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KMC Controls Sees IoT Opportunities In Uniting IT And OT Partners

'I think this is an additional piece of business that most of us are not looking at, but most of us need to be looking at as the traditional world that we live in starts to change,' one KMC Controls partner says of the IoT opportunity for IT solution providers.

KMC Controls is hoping to lure in the IT channel for big IoT opportunities with its 50 years of building automation expertise and a large network of operational technology partners.

The New Paris, Ind.-based company said its IoT platform, KMC Commander, can open up new revenue streams, both upfront and recurring, for IT solution providers while giving them more visibility into their customers' operations with the possibility of more opportunities down the road.

"They get recurring revenue. They get additional ways that they can drive operational benefits to the end user. They get additional ways that they can go back and follow up [with customers]," said Tim Vogel, KMC's director of IoT, said in an interview with CRN. "It's a very sticky product, because once it's in and they start seeing benefit, they don't want to get rid of that."

[Related: IoT Startup FogHorn Raises $25 Million Series C Funding As Edge AI Takes Off]

KMC Commander is a cloud-based software platform that can aggregate building data, system data and sensor data through a single gateway from any source and offer building operators the ability to control and monitor systems, as well as set alerts, track historical trends and schedule downtime. What this can translate into is improved energy savings, increased operational efficiency and maximized comfort for occupants.

"You could figure out when you want things to run, when you don't want it to run. because that's one of the easiest ways to save energy, is just to dictate and set an automation timeline of when things are going to run," Vogel said.

The platform's cloud-based nature means users can securely access it anywhere, whether from a smartphone or a laptop. And partners can give building end users access with customized privilege options. The platform also has an open REST API that can allow integrations with other applications. Partners can develop their own third-party applications that can hook into KMC Commander as well.

"If you don't want our [user interface], great, go develop your own, develop your own dashboard, develop whatever," Vogel said. "So then now you have all these dashboards and analytics companies that are coming in, and we could help you better identify everything that's going on whether it's [artificial intelligence] or just basic building intelligence."

But KMC knows that solution providers, especially those who only have a proficiency in IT infrastructure, may have some reluctance to invest in capabilities for operational technology, or OT, so the company is offering to match IT providers with its 150 OT partners in North America.

This means if IT partners identify new opportunities with customers, they can opt to subcontract one of KMC's OT partners to handle the installation and integration of OT components like building controls. And then IT partners can handle the managed services on the IT side, like the KMC Commander software, the edge gateway and the network infrastructure.

"If they start the conversation, they own the relationship, then they work with the OT partners to design and deploy," Vogel said.

Luis Alvarez, president and CEO of Alvarez Technology Group, a Salinas, Calif.-based solution provider that is an early adopter of KMC Commander, said his company has identified IoT opportunities with KMC Commander in greenhouse management, which relies on a variety of sensors and HVAC controls to ensure a proper growing environment for plants.

One customer, an orchid grower with 65 greenhouses, has traditionally used expensive building automation equipment from another vendor, so the company decided to run a pilot with KMC Commander and KMC's OT equipment through Alvarez Technology Group.

"We did a pilot project that went very well, and we have some follow-up meetings to potentially displace [the original vendor] doing an entire greenhouse with KMC Commander and using the technology and sensors that KMC has available as opposed to the very expensive stuff that the [original vendor] requires of them," Alvarez said.

For the upfront revenue alone, Alvarez said the integration work required for a single greenhouse could range from $150,000 to $250,000 depending on the number of sensors.

"When you multiply that by 65 greenhouses, you're talking real money," Alvarez said, "so it's an opportunity for us to get into that space, and there are a lot of greenhouses in Monterey County," where Alvarez Technology Group is located.

As for recurring revenue, KMC charges an annual license for KMC Commander, which is based on the number of data points that are feeding into the platform. So if, for instance, there are 21 temperature sensors in 21 rooms being fed into KMC Commander, that would count as 21 data points.

Alvarez said KMC has been flexible in how it lets partners charge customers for the subscription, so Alvarez Technology Group is bundling in the annual cost of KMC Commander with support services.

"They're very, very partner-friendly, and they want to do whatever the partner wants to do within reason," he said.

Alvarez said IoT opportunities represented about 20 percent of the company's revenue in 2019 — with a good chunk of it related to new business with cannabis growers, who can legally operate in California — which is why Alvarez thinks his peers in the IT channel should consider the IoT market.

"I think this is an additional piece of business that most of us are not looking at, but most of us need to be looking at as the traditional world that we live in starts to change," he said.

As for KMC's plan to match IT partners with OT partners, Alvarez said it means Alvarez Technology Group won't just have new opportunities within Monterey County but all of California too.

"We want to be able to build partnerships with different installers across the state, so that it’s local for them, but it gives us the opportunity to really go after business we might not otherwise do," he said.

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