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Cisco executives expect the Internet of things (IoT) to be a $19 trillion opportunity by 2020. They also call it the Internet of everything.

McKinsey projects that IoT will be as much as a $33 trillion opportunity by the year 2025.

AT&T, Intel, Cisco, GE and IBM call it the Industrial Internet

Numbers and names aside, channel partners are always looking at opportunities ahead, and IoT is certainly as forward-looking as the cloud has been for the past dozen years. As they have with the cloud, solution providers wonder which IoT solutions and services could be most profitable for the channel and which partnerships will make the most sense. They are eyeing opportunities, ranging from IoT analytics platforms to helping to solve security challenges.

Yet some industry observers don’t see IoT following the same path for the channel as the cloud has.

“There are some differences between the way Internet of things will take place in businesses and cloud did,” CompTIA Senior Director of Technology Analysis Seth Robinson explained. “With cloud, you take a workload and put it into the cloud. It’s the same function as it was when it was on-premise, but now you’re using a cloud provider. With IoT, there is no current behavior to correspond to. This is something new. Something we haven’t had before.”

CompTIA Senior Director of Industry Analysis Carolyn April sees some similarity between IoT and the cloud. “People are panicking now as they were around cloud, but channel partners have figured out how to plug in,” she said.

IoT Applications and Opportunities

April and Robinson agreed that the opportunities for channel partners are still about a year away. 

“The low-hanging fruit, the initial opportunities, will be around what resellers already do, like selling and installing sensors and other data-gathering devices,” April said. 

Robinson concurred. “In the channel, some of the behaviors will be the same. The things they have strength in now will translate in the IoT. “

For example, network partners will need to prepare much more robust networks to support IoT applications, he said.

“But the real opportunities will come,” April said, “in the next phases, which include managing those devices as in managed service engagements today. These make channel partners more ‘sticky’ with customers, managing and troubleshooting the devices and the networks they are on.”

For the new IoT applications, “we’re thinking about the use cases. Data collection, analytics, machine learning and more,” Robinson said.

History: A Guide for Future IoT Partnerships

It serves to take a quick look back to gain some perspective on where the future IoT solutions and services for the channel will be, as well as the prospects for IoT partnerships.

Kevin Ashton coined the term “Internet of things” while working at Proctor & Gamble in 1999, but it has been later suggested that there will never be an Internet of things, simply because “things” don’t have their own Internet. They use the regular Internet. Some have suggested that “things of the Internet” would be closer. And “things that interact with other things without human involvement” would be even more accurate.

If you’re thinking that someday “things of the Internet” will outnumber people, wait no more. The number of devices connected to the Web exceeded the number of people on Earth as of 2008, and there will be more than 50 billion “things” on the Internet by 2020, according to Cisco forecasts.