Rob Cato: Lenovo Uniquely Qualified To Help Partners Embrace IoT, AI

'At the end of the day, we're not going to have an end-to-end solution every single time. You, as a partner, are going to be able to provide that for your customers,' Lenovo exec Rob Cato says of IoT and AI opportunities for the channel.


Lenovo channel chief Rob Cato said the company is in a unique position to help partners build out practices around IoT and artificial intelligence, thanks to major investments it has made in both areas.

Cato, vice president and North America channel chief for Lenovo’s Intelligent Devices Group, said at The Channel Company's 2019 Best of Breed (BoB) Conference that the company's "smarter technology for all" brand is about ensuring that everyone, including partners, can take advantage of the company's expanding product portfolio, ranging from servers to smart devices.

[Related: Lenovo's Kevin Hooper: Our Vision Is To Be The ‘Most Trusted Data Center Partner In The Industry’]

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"We think we're in a unique position over the next several years to really help partners and our customers do some things as they build out their IoT and artificial intelligence and really take advantage of data," Cato said, pointing to a $4 trillion revenue opportunity that includes more than 25 billion embedded and intelligence systems as well as over 25 million applications, according to data from research firm IDC.

"Only 60, 90 days from now, this is what the market is going to look like," he said.

To drive home Lenovo's investment, Cato pointed to the $1.2 billion Lenovo is spending on research and development for IoT and AI solutions. This has resulted in new products such as the ThinkCentre Nano, a modular, small form-factor PC that is now being used in retail and manufacturing environments to collect data for edge computing purposes.

"These are things that Lenovo is starting to build out that I think, as partners, we need your help to uncover those opportunities and where those are," he said.

Cato said the real opportunity for partners is to build end-to-end solutions around Lenovo solutions.

"It's about how do we take this brand that we've started to build around the technology and really leverage that for us? How do we build uniqueness into our products and our devices?" Cato said. "Because at the end of the day, we're not going to have an end-to-end solution every single time. You as a partner are going to be able to provide that for your customers."

Eric Platz, U.S. executive director of Lenovo's Data Center Group, said the company has already found success in smart city and smart building use cases, particularly around video. For instance, he said, the company has worked with the city of Bogota, Colombia, on cameras for smart city infrastructure.

"It wasn't just about security. It was about serving the population and taking visual analytics about this, going back to the data and making it more useful for them to provide for their constituency," Platz said.

The executive said Lenovo recently worked with a university in New York on a similar application surrounding video surveillance and analytics.

"It was for security, but it wasn't just that. It was now what can they do with that visual data and make other meaningful decisions about their organization," Platz said.

Amit Kumar, CEO of Droisys, a Fremont, Calif.-based solution provider, said his company is vetting Lenovo's IoT and AI solutions as a potential way to expand the company's innovation practice that counts several retail chains as customers.

"All our customers, we go and help them adopt new technologies. That's why we are on the cutting edge," he said, adding that the company's IoT business has grown three-fold in as many years.

Kumar said Droisys' IoT work is ultimately about creating a better experience for customers — which goes in line with Lenovo's goal of providing "smarter technology of all."

"At the end of the day, it's about customer experience," he said.