Smart Solutions

IoT at Work: Smart Companies

Port Harcourt: Honey Flow Africa

Putting a Buzz into Beekeeping

Bees don’t just make honey; they are vital to agriculture as pollinators for all kinds of crops. Unfortunately, bee populations are susceptible to many threats, such as diseases, climate change, and predators. Mites, viruses, and fungi are the bees’ worst enemies, global warming affects seasonal behavior, and bee hunters such as insects, moths, and birds are rising – not just in number, but also in levels of attrition.

Amaete Umanah, CEO of Honey Flow

Amaete Umanah, CEO of Honey Flow

Honey Flow Africa, a Nigerian startup with IoT at Work, has a multidisciplinary team with years of experience in management and product design focused on beekeeping. Its goal is to use IoT solutions to increase survival rates and population growth and to boost honey production through smart time management of nectar flows. The Hive Monitoring System is based on the BeeTeck Communication Modules, which can be placed quickly and easily into each beehive where they automatically gather key markers and sends them to the cloud. All the beekeeper has to do is to check a computer, smartphone, or tablet to see if all is well.

“BeeTeck is the brain of the beehive,” says CEO Amaete Umanah. “This module reads everything about what happens with the swarm in side the beehive, like knowing if the queen is laying, assessing if the temperature is comfortable, and if the level of humidity is at required levels. “Umanah believes it is time to digitize beekeeping: “We empower African beekeepers to understand their bees better. Moving from calendar-based decisions to data-driven solutions helps optimize beekeeping operations and keep healthy bees.”

African honeybees, which mainly live in the wild and are more aggressive than their European cousins, are not picky about which flowers they visit. Nigeria now exports bees to areas in Europe and North America, where native bees have been dying at alarming rates for the past ten years, worrying scientists, the public, and politicians.

US beekeepers reported losing about three of every 10 bees in the winters of 2006 and 2007. The global reduction in numbers is affecting people all over the world because it poses a risk to food security. Among the causes of the decline are disease and poor nutrition, which are difcult to fx. Another culprit, chemicals, is uncertain and widely debated – but that hasn’t stopped bee lovers from assigning blame. Some countries have even outlawed certain pesticides.

By bringing the dynamics of IoT to beekeeping BeeTeck hopes to solve bee problems globally through remote monitoring of the apiaries and identification of the presence of diseases, pest infestation, pesticide exposure, and toxicity. Umanah believes that continuous monitoring of such sensor data is crucial to maintaining a healthy bee population.


Tallinn: Taxify

A Unicorn Takes to the Road

Every start-up dreams of one day be coming a unicorn. Members of this – elusive “species” are young tech companies which have achieved a valuation of more than a billion US dollars – often virtually overnight.

Bolt, which was originally called Taxify, was founded five years ago in the Estonian capital of Tallinn and it is busy chipping away at the dominance of Uber in the European ride-hailing market. Markus Villig, Bolt’s founder and CEO, believes that catching up to Uber is a realistic goal: “If you look at the transportation business, there’s enough room to grow another 100 times from where we are today.”

Markus Villig - Taxify

Markus Villig, CEO of Taxify

Using money borrowed from his parents, Villig’s original plan was to build a service for his native Estonia, but this vision has expanded and the service is now present in over 25 countries, predominantly in Europe and Africa. In 2017, it entered the highly competitive London market, considered to be the biggest ride-hailing marketplace in the world. Bolt currently has more than 500,000 drivers with over 10 million users and, according to Villig, the company’s ride volume grew tenfold last year.

Estonia has been home to several successful start-ups, notably Skype, the telecommunications platform that was acquired by Microsoft in 2011. Both Villig and his brother Martin worked for Skype before branching out on their own to found Taxify. In 2019, they changed the name because scooters and electric cars were becoming increasingly important for the firm. The company has attracted the attention of Daimler, the German carmaker that owns the Mercedes-Benz brand and which has recently become heavily invested in ride-hailing, carpooling, and vehicle sharing. Together with Taavet Hinrikus, founder of the billion-dollar Estonian fintech company Transferwise, Daimler provided $175 million in new funding, which took Bolt into the unicorn bracket.

Smart Companies - Taxify

“Taxify is an ideal addition to our existing portfolio of mobility services,” says Joerg Lamparter, who leads the mobility division at Daimler Financial Services. The company will use its windfall to develop its technology further and expand its services in Europe and Asia, with plans to enter the US market under consideration. It has also partnered with the Chinese ride-sharing company Didi Chuxing Technology, sharing investment and technology. “I believe this partnership will contribute to cross-regional, smart transportation linkages between Asian, European, and African markets,” Didi’s founder and CEO Cheng Wei said at the announcement of the partnership.


Bandung: eFishery

IoT Goes Fishing

Fish farming promises lots of fresh protein at low cost but its environmental impact can be catastrophic due to the large amounts of waste generated by these factories. Feeding typically accounts for 50 to 80 percent of a fish farm’s overhead costs but, since feeding is a manual task, it’s mostly unmeasured and inexact. This is bad for business and for the environment because overfeeding means much of the feed goes to waste and the marine environment surrounding the farm becomes polluted, causing the health of the fish to decline. On the other hand, underfeeding can gradually kill the fish.

