CA to give web-enabling identifiers for smart fridges, other IoT devices

Smart devices set for tighter regulation. PHOTO | FILE
Smart devices set for tighter regulation. PHOTO | FILE 

Internet-of-Things enabled gadgets that are either imported into or produced in Kenya will be issued with 15-digit numbers as unique identifiers as per proposed rules by the regulator.

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) says it wants to put in place the technical specifications in order to protect consumers from defective devices for the emergent technology.

Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the network of otherwise ordinary objects that have been embedded with technology that allows them to communicate and exchange data over the Internet.

An IoT-enabled fridge, for instance, could send a message to its owner’s smartphone reminding them that milk was running low while a smart electricity meter might monitor power consumption and warn users of an imminent outage or over use.

The predicted scarcity of mobile numbers is also a factor in the new numbering system for IoT devices connecting to local telecommunication networks.

“It is anticipated that IoT devices will be very many and the current 12-digit mobile numbers will not be enough for IoT…the 15-digit range will give Kenya a billion IoT numbers ensuring every citizen can connect as many devices as they wish,” said the CA in a notice.

The 15-digit number will be attached to an embedded SIM (eSIM) that comes with the devices.

No need to register

Subscribers will need to register it as they do their normal SIM cards. CA pointed out that “there will be no need to call an IoT device” and once the unique identifier is assigned, the device will also be granted a “name” recognizable by a smartphone.

Assigning a 15-digit number to eSIMs is in keeping with recommendations of the GSMA and best practices as adopted by other regulators globally.

Europe’s Electronics Communications Committee in 2011 recommended special numbering systems for IoT devices. 

GSMA estimates that by 2020 there could be 50 billion connected devices and the current numbering systems would be exhausted if nothing were to change. 

Though IoT has not caught-on in Kenya as it has developed markets, industry players predict that Kenyans will adapt this technology to their own uses.

Already solar firm M-Kopa deploys the concept of Internet-of-Things while GSMA has trialed projects in Kenya using IoT for service deliver.

Last year Safaricom said it was investing Sh200 million for an innovation lab whose work would include testing out IoT devices, including smart water meters.

The Authority has also proposed that IoT devices coming into the local market should meet international standards set by the GSM Association (GSMA), a telecoms trade body, and will need to be type-approved as per the Kenyan law.