As a fast-growing African technology company, we spend a lot of time thinking about the “fourth industrial revolution”. We think about how it influences our Group vision for the future, and what we can do to drive the change that it brings.
The rush to digitisation, to realtime monitoring of systems and environments, to analytics and unlocking the value in “big data” has taken firm hold in South Africa, as it has elsewhere in the world.
It’s a challenging, exciting time to be a technology provider. Challenging because we are expected to be – and we expect ourselves to be – driving innovation in the internet of things (IoT). Exciting because our historical background gives us a strong understanding of where the world is going and how we can better serve our customers.
What we’ve realised is that we’ve been working on fourth industrial solutions for a long time, since before the term was popularised.
In heavy industries such as rail and mining, we’ve been helping to digitise systems and build networks of IoT sensors – such as hot bearing detectors for trains or collision prevention monitors in mines – for years.
Our software engineering teams, meanwhile, have long been market leaders in analytics and cybersecurity, the two skillsets vital for the fourth industrial revolution.
In our pursuit of better, safer engineering solutions, we’ve been adopting new technologies as they’ve become available. And we must continue to find new ways of combining our experience in hardware design and manufacturing and our excellence in software engineering, to unlock yet more value from convergence and data.
The good news for us is that the more we do the this, the more customer needs we can address – in a digital world the old vertical markets for IT break down. The cybersecurity needs of mining companies become the same as those for banks: IoT experience in train management isn’t worlds away from construction or autonomous road vehicle requirements.
One prime example is the launch of our new SOLID webKey cybersecurity solution. This simple USB-based password vault can protect employee and customer accounts, and in doing so protect your own servers, no matter what industry you are in. We’ve also made webKey our first consumer product, available via our new online shop at www.solidkeys.co.za
To help facilitate the development of more exciting new products and services, we’re bringing our teams from around the business closer together both philosophically and physically, with major office moves designed to foster better collaboration and skill sharing between our different groups of experts. Our new premises can be found at 85 Regency Drive, Route 21 Office Park, Irene.
Even so, we are not complacent. Maintaining and growing our expertise requires continuous investment in new skills and facilities. We must work harder to overturn the perception that South African products are inherently inferior to more expensive solutions sourced from overseas.
As part of that vision, we recognise the need to build a diverse workforce that can drive innovation with fresh ideas and a broad cultural mix. It’s just one reason that we’re enormously proud to have been recognised as the Most Empowered Listed Company in South Africa at the Empowerex awards in October. We believe with a passion that building a business in which 60% of our employees are black and a full half of our board is made up of black women is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do for the bottom line too.
Bring on the revolution indeed.