Smart solar energy delivered to Africa’s ‘off grid’ population with a helping hand from the Internet of Things
- ‘Out of the box’ Solar-power solutions delivered to families and businesses with low-cost monthly payment plan
- Internet of Things and M2M technology make deployments realistic and manageable
- Energy provider BBOXX selects Wireless Logic to connect remote-located units to centralised management platform
- Global SIM solution gives access to wide range of local mobile networks
Energy solutions for the developing world
BBOXX, a British company are at the forefront of solar-powered energy systems targeting ‘off-grid, hard to reach’ locations throughout Africa and the developing world. In just five years, the London-based organisation has developed a compelling energy solution that comes to market through a unique financing model, enabling people without electricity to generate cost-effective energy on their doorstep. For many users whose typical monthly income may be no greater than $200 per month, the necessary expenditure on kerosene, batteries and phone-charging is now replaced with a low-cost monthly subscription. That fee can include ‘bolt-on’ accessories such as TV, radio or LED lights – all essential to bring remotely located people into the modern connected world.
Having set out marketing ‘outright sale’ solar energy solutions, BBOXX soon recognised the need to significantly reduce upfront costs by utilising a subscription-based structure. This model would open the opportunity of BBOXX ownership to a far-wider audience and through technology, deliver a no-fail managed service throughout the duration of the contract.
For the subscription business case to be effective, the development team identified a requirement for GPRS connectivity to the BBOXX service, enabling each solar product to communicate regularly with the BBOXX SMART Solar management platform. Through the platform BBOXX could monitor usage patterns and behaviours, device performance including voltage, current and temperature, and have the ability to control the BBOXX power generation – switching on or off due to miss-use or theft.
Cellular solutions for remote monitoring
In seeking a quick-to-market and simple deployment solution, BBOXX were introduced to Wireless Logic , Europe’s leading M2M Managed Services provider and one of their Global SIM networks, Vodafone Global. By combining a low data usage tariff (1 to 2mb per month) and with access to a defined ‘Rest of World’ Tier range of local Mobile Networks, Wireless Logic created a one-stop connectivity package to meet the geographic reach of up to seven core African countries and Pakistan.
Leading on the global deployment, Ollie Wallington, Business Development Manager for Wireless Logic explained the strategy in creating seamless cross-border connectivity: “Working with multiple countries and Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), a global SIM with tailored Tiers of networks was the appropriate solution to the BBOXX brief. Global SIMs are suited to low data thresholds and with connectivity from the solar unit to the SMART platform limited to communication every four hours, the multi-purpose Vodafone Global proposition, layered with Wireless Logic’s ‘NetPro’ secure infrastructure, was perfectly suited.”
SIMPro delivers total control
Keeping control across multiple SIMs in several countries was also identified as a key requisite for the BBOXX service. Ashley Grealish, Engineering Manager for BBOXX continues: “The BBOXX SMART Platform is fundamental to the efficient operation of the device estate. Beyond planned maintenance, user behaviour/profiling and energy management, we were keen for both our direct team and our channel partners to have full visibility and management of the device’s connectivity. Consequently, the ability to provision SIMs, observe data usage and, importantly, set limit warnings on unusual activity, were all important to the operation. Wireless Logic’s SIM management platform ‘SIMPro’ was able to deliver all of our requirements through an API into our own SMART platform. And by developing unique profiles for each SIM deployed, the entire billing process for direct and channel was far simpler than originally imagined.”
Today, BBOXX’s solar energy solutions are being adopted region by region with Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda leading the way in a growing number of developing nations across East Africa. In each of these locations, BBOXX are setting up direct retail chains giving much-needed employment to over 150 people. The retail operation is core to the BBOXX offering, whilst an increasing number of distributors are opening doors in both Africa, South America and Asia. Common to all is the singular connectivity with one SIM accessing multiple networks delivering a reliable and resilient service with a single monthly cost. Data is transmitted two-way via GPRS with packets of data carrying critical information that ensures longevity of the energy provision.
New opportunities as the market expands
With more and more remote locations to be added, BBOXX intend to incorporate SMS connectivity where network coverage remains limited to GSM, all being managed and integrated via the Wireless Logic API. And with the knowledge that through Wireless Logic, BBOXX can access further global SIM networks and local MNOs directly, the challenge of hard-to-reach connected areas is lightened. For today, the Wireless Logic fixed subscription enables the BBOXX solution to be highly competitive in a market where a matter of cents can mean the difference between mere survival and a better and more enriched life. BBOXX are genuinely improving the lives of people by placing into their hands manageable and affordable renewable energy.
Wireless Logic’s Ollie Wallington concludes: “M2M and the Internet of Things are all about making the world and its communities a better place through automation, progressive technology and smarter thinking. With applications such as BBOXX, the technology employed is making a positive impact on the lives of people who utilise this form of energy generation. Wireless Logic is delighted to play our part in supporting the BBOXX operation and we look forward to the continuing rollout of the programme in both existing and new territories.”