As an industry, technology companies are great at coming up with new ideas, but generally awful at naming them. The concept of smart devices communicating and exchanging information to ensure optimal behavior is a great idea. However, the name “Internet of Things” (IoT) can be confusing and lead to differing degrees of satire.
At its core, the idea of making devices “smart”—i.e., able to share diagnostic, status, and other data with different systems—has great potential. There are lots of good examples of how this can be used effectively in business, such as, commercial refrigerators that notify their owners if there is a variance outside their normal temperature ranges, or smart shipping containers that inform company systems of their location and capacity. Looking further afield, smart cities can ensure that garbage collection happens where it’s most needed when the containers indicate they are full, and smart buildings can manage energy use better based on knowing where people are and what resources they are using. The applications are almost limitless.
Predictions for the future of IoT vary, with experts expecting anywhere between 30 and 75 billion devices to be in open usage by 2020. On top of this, research firm Gartner is projecting $1.9 trillion in additional value-add to the market by IoT in 2020, while IDC believes this may even be as high as $7.1 trillion.
Either way, this is a growth market, and we’re likely to see a deluge of new devices, all using the internet to communicate. This brings massive possibility, but also significant complexity. Customers want to find new ways to be more efficient, use data to provide better service, and gain a competitive advantage via technology. These IoT systems have a dizzying number of standards, from Bluetooth® to ZigBee® to Z-Wave® to Weave® to many, many others. And this complexity also brings opportunity with it.
According to CompTIA, the number one group that will make money from these devices is the IT solution providers/managed service providers (MSPs). There are multiple opportunities across the IoT ecosystem, including deployment, infrastructure, selling the products themselves, consulting and advisory services, and security services. In fact, it this will all look very familiar to a typical infrastructure-based solution provider, with services leading the opportunity.
The key for MSPs looking to successfully capitalize on the growth in this market is to build systems that provide value for customers. Here are three points to get you thinking along the right lines, about how you are preparing your business for the rise of IoT systems:
1. Understand the vertical markets you serve and what values will be delivered
In retail, beacons will track customer movements and share relevant information. In healthcare, patient data will be collected electronically and companies working in this environment will require help with compliance and security needs. In manufacturing, automation and assembly lines will be improved with data. Each opportunity will look somewhat different, and savvy solution providers will understand their market well enough to find those opportunities.
2. Understand the partner opportunity
If as a solution provider, you’re not prepared to take on this opportunity, find a partner to work with to implement these solutions. This can ensure the customer gets the best solution, and you keep competitors out while learning the “how to” of this new area.
3. Once done, build a plan
Using the experience and research available, determine how to go to market and take advantage of this new, growing trend.
Smart devices are here to stay, and the explosive growth in the number of devices connected to the internet means these devices will be appearing routinely. Smart solution providers will seize this opening and deliver the solutions their customers need.
Dave Sobel is Senior Director of Community at SolarWinds MSP. You can follow Dave on Twitter at @djdaveet
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