Intel IoT Programs 'Key' For Post-COVID-19 Digital Transformation

'What COVID has taught all of us is that if you didn’t have a digital transformation strategy, you need to have one moving forward,' Intel IoT sales executive Brad Haczynski says of the opportunities for IoT solutions in the long term.

Intel executive Brad Haczynski said the chipmaker's programs for selling complete or near-complete IoT solutions will be key to enabling digital transformation initiatives as organizations prepare to adjust to a "new normal" once the coronavirus pandemic subsides.

In an interview with CRN ahead of this week's Intel Partner Connect, Haczynski, vice president and general manager of IoT global sales at Intel, said with the pandemic having a major impact on gross domestic product, demand for IoT solutions has fallen across multiple verticals, including retail and industrial, as many organizations decide to pause digital transformation projects.

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This was reflected in the Intel's first-quarter earnings, which reported a 3 percent year-over-year decline in sales for the company's IoT Group, as every other business unit saw a sales increase.

However, Haczynski believes the IoT market's downturn is temporary and will "explode" in the long term because organizations will require IoT solutions that can help them adjust to new guidelines and rules coming into place meant to protect against disease transmission.

"What COVID has taught all of us is that if you didn’t have a digital transformation strategy, you need to have one moving forward," he said during an Intel Partner Connect panel.

Speaking to CRN, Haczynski said verticals like education, health care and life sciences already have seen a boost in demand for IoT solutions due to the coronavirus. The company is also noticing an uptick for digital security and surveillance applications.

In the long term, though, as the economy stabilizes and organizations need ways to comply with social distancing and other guidelines, Haczynski said the opportunity for IoT is "going to be massive."

"We don't know exactly what the world is going to look like when this is over, but we all know it's going to be very different," he said. "And we can all see that we're heading down a path where social distancing and how we manage crowds is all going to be viewed differently in the future. And when that happens, new opportunities for technology will emerge, new disruptive use cases will emerge."

The potential challenge is that, with many organizations likely emerging out of an economic recession with fewer resources, they will need a way to quickly deploy solutions that help them address the realities of a post-COVID-19 world, Haczynski said, which is why he believes Intel's IoT Market Ready Solutions and RFP Ready Kits will have big roles to play.

"If a company doesn't have time to get a chief digital officer or somebody to go off and map out the strategy for their digital whatever, [whether] it's a smart automated factory floor or frictionless retail environment, they're going to turn to the ecosystem and say, 'Hey, I have this business challenge and this outcome I need. Is there something readily available today?'" he said. "And this is exactly why we launched [Market Ready Solutions] with our ecosystem partners. Because now we have these great solutions, which are ready to go and they bring the partnership, they bring the ecosystem together from different various parts of the value chain, and it allows for rapid deployability."

Intel's IoT Market Ready Solutions and RFP Ready Kits provide complete or near-complete solutions from Intel's ecosystem partners, which Haczynski said will be "key" to achieving the scale organizations will need to move forward. Both programs will be rolled into Intel Solutions Marketplace later this year.

"[COVID-19] is teaching many of us that we all need to have a digital strategy, not only for IT internally for our employees to be able to work safely and productively from home, but also for our businesses and the operational side of our businesses and our lines of business. How can we utilize technology and automation and artificial intelligence, etc. so that if there ever is a situation like this again, our business is up and running as frictionless as possible?" he said.

Jeff Dodge, director of national solutions for digital innovation at Insight Enterprises, a Tempe, Ariz.-based global solution provider and Intel partner, said his company has been working with Intel on an IoT platform that is now being adapted for a "detect and prevent" solution that can help organizations detect fever symptoms using thermal imaging.

"It's almost less about stopping someone from entering with a fever, but frankly, giving them that information as well as a justification to say, 'I shouldn't be here right now,'" he said.

The "prevent" side of the solution could support applications such as smart hand sanitizing, which could track if employees are washing their hands at a certain interval, Dodge said. Insight is also looking at using machine vision using Intel's OpenVINO software to deploy smart video cameras that can detect whether people are maintaining a six-foot distance from each other.

Dodge said Insight's "detect and prevent" solution is already part of Intel's Market Ready Solutions after only a couple months of development, and the company has already seen some interest.

"We've already seen initial connections with retail clients and other clients that Intel has brought us into their own business development capability," he said.

Jason Craig, chief technology advisor of public sector at World Wide Technology, a St. Louis-based global solution provider and Intel partner, said his company is also working with Intel to develop a thermal detection system for public sector use.

"We're trying to integrate it in a way that uses our vast knowledge of multi layers of security, multi layers of defense to help protect kids going into school, people going into a theme park," he said.

Such a system is not meant to be a "silver bullet" for preventing the transmission of viruses and instead will only be a "component of a larger solution," Craig said.

"We feel firmly that it's just a start point because even if COVID-19 goes away, now we have COVID-21 or whatever new variant of SARS [appears],” he said.