In theory, at least, the Internet of things is going to add trillions of dollars in value to economies around the globe. In practice, though, it may take time for companies in the channel—many of which will need new skills and business models—to capitalize on the IoT phenomenon.
Market forecasts show a mixed picture.
In the optimistic camp are small and midsize businesses and managed service providers, 26 percent of which expect IoT to have a bigger financial impact on their business than any other IT trend, according to the findings of a recent study conducted by Vanson Bourne for AVG Technologies, a provider of an IT managed service platform.
A separate global survey found that nearly 65 percent of IT and business decision-makers have already deployed at least one IoT solution in the enterprise. Additionally, more than eight in 10 of those polled said IoT offerings will be the most strategic technology initiative for their organizations in a decade, according to the study, conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of embedded systems and service specialist Zebra Technologies,
Despite that enthusiasm, the IoT opportunity is still relatively nascent for the channel.
A recent survey of IT executives conducted by CompTIA found that, in terms of entities that would make the most money as organizations embrace IoT solutions, IT integrators and MSPs ranked third and fourth, after device makers and providers of analytics applications. But that same survey found that only 9 percent of the IT solution providers polled said they would definitely be in a position to make money from IoT in the next two years, while 23 percent said they would probably be in a position to do the same.
The primary issue, of course, is the fact that IoT involves not only mastering a broad swath of technologies, but also setting up of new business models. Many of the organizations likely to deploy an IoT solution have not figured out how they plan to actually derive business value from those investments, and the vendors that solution providers partner with are just beginning to get their IoT channel programs in place.
Cisco, for example, has been developing a portfolio of IoT certifications designed to create a vast ecosystem of partners capable of deploying Cisco technologies within an IoT environment.
SAP, meanwhile, just launched a raft of IoT applications that it plans to deliver via the cloud. However, the company is just now beginning to put the channel programs in place that would be needed to take those offerings to market on a global basis, according to Kevin Gilroy, senior vice president and general manager of global indirect channels and small and midsize enterprises at SAP. And even then, the number of potential solution providers with the skills necessary to take such offerings to market is likely to be fairly limited, he added.
“IoT is going to be an opportunity for a specific class of partners,” Gilroy said. “It won’t be a broad-based kind of thing.”
In fact, IoT solution providers must be intimately familiar with the business processes that any IoT solution enables if they are going to succeed. As such, they will need to master everything, from deploying and managing the endpoint that collects data to the analytics applications in the cloud that make sense of all that information.