Open Systems Technologies' IoT University Is Open For Business -- And Employees Are The Students

As more solution providers get on board with the Internet of Things, one in particular wants to get its employees up to speed as well – by sending them back to school.

Grand Rapids, Mich.-based solution provider Open Systems Technologies launched OST IoT University, an in-house certification program designed to help its employees better understand not just the technology behind IoT, but how they can effectively work with customers to implement IoT solutions.

"We have three objectives for our employees: to build competence, confidence and a communication ability where they can effectively communicate our excitement about IoT," said John Thayer, vice president of sales and strategic business development at OST. "Now, the students who attended IoT University can move forward as ambassadors for OST, armed with the excitement that comes with the success of IoT projects we've completed."

[Related: Sweet IoT Journey: How One Solution Provider Helped Implement Microsoft Azure Machine Learning At Hershey]

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Thayer said he launched the certification program as a way for the company to better hone in on its IoT strategy by helping principal consultants and account executives "become fluent in the value that IoT presents for potential clients."

The university graduated its first 10 employees this past week – from account executives and principal consultants to application development consultants.

Throughout the four-month-long program, employees undergo a series of classroom experiences and homework projects around an array of IoT topics aimed at driving more value-based interactions with clients.

The six key aspects of IoT in the program include business value thesis; user experience; architecture, including the architecture of the edge and underlying data capture and analytics; visualization and big data; managed DevOps and security; and edge applications.

These courses focus on the architecture and technology necessary for IoT projects as well as the business value and user experience that are critical at the customer level.

"The unique thing about IoT projects is that from a customer's point of view, they're not simply an IT project [they] also impact customer service, product engineering and marketing, and sales," said Thayer. "Too often companies pay too much attention to the technology and architecture and not enough to the user experience and the edge."

For instance, the user experience course helped employees better understand IoT product packaging and instructions, and if the user interface on the packaging and screens of smart devices were consistent with those on the complementary mobile application. Employees also underwent lab courses that helped them better understand the mind-set of customers during their full journey on an IoT project. During this course, employees bought an IoT device so that they could better understand how well the continuity of the experience went -- from purchase to setup.

Moving forward, OST hopes to encourage at least 45 more employees from the 225-person company to undergo the program, and the company has also made available an online archive edition of the university's syllabus.

"We are excited by the early success OST is having with our IoT University and the impact it will have in our ability to tell stories that resonate with customers while empowering our own employees through depth and breadth of knowledge," said Mike Lomonaco, director of marketing and communications at OST.