BY Fast Company 3 MINUTE READ

Sigfox today has a presence in 70 countries and covers more than 1 billion people with its global network, allowing Sigfox Ready devices to roam at no extra cost. SqwidNet, headed up by managing director Phatizwe Malinga, is the licensed Sigfox operator in South Africa and provides nationwide connectivity for the Internet of Things in South Africa. The company sells low power wide area network (LPWAN) access to the solution providers and operators in the IoT industry. These solutions are built to solve socio-economic and business issues across verticals, including resources management, public safety, asset tracking and agriculture, to name a few. 

SqwidNet prides itself on bringing together a channel ecosystem of device makers, application and platform providers to drive innovation through IoT. Aditionally, SqwidNet works with university students (IoT University Challenge) and entrepreneurs (IoTEP) through its programmes, encouraging them to come up with unique IoT solutions to solve everyday problems, and then works with them to bring those ideas to life. The SqwidNet network currently covers over 90% of the South African population, enabling millions of physical devices to be connected to the digital world to send small packets of data for analysis, immediate action, and record-keeping.

Phathizwe Malinga, MD of SqwidNet

This enables channel partners to develop solutions that solve socioeconomic and business problems that have a tangible impact on the lives of South Africans. The company offers low-cost access to IoT solutions and operators in South Africa, creating opportunities for businesses of all sizes to create innovative solutions. IoT is as simple as ABCD: Application + Backend + Connectivity + Device. This means to design an IoT solution is as simple as making four choices. This, along with SqwidNet’s growing partner network, enables them to provide strategic direction and advice on IoT solutions that solve business challenges. The SqwidNet network has resulted in at least 18 independent local manufacturers investing millions in capital to make Sigfox Ready devices locally. 

To date, they have collectively certified 36 devices, most of which are also being exported to the rest of Africa, Europe, the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and even into Asia. The devices range from smart water meters that enable consumers to monitor their water usage and detect water leaks early to save on their monthly bills, to anti-tampering solutions for manhole covers, which not only protects the operators’ infrastructure, but also saves lives in preventing accidents due to uncovered manholes. SqwidNet has also been involved in conservation projects — protecting endangered species, as well as connecting communities and enabling them to become economically active through our technology. 

Phathizwe Malinga has been instrumental in the company’s vision of driving innovation through IoT. He is an advocate of design thinking and not focusing on the technology and its associated complexities, but rather the problem that you are trying to solve. Phathizwe works closely with channel partners, directing their vision and creativity towards the most pressing issues facing South African society and business today. He inspires out-of-the-box thinking among their partners, challenging them to look at multiple applications for solutions, even outside of those they were originally designed for. Sigfox is a disruptive technology for the following reasons: 

• Bringing an open access culture to IoT that has resulted in a vibrant ecosystem
• Low device and component costs
•  Low cost of connectivity
• Extremely low power consumption, resulting in extended battery life
• Low barrier to entry with regard to development and commercialisation
• National and global coverage