Natasha Royer Coons
By Natasha Royer Coons, Founder, TeraNova Consulting Group
I’m excited to become a columnist for Channel Partners and kick off the first in a series that covers IoT, technology disruption and the channel. As a serial entrepreneur, channel warrior and futurist, I felt the name “Futurepreneur” was apt and I’m hopeful that my experiences and insights help readers of Channel Partners, an information source I’ve valued for many years.
The internet of things (IoT) solutions market is on track for explosive growth, presenting opportunities for partners to leverage this technology to solve business challenges in innovative and unprecedented ways. The challenge is that currently the technology and supply chain is hypersiloed, not integrated and certainly not channel-enabled or -centric (except for a few unique suppliers).
Nevertheless, this expanding frontier offers five key areas of opportunity:
- Education, consulting and design — Just asking your clients questions about whether they have considered how tracking or making smart assets of things can change the way they do business will open the door to possibilities for consulting. If you are truly delivering value to your customers, you should have a deep understanding of their business already and you can use that understanding to push their thinking. From there, the partner is provided a great opportunity to consult and assist by tapping into industry experts or supplier(s) to assemble the right IoT solution.
- Enablement hardware — Equipment including sensors, gateways and cellular routers are needed to connect things, places or people in order to send/receive data making them reportable, trackable and connected. There is an arms race going on with all the different sensors being developed and marketed. It’s not imperative to know all the hardware pieces, but partners who can help clients navigate this space are well positioned to profit from it. Partners can tap into companies incorporating connectivity (Bluetooth, LoRa, BLE or cellular) that have some of the landscape covered. To source the right hardware, we need to solve for whether the asset is moving, low or high bandwidth, long or short range, and high or low battery life.
- Business intelligence — Platform providers – combined with sensors – provide analytics and location information via a dashboard. The platform provider charges an MRC for the service per asset, place or person tracked. No one truly knows how many IoT platform providers are in the market, but the number that many experts were throwing out at the 2018 IoT World Conference in Santa Clara, Calif., was 600. Of these, only a few are proven, have turnkey solutions, and are channel-ready — set up to be commissionable for partners. Health care is a solid vertical and some partners have already tapped into delivering solutions to hospitals. One common challenge being solved: Hospital employees frequently hunt for available and critical machines, beds and gurneys by physically searching the facility. Now they can look at a dashboard and find any key asset quickly without wasting time and resources.
- IoT WAN/Connectivity — Partners can procure bandwidth via master agents, wireless solutions providers or MVNOs. They can either earn commission on it or purchase it and mark it up. Connectivity can be bundled with the hardware and managed services to create an integrated IoT or SD-WAN solution. For unmanned networks, the emergence of Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technology introduces options for long-range connectivity other than cellular. Additionally, the smart SIM makes it possible to deploy multiple carriers via a single SIM and MRC, which provides ease of deployment, better coverage and inherent network disaster recovery.
- Integration and Managed Services — In almost all cases, there are no fully turnkey end-to-end solutions in IoT. Most verticals require specific types of solutions and industry specialization, and businesses often need help with integration (engineering and testing) and managed services (analytics, monitoring and support services). Leveraging relationships with suppliers and experienced colleagues to provide these services will drive value to the customer in a cluttered, confusing and highly segmented IoT space.
Some forward-thinking business leaders and Fortune 1000 companies in city planning, manufacturing, transportation, energy, health care and agriculture are already active or planning to get active in IoT. But the vast majority of businesses …
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