Almost 19 years ago, Matt Palmer joined AT&T as a district manager in Michigan and northwest Ohio. Back then, AT&T was switches and routers, landlines and broadband. No one could have anticipated that in less than two decades, the company would be leading the field in development and deployment of mobility solutions that existed then only in the realm of science fiction. And while a few AT&T agents may have been building cutting-edge solutions out of the carrier’s tech and reselling them to customers, the notion that partners themselves would be innovating hand in hand with AT&T on the front lines of business technology wasn’t a common one.
Today, Palmer leads mobility product marketing for the AT&T Business channel called Partner Exchange. Unlike the Alliance channel, which operates on a “sell with” model by selling AT&T resources directly, Exchange partners take on all the tier-one responsibilities. They get co-branding, but they have to build their own bundles. And Palmer has been telling these partners for years that if they aren’t betting big on internet-of-things (IoT) solutions, they’re missing out.
“It’s time to develop your strategy, dedicate your time and resources, carve your niche so you don’t miss this hockey-stick growth curve,” Palmer cautions partners. “We have some solution providers that were on the front edge of this. That have carved out their niches, have multiple solutions in market, are doing really, really well. Others are coming along, going, ‘OK, you’ve been telling us this for a while and now we’re recognizing that it’s still early in the game, but we need to get in.'”
We traveled to Dallas this week to see the latest and greatest solutions coming out of AT&T’s cutting-edge IoT Foundry, and talked with Palmer about what’s taking some partners so long to jump on the IoT bandwagon, how AT&T is helping solution providers conquer the connected devices market, and how 5G is going to change everything.
The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Channel Partners: Companies like AT&T and publications like Channel Partners have been telling agents and solution providers for years that they have to get into IoT, but it feels like a lot of partners are waiting for well-defined use cases and easy install packages before they make that investment. How far are we from being able to “plug and play” IoT?
Matt Palmer: A lot of folks want “IoT in a box.” It exists inasmuch as we’ve been able to do things like Fleet Complete by AT&T to resell. We can get you fleet asset management with the devices that are approved with lots of different sensors you can add onto them. It’s got the connectivity, and it’s got a payment class they can offer. We’ve taken another version with a connected car from GM — there’s a whole fleet solution out there with the telematics and everything. We’ve made it so if they come across a fleet GM customer, and there are millions of them out there, they can handle that.
But in general, “IoT in a box” is a fallacy. It doesn’t truly exist. Even though we have defined verticals, when you get in there, each customer’s needs are …