IoT Brings Channel New World of Opportunity, Challenges
PHOENIX—It was gratifying that there weren't many buzzwords being bandied about at ChannelCon 2014, CompTIA's gathering here this week of channel professionals. I only heard "paradigm shift" once, and it was during an Aug. 6 panel discussion on the Internet of things, or IoT.
Almost apologizing for using what's sometimes considered a catchphrase, panelist Dave Gilbert, CEO of SimpleSignal, said, "We use paradigm shift all the time in tech, but this is the real thing. We are beginning to see momentum. Everything that can be connected—will be."
None of the other panelists disagreed with Gilbert about the use of the term "paradigm shift," one of those terms that's often incorporated into marketing hype and causes listeners' eyes to gloss over.
Panelists pointed to the forecasts for astronomic growth in the number of connected devices in the next decade. They also acknowledged the security and privacy concerns that have been widely covered by research and media reports, and they mentioned the recent formation of consortiums to tackle the IoT standardization challenge.
There is always a certain amount of fear when it comes to adopting "disruptive" (forgive me, if this is another buzzword) technologies and the business model changes they bring about. Yet most of the panelists and attendees were optimistic about IoT.
"It's about taking the things we already know and applying them to a new environment," said panelist John Rice, senior director, partner community, at Intermedia.
It will take time for the channel to sort out how to make money from IoT-related business. Rice pointed out that resellers who address escalating demand for bandwidth are already flourishing.
IoT's emergence will present opportunities for channel partners versed in big data analytics, Rice added.
This tracks with what Channel Insider contributor Michael Vizard wrote earlier this year—that the real IoT opportunity lies in developing applications that make sense of all the data being gathered by a machine-to-machine system.
The market for devices for the connected home, connected car, etc., will also grow, explained Dave Sobel, director, partner community, at GFI Max.
In recent years, solution providers in the channel have gained considerable experience thinking beyond reselling traditional products such as PCs and peripherals—where there are still revenue opportunities though margins are often thin. And in the IoT world, as Vizard pointed out in his earlier article, device margins are apt to also be razor-thin.
Many companies in the channel have been able to capitalize on once-nebulous growth opportunities—the cloud, for example. The channel's challenge is to find ways to flourish in other emerging markets such as IoT. Opportunities for the channel lie in helping address IoT's challenges—from security to integration.