The expenses on IoT solutions will grow about US$ 773 billion this year, up 15 percent from 2017, according to research firm IDC, and they are expected to exceed US$ 1 trillion by 2020, with manufacturing vertical ahead, followed by transportation and utilities. Modules, sensors, infrastructure and security all benefit from these investments, and services and software must grow faster from this point forward. As a result, channel partners in the United States have understood that they are vital connectors between suppliers and their customers, and are looking for ways to make profit from IoT. Over the past year, more partners have begun developing their channel strategies in the industry, all of them assuming that technology requires an ecosystem whose channel is the trusted advisor.
Experts say that companies are also looking for ways to leverage the wealth of valuable data analysis information provided by IoT that offer ROI, and ensure customer privacy. According to Colin Blair, vice president of Big Data analysis and IoT of North American distributor Tech Data based in Florida, more and more products and services are developed on the slope and the opportunities are limitless. “About 45 people here at TD are working every day with IoT and analytics. In fact, Tech Data adds a new IoT vendor every two weeks.”
Blair points out that demand for IoT is out of data centers. “The three most important areas, based on Tech Data sales, are transportation, retail and industry.”
According to the manager of LogicMonitor in California, industry veteran David Powell, in order to profit from new emerging markets like IoT you need to understand what the purpose of the customer business is in vertical health, agriculture, and manufacturing that tend to have different technology providers, and face challenges in obtaining and analyzing data from different devices. “Look for places to put sensors that solve real-world problems. It means putting together a technology expert with other business experts to create new solutions,” explains Powell.
In addition, it’s important for channel partners to align their customers’ vision. “Twenty years ago the partners did a great job of innovating on behalf of customers. As technology has become more complex, they are not so quick to adopt AI, machine learning and IoT because of their skills gap. Instead, they continue to use their old business legacy. ” Powell argues that it is up to suppliers to show their partners how to monitor and activate IoT systems for profit. “Suppliers must create a forward-looking vision to engage partners in IoT, a real business in which conversation and problem diagnosis come before the use of technology. Partners should act as consultants and not just fill orders without understanding the customer’s needs.”
Finally, he advises partners to charge less if they want to build an IoT practice. “Work at a discount while building experience and stability to build a solution, and replicate it in other markets.”
After the sensors phase, gathering the data from different devices is the next step in IoT for Powell, and it presents many sales opportunities because the customers will see the benefits of using this analysis. “We see people making money with IoT asking customers ‘what’s the problem to be solved’ and finding out how technology can solve it to anticipate machine failures, for example.”
In this regard, Blair comments that Tech Data offers a week of strategic consulting to discover what customers are doing, and analyze the data collected. Then a few weeks are devoted to design and development for a proof of concept. Other parts of the product may include the specification of shelf sensors, the creation of APIs, the recommendation of specific IoT devices, and even the creation of prototypes.
The uses of IoT seem unlimited in transportation, says Blair. “You can almost consider asset management, but for durable goods, oil and gas, or agribusiness equipment in transit, instead of office computers. The ability to track and geographically manage temperature, vibration, and other physical situations for moving loads between points A and B makes IoT valuable.”
The list of retail uses also continues to grow, and includes solutions for pedestrian traffic management, smart advertising, proximity-based merchandising, and even endcap product displays. “The focus is not on tracking RFID tags, but on ways to manage, monitor, and get more information about customers. As sensors and other IoT devices become more accessible, the projects are moving down on the market from the regional system integrators to the local stores. ”