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NZ’s first commercial Internet of Things platform.

kotahiKotahiNet is building the first real commercial platform for the Internet of Things (IoT) in New Zealand, which is set to disrupt our daily lives in ways we haven’t even started to imagine. Just look at the predictions:

Gartner: 6.4 billion “things” will be in use by 2016, 20.8 billion by 2020
IDC: The worldwide market for IoT solutions will grow from $1.9 trillion in 2013 to $7.1 trillion in 2020
McKinsey: The IoT market will be between $3.9 and $11.1 trillion by 2025, 11% of the world’s economy

There’s a broad perception in consumerland that IoT means home automation like refrigerators and central heating, but in fact many of the transformational high-value impact will be in business and government applications.

KotahiNet have deployed a carrier-grade IoT network in Wellington, and are planning to build that out nationally. They’re using Low Power Long Range (LoRa) open-standard equipment, which is already interoperable with countless different devices types. The Wellington deployment is provisioned with 5 gateways, each of which can cover 7,000 devices, with an aggregate maximum bandwidth of about 5Mb/s. While this kind of network can’t handle video, it’s great for IoT devices which are very efficient in their bandwidth usage.

LoRa is a really interesting technology which provides highly reliable transceivers that operate at low bandwidth over long distances, and don’t require battery changes for 5-10 years. That means that you can put them in awkward-to-reach places that don’t require power or local Internet connectivity. They can live happily in the bush, on the farm, on an animal, in a lake, or at the top of a tower – perfect for building wireless sensor networks.

KotahiNet aim to expand their LoRa deployment to Auckland, Hamilton, Taranaki, Christchurch, and rural Canterbury over the next year, and go nationwide after that.

But the network is only a means to an end. According to founder Vikram Kumar, the real value in what KotahiNet are building is in the data layer and application layer that sit on top of the network connectivity layer. They’re building the network because they have to – they can’t do any of the cool stuff they have planned without a basic network in place.

Once that network is in place, they’ll provide “data-as-a-service” derived from IoT devices. Most people won’t want to manage and maintain devices, they just want the data that they generate in an easily digestible form. This is especially important when you take security into consideration – you want to make sure that all of the Things are secure, protected, and behaving themselves. If that’s not core business for you, it’s likely to become a problem, a problem that KotahiNet prevents by worrying about that for you.  An example of a data-as-a-service network would be a dog tracker network – KotahiNet would provide the GPS sensors and data feeds, you just consume the data that you need and do what you want with it.

Further up the value stack, they also want to provide end-to-end solutions via an application layer for business and government using industry standard components. They are implementing a system for olive growers in the Wairarapa which slurps data feeds from private remote weather stations, and notifies the growers if they need to bring out the choppers to protect the trees from frost.  The growers aren’t interested in owning or managing the equipment, network or even the data, they just want the alerts.

Local governments are a big potential area of development. One local council is looking at installing a smart network of over 20,000 streetlamps. This would enable significantly lower power consumption as well as maintenance costs. When you consider the number of such Things a council has to look after in the public interest, it’s not hard to imagine thousands of other applications. And that’s just the start.

Conservation is another interesting area. KotahiNet are working with EcoNode on Great Barrier Island, whose TrapMinder system notifies HQ whenever a pest species such as rat or possum has been trapped, so that the trap can be cleared and reset. They are planning to roll this out to Zealandia in Wellington, and then across the country.

KotahiNet monetises through connection charges (listed as $1 / node / month), data-as-a-service charges ($3-5/month), and custom application provision charges.

Vikram believes that New Zealand could become a world leader in IoT deployments in primary industry, and they’re seeking partnerships with significant agricultural players to build the next wave of applications that will not only help boost our agricultural exports, they’ll also provide the basis for technology exports too – KotahiNet’s internationalisation strategy depends on this. IoT will bring a new level of precision to agriculture previously unobtainable in NZ, and these novel applications can be sold to the rest of the world. Vikram is also passionate about Blockchain technology, which when applied in the application layer, could provide security and verification around the provenance and authenticity of agricultural produce.

NIck Gerritsen

NIck Gerritsen

Vikram Kumar

Vikram Kumar

Vikram is joined by fellow director Nick Gerritsen. They have an advisory board that includes Jon BrewerAntony Royal, Nick RowneyRichard MacManus and Ian Cassels.

As an aside, Vikram has had a very interesting career path, from working in the merchant navy to being a public servant, then working as the CEO of InternetNZ before moving to be CEO of Kim Dotcom’s MEGA (not to be confused with Mega Upload), and very briefly serving as the Chief Executive of the Internet Party.

KotahiNet are currently raising NZD 1m in an angel round to expand that team with execution capability, and provide capital to build out the next phase of the network. If you’re interested in the opportunity, contact Nick Gerritsen.

Once that round is closed they’ll be hiring sales people, solution architects, and network ops people. And of course they’re interested in talking to anyone who wants to do IoT deployments that require carrier grade low-power networks. For those, contact Vikram.

I’ll leave you with Vikram’s recent interview with Kim Hill on RNZ National.  Enjoy.