Working in the security industry in South Africa is risky business. In an instant a security officer might need to notify head office that there is an emergency and communicate his or her location. In the logistics sector it is crucial to be able to track assets, know their location, speed and direction of travel. Both of these location-based services (LBS) are important in the security and logistics sectors and should ideally be provided at a minimal cost.
Enter Sowertech (Pty) Ltd, mLab Southern Africa’s first Gold member, which is working on a push-to-talk (PTT) platform that combines with GPS-enabled devices to offer LBS. Sowertech already has this working on rugged mobile devices (see below, running on the Brew platform), but the PTT app is also integrated on mainstream phones such as those running the Symbian platform, including feature phones, and Windows Mobile smart phones.
There are two core LBS functions for the PTT app:
The Alert function, where by the press of a button the user can alert a supervisor of an emergency. A message along with GPS Coordinates is sent to the supervisor and in-turn he or she can respond adequately. Integration with third-party response services and escalation processes is possible.
The Locate function allows managers to pinpoint the location of assets, or staff, and have this information visualised on computerised maps. This especially improves the security and management aspect of mobile communities and mobile enterprises by helping coordinate vehicles en route and also serve as a tracking utility for both asset owner and logistics operator. The manager can communicate one-to-one with a specific user in the field or one-to-many with the whole group.
The main sectors to be targeted are security and logistics (the target market is estimated at over 500,000 users in South Africa). Sowertech’s revenue model is based on a project fee and/or license fee per user.
Who is Sowertech?
Obakeng Matlhoko, who has a BCom Accounting degree and has been involved in a number of IT projects, is the project manager. Nathi Tshabalala is the IT, marketing and sales manager of Sowertech; he has a BTech Information Technology. Christosh Heinermann, of Teamcom, is Sowertech’s industry partner.
Sowertech has partnered with MTN for network support through Teamcom. It has made links with Tshwane University of Technology through the French South African Institute of Technology, and currently has three confirmed non-executive directors who have experience in academia and GPS technology to provide input into the company and projects.
The Sowertech team believes their competitive advantage right now is their good relationship with the network provider and the industry partner – this makes it easier for them to develop applications that are successfully accepted by both the network and the technology provider.
Role of the mLab Southern Africa
The mLab will host the Sowertech team at its Pretoria head office. It will provide the full range of incubation services to help Sowertech realise its goal of becoming a warehouse for mobile applications development. “We believe that mLab can help us as a start-up mobile developing company to reach heights that we otherwise would not have attained,” says Obakeng. “We are excited about the international linkages of the mLab.”