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Anatomy of an IoT Sale

Edward Gately**Editor’s Note: Register now for the Channel Partners Conference & Expo, the gathering place for the technology services community, April 10-13, at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.**

You’ve seen the numbers.

Bain says that by 2020, annual Internet of Things (IoT) revenue for hardware, software and services vendors may top $470 billion, while global consultancy Zinnov predicts IoT-based services spending will reach $143 billion in 2021.

During this Channel Partners Conference & Expo concurrent education session titled “Anatomy of an IoT Sale,” Rick Beckers, president of CloudTech1; Cory Dzbinkski, WTG’s training development manager; and Vaughn Eisler Sr., Equinix’s senior business development manager for cloud; will walk partners through the process of delivering an IoT offering.

CloudTech1's Rick BeckersIn a Q&A with Channel Partners, Beckers, Dzbinkski and Eisler give a sneak peak of the information they will be sharing with partners.

Channel Partners: What are the steps partners need to take to successfully deliver an IoT offering?

Rick Beckers: IoT projects are business solution sales. Knowing that, partners should go in with their consultant hats on and expect to have to do some project management to have the highest level of success. Speak to the C-suite or mid-level managers to find out what their business pain points are. If these pain points involve BI (business intelligence), then look for “collector/sensor” solutions that will allow you to automate pulling the data that they seek. Then find your BI software solution that is going to be able to compile the collected data and represent it to the client in the manner that best suites them. Once you’ve found these two legs of the stool, the third is your connectivity. Figure out if it’s best suited for wired or wireless, and then go talk to your carriers. If your customer agrees to move forward, make sure you write a tight scope of work and manage that scope to completion with milestones and sign-offs all the way through to completion.{ad}

Cory Dzbinkski: Truly understanding the business needs and pain points from the customer perspective is the first step. There will often be many pieces or facets of the business that need to be taken into consideration for the overall solution. Once that understanding is established, the partner can sit down and review options that could work toward the overall solution. It may even require hardware and services from multiple vendors to match the customer need.

Vaughn Eisler: IoT solutions vary quite significantly across industries and markets; therefore, it is difficult to say there is one simple blueprint that a partner can use to deliver an IoT solution. In Equinix’s view, this presents a significant opportunity for service providers and integrators to assist in the design and delivery of solutions.

Therefore, one of the primary opportunities of partners is to become part of the sales process to help design an IoT opportunity, in terms of architecture as well as defining requirements. Then a partner can …

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… help support that process through to the end, including identifying the possible vendors that can help deliver the solution, evaluate and select the partners, and then deliver and integrate the final solution.

WTG's Cory DzbinskiThis is an opportunity because, for the most part, IoT is still emerging and not fully understood. As a result, most customers and vendors need help in understanding their needs and delivering to those needs.

CP: What are some of the pitfalls that partners need to keep in mind?

RB: IoT is in its infancy so there are few high margin “off the shelf” solutions available yet that fit universally into a vertical. So pick your battles wisely. Partner up if you have any gaps in your skillset. You are better off splitting residual or margin than having a project blow up on you because you are in over your head.

CD: A quick sale involving an off-the-shelf product or solution can be a tempting proposition, but may not always be the best fit. The partners that will excel in delivering effective IoT will truly know their customer and scan the marketplace to build a customized solution. Security should also be top of mind. Choosing well-known IoT vendors that provide regular updates will help fill potential security holes.

VE: IoT holds fantastic promise for businesses, but it will take incredible IT capacity to deliver on its potential. Companies must securely handle huge amounts of data – collected from dispersed devices – then instantly sort, store and draw relevant conclusions from it. Additionally, the proliferation of devices will drive the need for more systems to deploy, manage and make use of these devices. It will also shift the prevailing traffic from the center of the network outward to edge inward, which will affect computing and communications architectures. So when partners try to architect and develop new solutions, they should consider these factors.{ad}

In addition, when looking (at) the pitfalls of IoT, partners may want to consider the challenges that exist in the IoT market today. Although opinions vary, most analysts in the industry seem to think that security, ability to keep up with the constant change of IoT systems, the regulatory environment and-low powered technology are some of the challenges. If true, then partners need to keep these factors in mind as well when designing new systems.

CP: Can you give an example of how your company has successfully delivered an IoT solution?

