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Liquid Telecom Kenya launches internet network that will automate farming activities in the country

Liquid Telecom

Liquid Telecom Kenya, part of the leading pan-African telecoms group Liquid Telecom has partnered with Sigfox, the world’s leading Internet of Things (IoT) services provider, to build and deploy a nationwide IoT network which is set to enable farmers run their activities from wherever they are at any time.

With the new network, farmers will also be able to detect adverse weather conditions, pest and disease in their farms and put necessary measures to avoid any loses. Furthermore, it will enable the farmers to avoid middlemen who may deny them enjoying their full profits as the network will enable them identify markets for their produce.

“We expect increased yields among farmers. We have started building infrastructure of the new network and it will be ready for commercial launch in September this year,” said Muigai.

The network which is expected to cover up to 85 per cent of the Kenyan population will be connected to Liquid Telecom’s fibre network, to deliver guaranteed reliability and speed.

The launch of the IoT network in Kenya will support the Big Four agenda and will be used to connect sensors in agriculture among other sectors. The sensors gather farm conditions and relay real-time information to farmers through Short Message Service (SMS) for necessary actions.

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Sigfox is a global IoT service and network provider in 45 countries that has pioneered low cost, low energy consumption, long range IoT networks.

The introduction of a Sigfox “Low Power Wide Area Network” (LPWAN) is the first in the region, allowing users to use IoT technology wherever they are and positioning the country to apply cost-effective local solutions using IoT.

“We are building an LPWAN that will enable us to connect literally anything. Be it your soil, water, greenhouse, dairy farm, or pet – just name it,” said Joel Muigai, Head of IoT Strategy at Liquid Telecom Kenya. “This network will allow Kenyans to develop our own homemade solutions for the many unique socio-economic and business challenges we face.”

The new network runs on the free ISM band 868MHz and will cost farmers and other business operators as little as Sh100 ($1) per year per device or sensor, depending on usage. Previously, communication with any internet enabled gadget depended on Wi-Fi or GSM networks that require data bundles, local network signal coverage and a power supply. 

“Connecting remote sensors over mobile data requires high battery consumption or connection to the mains power supply, which is often challenging or not possible in rural Kenya. However, with the new IoT network, the sensors will require no SIM card and last up to 15 years without recharging or changing the battery,” said Muigai. 

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Sigfox has enabled its industry partners to develop wireless communication chipsets that IoT device manufacturers can use. In 2016, Sigfox industry partners introduced the first ultra-low-cost wireless chipsets for IoT devices for just Sh200 in the EMEA markets. In 2017, the company, in partnership with GCT LTE-M, announced another new chipset, which was the first ever to support both mobile connectivity (GSM) and the Sigfox IoT network. These chipsets will allow Kenyan companies to develop IoT devices for both Kenyan and global markets.

“This new network puts startups and established operational businesses in a better position to develop devices and solutions that create new business opportunities and improve productivity.  The early adopter applications are likely to be smart cities, farming, logistics and transport, and utility metering,” said Adil El Youseffi, CEO at Liquid Telecom Kenya.

To further promote development, Liquid Telecom Kenya will be working with incubator hubs and universities to enable students and startups to develop IoT solutions locally. “We are also looking to enable devices and solutions to be developed in Kenya as a way of stimulating the local economy and creating more ICT job opportunities,” said Adil. 

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As part of its Go Cloud iniative, which is designed to raise awareness, adoption and usage of cloud-based services amongst startups in Africa, Liquid Telecom will also start a new initiative called Go Things that aims to accelerate IoT adoption in the region.

This is a shared vision with Sigfox.

“After an exhaustive selection process in Kenya, Sigfox selected Liquid Telecom as its exclusive partner because of the companies’ similar visions for the IoT sector in Kenya,” said Nicolas Andrieu, Vice President, Middle East & Africa.  “Our company brings a technology that will revolutionalise the next generation of affordable IoT solutions and transform Kenya’s telecommunication infrastructure and reach,” he said.

In South Africa, Sigfox is working on projects in wild and farm animal monitoring, electricity and water metering, manhole monitoring, and driver behaviour. Globally, some of the live solutions include managing chocolate vending machines with Nestlé in Japan, rodent detection in Singapore with RatSense, security alarms with Securitas Direct in Spain, Portugal and France, and smart heating with Leanheat in Scandinavia.

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