Still battling with the enormous resources and task involved in researching and developing a smart meter tailor-made for the unique challenges in Nigerian metering industry, I came across this caption on one of Nigerian online news site on 5th January 2016: “Fashola meets with local meter manufacturers to address challenges”. After reading the article I was inspired by his words especially where he said this, while talking with local meter manufacturer “…think outside the box through innovations in order to tap into the immense opportunities in the rapidly emerging electricity industry as a private sector driven enterprise”
I may not be right but this probably may have been one of his first official meetings this year. For me it showed that metering the nation was a priority for him if not a new-year resolution! When he urged the meter manufactures to think outside the box it also confirmed what I already knew about him; an innovative leader who welcomes and appreciates innovation.
This inspired us to forge ahead more ebulliently on the research project I called the iMeter (Intelligent meter), Fedironic Sol was working on. A research based company I founded in 2011. The iMeter is simple but a very innovative smart meter designed to address the challenges of electricity metering in Nigeria, Babatunde Fashola, the minister of power was referring to in his meeting with the local meter manufacturers that fateful day.
With a lot of hard work and sleepless nights, by June this year, Fedironics Intelligent Metering Company the resulting spinoff company from Fedironics Sol, my brother Elochukwu and I founded became the fourth most innovative startup of the year at the African Startupper of the Year organized by Total Nigeria PLC after presenting the first version prototype of our smart meter. But that wasn’t enough. So our team worked even harder to achieve one of our major key objective and unique selling point which is to design and build an innovative and affordable bottom of the pyramid (BoP) smart meter. By the end of August 2016 the iMeter received a patent from the Patent office of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade And Investment. This was a great milestone for everyone involved in the project.
Our disruptive electricity metering solution, iMeter measures energy, detects tamper and bypass, manages energy and tariff, provides pre/post payment services, logs events in near-real time and has a power change-over feature while integrating a dedicated mobile application interface (MAI) and a web application solution called AMI solution for the purpose of extensive two-way communication between Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs) and electricity consumers, and data management for both. We are also developing a Smart Water Metering solution.
By September 2016, the iMeter got the attention of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), after screening applications from innovators and SME startups to participate in the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Telecom World 2016 Conference in Bangkok. They were impressed by the use of ICT in providing solution for the metering challenges in Nigeria. NCC desiring to attract investors in our great nation provided a unique platform for eight SME startups and innovators to represent Nigeria at the conference in Bangkok that held from 14th to 17th November, 2016.
While registering for the conference we were expected to apply for the ITU awards which involved answers to lots of questions, essays on your project and a video presentation of your product and how it works, which we did. After scaling through two screening stages we were nominated for three awards out of four: ITU Telecom World Global SME Award, ITU Telecom World Recognition for Excellence Award and ITU Telecom World Thematic Award (Smart City). The fourth one, being the ITU Telecom World Host Country SME Award.
The third and final stage of the 2016 ITU Telecom World Global SME Award contest had 15 SME startups nominees from across the globe. Each pitched their businesses for 5 minutes with the aid of a power point presentation in front of about 10 member Jury with the like of William Hurley a Managing Director at Goldman Sachs, Stephen Ibaraki Partner at Redds Venture Investment Partners to mention but a few. Another 5 minutes was used by the Jury to ask each pitcher questions about their product and company.
After my pitch, done at the Nigeria Pavilion I received questions from the jury members who were very much impressed by the unique solution we offer tailor-made for the African electricity metering challenges which I demonstrated on the product video I used for the presentation.
A day before the end of the event and the announcement of the awards, I got an email from ITU that our company was among the winners of ITU Telecom World. A second email came thereafter request of me to be one of the two speakers at the final forum at the award ceremony with Ms Jiyeon (Sophia) Park, Global Marketing Manager, ulalaLAB, Republic of Korea (also a SME startup) to be moderated by William Hurley a Managing Director at Goldman Sachs.
The final forum section focused on Entrepreneurship and Innovation. And our audience included Houlin Zhao secretary-general of ITU, Shola Taylor secretary-general of the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO), Prajin Juntong, Deputy Prime Minister and Acting Minister of Digital Economy and Society, Kingdom of Thailand to mention but a few. After the forum, I received the ITU Telecom World Recognition for Excellence Award from Houlin Zhao on behalf of our Fedironics Intelligent Metering Company with a heart overwhelmed with joy and a mouth short of words.
The conference provided us with learning and networking opportunities, I made incredible contacts with interested investors that will soon materialized into investments as we follow-up on them. The award has also given an international credibility to what we have done and opened doors to potential investments.
On behalf of SME startups and innovators that represented Nigeria I would like to thank Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, NCC CEO/EVC and his magnificent team at NCC for supporting us and providing this unique platform for us as a way to promote SMEs startups and attract investment to the country. This is in line with the passionate drive of President Buhari’s government who was ably represented by the minister of communication Barr. Abdur-Raheem Adebayo Shittu.
And for us at Fedironics, our vision still remains our focus, moving Nigeria and Africa forward by developing and deploying peculiar solutions to solve the indigenous challenges in our communities.
IFEDIORA UGOCHUKWU EMMANUEL
CO-FOUNDER @ FEDIRONICS INTELLIGENT METERING COMPANY