RB: CloudTech1 is headquartered in Rochester, Michigan, which is right smack dab in the manufacturing capital of the world … Deeetroit! So we have a lot of small-and medium-size manufacturing customers that were starving to have their shop floor connected to the front office.  That’s machine-to-machine IoT. They were having difficulty getting cooperation from any one vendor on the sensor side. All of the machine vendors were happy to hook up their own equipment but didn’t want to …

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… play nice with others. So we traveled far and wide to find the top vendors that offered an open and non-proprietary system that allowed us to connect all of their equipment, regardless of manufacturer, into a network that fed the data into an easy to use dashboard. Our clients have new levels of efficiency that they never dreamed possible! We’ve done some fleet-management solutions also.

CD: Since we’re a master agent and offer a road to vendor services rather than direct delivery, we’re more involved in helping point partners in the right direction to craft their own IoT solutions. We do that through many different means, but our wireless providers are seeing lots of business coming from the IoT space to provide connectivity for the many small and portable IoT devices being deployed.

VE: Within the context of the IoT ecosystem, Equinix works with both the service provider and the platform ecosystems to provide high-scale and high-density data center and interconnection solutions. Interconnection provides a central nervous system for IoT by enabling data to be collected, stored and transferred between multiple systems and clouds for sorting and analysis. Proximity to the systems and people that need the resulting information in real time is essential for high-performance connectivity. With 150 data centers in 41 markets worldwide, Equinix gets enterprises closer and safely connected to IoT partners anywhere.{ad}

Equinix's Vaughn EislerAn example of this is with a large tier 1 network supplier. The tier 1 network supplier provides a highly secure, policy-driven software platform that acts like a connective fabric-enabling deployment, orchestration and governance of diverse application workloads – containers such as Docker, Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) runtimes, and complete operating systems – across multiple cloud infrastructure assets including hybrid clouds, private clouds and public clouds. This type of platform can provide these functions to a wide set of IoT use cases, such as smart cities and buildings, logistics and tracking, fleet management, industrial application control and so on.

In partnering with the network supplier, Equinix provides four key values to their platform: scale, integration, gravity and security. From a scale perspective, Equinix allows the platform to efficiently perform bandwidth and traffic management, elastically scale and provide greater throughput on a global basis. Equinix brings compute and application resources closer to the platform, making it easier and faster to access. This enables a strong user experience for time-sensitive opportunities. Lastly, Equinix provides dedicated private links, which helps localize attacks and compartmentalize flows. This reduces exposure to attack and increases security.

Overall, Equinix is playing a large role within the IoT ecosystem.

CP: What sort of opportunities are out there concerning industries, verticals, applications, etc.?

RB: Manufacturing will continue to be big for us. Anything GPS-related is a natural. Agriculture has lots of possibilities if you can …

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… get a cellular signal where you need to collect the data because it keeps someone from having to drive out there all the time. Same with natural gas and small oil rigs. You can track all sorts of measure that you used to have to collect manually. Facilities management will be huge. Think of all the data that need to be collected in a modern office building. IoT makes that possible quickly and dynamically.

CD: We’re just at the spark of this IoT explosion. Soon it will be difficult to find a consumer or business market where IoT isn’t prevalent. Top of mind are factories/manufacturing, farming/agriculture, transportation, city/government services and commercial construction.

VE: There are significant opportunities within many IoT verticals and industries. In fact, there is no one size fits all when it comes to opportunities in terms of applications, industries and verticals. I think this would be best described through some examples.

One example that comes to mind is in the automotive and transportation industry. No doubt everyone is aware that there is a lot of momentum towards connected vehicles and self-driving cars. From an IoT perspective, this creates an opportunity with all the sensors and big-data analytics associated with a vehicle. Security is needed within the vehicle, both at the sensor and head unit level. Large scale data transmission and analysis is needed to take data off the vehicles, bring it back and analyze it for V2V (vehicle-to-vehicle) communications and upcoming regulations regarding driverless vehicles.{ad}

Smart cities are another great example of IoT opportunities. We all know that traffic congestion has numerous costs beyond increased frustration for drivers, including more frequent accidents, more prevalent pollution and slowed commerce. But IoT systems can relieve congestion by recognizing conditions in real time and predict traffic flow, thus helping drivers choose optimal routes that free up space and reduce delays.

These examples provide just a small sample of the types of opportunities that can be available within the IoT market space.


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