the farm can talk to you – stones connected to sensors can inform you that they are hot or cold; sensors inside animal horns can track movement and health; and soil can tell you of the nutrients it lacks and levels of humidity.
This technology is now possible and will soon be available and affordable, even to small-scale farmers, thanks to an initiative by Liquid Telcom to build a nationwide IoT infrastructure that will provide connectivity for up to 85 per cent of the population. It will need very little power with a long lasting battery power of up 15 years and be used with anything.
“We are now moving beyond human connectivity. We want to make sure everything else is connected. Our aim is to go beyond anything that has a switch,” said Mr Joel Muigai, head of IoT Strategy East Africa at Liquid Telecom, during the launch of a partnership with Sigfox, the world’s leading Internet of Things (IoT) services provider, late last year.
The IoT network, which will be composed of base stations for transmission of the Sigfox signal and will be connected to Liquid Telcoms fibre, will be used to connect sensors across all sectors, including agriculture and fishing, transport and logistics among others.
“We are building a network that will enable us to connect almost anything, as it is based on objects. This will remove the headache of connectivity” said Mr Muigai.
With its global Low Power Wide Area network (LPWAN), Sigfox has reinvented connectivity for the IoT. It drastically It’s an SMS from your cow… brings down costs and energy consumption required for securely connecting IoT sensors to the Cloud.
As opposed to GSM networks (the one’s used in mobile phones among others), which use high power consumption and are costly, the LPWAN network is designed to receive small messages, uses very little power and does not need a simcard.
“The Sigfox sensor requires so little power and the little it has can last upto 15 years. It also needs no simcard as long as it has a Sigfox chip,” says Mr Muigai. For coverage, it uses a long range signal and one base station can cover a radius of 300 kilometers.
“Compared to GSM, we need a 10th of the infrastructure it uses, to cover an area,” he adds.
IoT refers to the network of physical devices such as mobile phones, motor vehicles, home appliances and any others embedded with electronics, sensors, software, actuators, and connectivity, which enables them to exchange information.
With the massive increase in internet penetration, more things are now connected to the internet than people. About 1 million things, experts say, are connected to the internet and are being used by people to chat unprecedented economic growth paths.
Scenes of farms connected with intelligent apps such as precision agriculture, smart irrigation and variable rate technology is no longer news.
Farmers across Kenya are now exploring smart devices to receive weather information, early warning on extreme weather events and efficient production methods.