Internet of things News

CBT CEO Kelly Ireland: XR ‘Absolutely’ A Channel Opportunity

Wade Tyler Millward

‘Is there an opportunity in the channel? Absolutely,’ CBT CEO Kelly Ireland tells CRN. ‘I've been espousing this for two years, if not longer.’

Do you see an opportunity for your business in metaverse and extended reality?

I would say there's definitely opportunity right now. And I’ll tell you – from our viewpoint – different levels, depending on what you're talking about. Metaverse, that’s a magic word that's out there. Everybody’s talking about it because it's popular. … I can tell you real life cases that we have deployed.

And here's the difference that we’re seeing. Is there an opportunity in the channel? Absolutely. I've been espousing this for two years, if not longer. … But – there is a 'but’ – the 'but’ is you have to invest.

Because if you don't understand it, it’s not like IT. You don't take hardware and software and put it together. Everybody is approaching it that way and it doesn’t work because there are way too many other factors included.

So you have to do your homework. You have to invest. You have to get the right people.

CBT hired OT (operational technology, which includes industrial equipment monitoring hardware and software) people because OT culture is distinctly different from IT. It is best to get it directly from the source (OT side) as those resources are entirely different than IT resources.

That is the only way to approach this, and I don't care what anybody says. That is the only way to successfully approach this.

But what we're being able to do is – you look at remote mentor, but take it even a step farther, like remote inspections.

We're doing remote inspections from Finland to Texmark Chemicals (a petrochemical customer of CBT), and they’re not having to fly in.

They're being able to go through whatever process it is that they need to observe and see upfront. We’re able to deliver that to them with wearables, with a multitude of extended reality technologies vendors like RealWear.

There is worker safety. There is remote mentor. There is frontline workers supervision. … Connected worker, process transformation of all types. It doesn't matter what the industry is.Y

We went to Texmark. We spent almost six years there, now, vetting out all of this stuff and working with all the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and ISVs to figure out – how does this go together?

We learned seat of our pants because that's what everybody was doing. But the more we looked at it … this is fun. My whole team thinks this is so much fun. So much more fun than IT by itself.

So much more fun because – here's the difference. Rob Schaeffer is my president. He’s the one that looked at it, and he goes, ‘Here's the difference: We’re now being able to see up front and personal(ly) what the solution does, its outcome and how it contributes to the company.

When you’re doing IT into a data center, you know it’s doing something, but you don't really know and you don’t know the impact.

We're watching frontline workers. We’re watching ROI (return on investment) on the backside, whether it's the safety of the people, or it’s increase of production, reduction of costs, it's all of the above – doesn’t matter what it is.

And what we found is it goes completely across industries. It does not matter. And especially when you can bring customers into the ROTF (Refinery of the Future) environment and let them try it for themselves. Their minds explode with ideas.

So when we go out to Texmark, we put a RealWear device on their (users’) heads, any kind – it can be a HoloLens, it can be whatever it is that we're trying to showcase – they put it on, it’s like their mind explodes.

They go back into what they're doing back at their company and go, 'This is what we could use that for.’ And the art of the possible starts generating internal ideas of how it can apply to their needs, goals, etcetera. It’s awesome to see, but it's the reality of showing them exactly what can happen.

And you've heard of POC (proof-of-concept) purgatory. We actually have clients that are coming back to us that had started with somebody else and said, 'Well, we’ve got to go through and see if this works.’

Well, it doesn't work. And so now they’re coming back to us going, 'We know you've done it.’ Because we could show that we’ve done it.

The big thing is getting past that hurdle now of, 'But what about POC purgatory?’ POC purgatory is caused by trying to deliver a solution without first understanding the problem … and required ROI.

The industry originally approached this market with a 'Here's a widget I want you to buy’ mentality. Or, 'Here’s software I want you to buy.’ Not, 'Here's a solution I want to bring you that provides an outcome.’ Because that is the only way to address any environment this is needed in. The only way. This industry, this environment, that’s the only way to do it to be successful.

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Wade Tyler Millward

Wade Tyler Millward is an associate editor covering cloud computing and the channel partner programs of Microsoft, IBM, Red Hat, Oracle, Salesforce, Citrix and other cloud vendors. He can be reached at

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