Gibran Huzaifah - eFishery

IoT at Work: Gibran Huzaifah, cofounder and CEO of eFishery

Based in Indonesia, eFishery hopes to alleviate waste problems resulting from both over and underfeeding through its smart feeding device that bases the amount of food dispensed on fish behavior. The automatic feeder makes it easier for farmers to monitor and schedule feeding times using a smartphone app. Using artificial intelligence, the eFishery app senses the fishes’ overall appetite by monitoring their vibrations, which correlate with their level of hunger. The data can also predict how much fish the farmers can harvest and sell, allowing them to connect with buyers before arriving at market.

Gibran Huzaifah, eFishery’s cofounder and CEO who once worked on a fish farm, claims his company’s product can increase yields by up to 35 percent and double net profits by reducing wastage. “As the first ‘fishtech’ start-up in Indonesia which provides an IoT solution and data platform for fish and shrimp farming businesses, we are helping hundreds of millions of farmers at the bottom of the pyramid, while at the same time taking on the global challenge of food security,” he says. Fish farming is big in Asia, and especially Indonesia, which is one of the biggest seafood producers in the world with 9.45 million tons (8.6 million tonnes) of farmed seafood produced in 2012. Referring to Lake Toba in Indonesia, Huzaifah says, “The waste from aquaculture, including uneaten feed and antibiotics, is the biggest cause of water contamination, making up more than 60 percent of all pollutants.”

Smart Companies - eFishing Products

The feeding system already dispenses pellet feed for carp, catfish, tilapia, snapper, and vannamei shrimp (king prawn) but more research and data will have to be gathered to calibrate eFishery to understand the behavior of other species. To finance expansion, eFishery has raised a total of $5.2 million in funding over five rounds, including a major investment by Teddy Rachmat, owner of the Triputra Group, one of the biggest privately held business groups in Indonesia.


Amsterdam: Connecterra

In Search of Smarter Cows

Bovine technology is nothing new, witness the milking machine, but Dutch software start-up Connecterra has its sights set much higher – on the “connected cow”, no less.

Yasir Khokhar, CEO of Connecterra

IoT at Work: Yasir Khokhar, CEO of Connecterra

According to founder and CEO Yasir Khokhar, it is important for farmers to know if their cattle are getting enough exercise. This kind of monitoring is currently achieved with a glorified pedometer, he says: a gadget, akin to the popular Fitbit wearable used by millions of joggers, attached to the cow’s ankle which can tell the owner whether the animal is walking too little or too much. This, in turn, tells the farmer a lot about the health of the animal and whether it is in heat and ready for insemination. Connecterra’s sensor, called Ida, goes beyond this. It is a collar that allows farmers to monitor seven types of behavior to warn of problems ranging from each cow’s movement to its feeding habits. It can also show which genetic lines are producing the most milk so that breeding can be optimized.

Khokhar, originally from Dubai, moved to work for Microsoft in the Netherlands, where he lived on a dairy farm and saw the need for more advanced bovine technology. He founded Connecterra in 2000 and quickly caught the eye of Breed Reply, an IoT investment firm based in London. Khokhar maintains that the Ida app offers a fivefold return on investment for farmers and tells the story of a farmer who, with Ida’s help, discovered that three cows in his herd were eating twice as much as the others but produced only half the milk. Needless to say, the three soon became beefburgers.


Hamburg: Cargonexx

One-Click Trucking

Established in late 2015, Cargonexx’s goal is to reduce the running of empty trucks through a concept it calls “oneclick trucking.” The founders of Cargonexx view data intelligence as the future of transportation and its neural network is learning lessons from current and historic freight data. This will improve its accuracy and soon it will be able to predict and handle prices and transportation volumes, regional peaks, and unexpected shortages.

Andreas Karanas and Rolf-Dieter Lafrenz - CEO of Cargonexx

IoT at Work: Andreas Karanas (left) and Rolf-Dieter Lafrenz – CEO of Cargonexx.

CEO Andreas Karanas has even bigger plans: “The spot market is only the first step… With our data intelligence we will be able to offer many new smart services to shippers, freight forwarders, and carriers.”

IoT at Work

The company already counts more than 60,000 trucks in its network, and shippers can order trucks for loading per mouse click. The technology predicts peak periods and automatically sends the trucks best suited for the job to where they are needed. This means fewer trucks on the roads: the shippers save money and the transporters earn more. Cargonexx was one of the four winners of the European Startup Prize for Mobility. The company has initially focused on Germany which, with its vast size, accounts for approximately a quarter of the total European transportation market. Long-haul trucks often need to cross borders, so regional expansion is always a logical objective for any European transportation startup. Several of Germany’s neighbors, including Poland, Austria, and the Netherlands, are reportedly next in line for Cargonexx. Karanas is ambitious: “We are the frst transportation company with an artificial intelligence technology in Europe and we are willing to extend this competitive advantage as fast as possible.”


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