IoT Sales Growth: Why Big Data And Vertical Expertise Are Key

Jill Klein, a consultant for Sirius Computer Solutions, has seen the future of the Internet of Things (IoT). and it means mining big data and driving vertical market solutions.

"With the growth of big data, so much data is derived from the sensors of an IoT solution, and customers aren’t sure what data you keep versus analyze, and how quickly you need data," said Klein, who will do a session at the company's technology conference in March, titled Defining the Internet of Things, and How to Prepare for the Impending Tidal Wave of Devices. "It's tripping a lot of people up and is a fairly green space, so partners and customers will have to think outside of the box for new solutions. Customers need someone who understands the business and opportunities and how to merge those two together."

Sirius -- No. 28 on CRN’s 2015 Solution Provider 500 list -- is a $1.5 billion solution provider behemoth that last year received capital from private equity giant Kelso & Co. to fund acquisitions. It’s betting big on IoT, said Klein.

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The Internet of Things "is no longer hype," said Klein, who added that in the coming year, IoT solutions will drive "significant" growth in Sirius' core competency areas of networking, storage and data analytics. But to succeed in the much ballyhooed market, she stressed that solution providers must leverage specific vertical market applications.

"We're aligning with the verticals we work with today, including health care, retail and transportation," she said. "We're looking at where the market is and how (it) aligns with customers. We work with our vendors to make sure we’re aligned with their trends and what they’re doing, and the value we can bring to customers. The (IoT) parts themselves are not a big part of the story." At the same time, Sirius is working with channel mainstays like Cisco to provide an end to IoT solution, said Klein.

Sirius has received critical resources and training from its vendor partners as part of its IoT sales offensive, Klein said. This collaboration between partners and vendors will prove helpful as more vendors from across the spectrum begin to dip their toes into IoT. Intel, for instance, recently deepened its stake in the developing Internet of Things market by unveiling new hardware and software products tied to its IoT reference architecture platform, including low-power silicon Intel Quark processors; cloud-connected multi-architecture operating systems, and open-source projects for secure big data analytics applications in cloud environments.

Solution Provider: IoT Will Account For 15-25% Of Our Business

Columbia, Md.-based embedded board and system supplier Eurotech, which has a family of Internet of Things gateways and cellular enablement products powered by Intel processors, expects to see 15 to 25 percent of its business come from Internet of Things revenue in 2016 due to focusing on solutions for specific verticals, such as retail and transportation services.

For example, in the transportation space, Eurotech deploys passenger counters through stereoscopic vision technology, which keeps data of passengers entering and departing public transportation vehicles. This technology can be used to monitor service quality, optimize vehicle loads across regions or time periods, and validate passenger counts to justify payments.

CEO Larry Wall agreed that over the past year, many companies were focusing on connecting embedded devices, and entered 2016 with already-connected devices, which he hopes drive a new wave of solutions and innovation.

[Related: 10 IoT Predictions For 2016]

"We'll hopefully see demand for development kits, including gateways, sensors and connectivity products, from distributors and VARs in the coming year," he said. "We're already seeing double-digit percentage growth month over month for this demand."

On the channel front, opportunities for solution providers will continue to grow as organizations realize these business application solutions are needed behind the Internet of Things, said Wall.

"IoT still requires technology design and architecture to piece the puzzle together. ... You don’' just go and buy an IoT solution," he added. "Someone has to fit together that design and architecture, and that creates an opportunity for anyone in the ecosystem to add value through services, whether it's horizontal consultancies, VARs or distributors."

For Customers, Business Plan For IoT A Must

Moving beyond the IoT hype requires identifying specific vertical market business applications, said Eli Feldman, CTO of advanced technology at Newtown, Pa.-based EPAM Systems - No. 40 on CRN’s 2015 Solution Provider 500.

’The challenge is not IoT itself but more so helping companies figure out how to leverage connected devices and defining the individual business use cases,’ said Feldman. ’When you jump into connecting devices without a business plan, that’s not a true Internet of Things implementation.’

For channel partners like EPAM Systems, the ’plumbing’ behind the Internet of Things -- the software and sensors embedded in connected devices -- comes naturally, as the solution provider already dealt with data and analytics, vertical markets and product engineering capabilities long before the term ’IoT’ was born.

The fact that many VARs already have the capabilities for IoT solutions, coupled with Gartner’s prediction that there will be 6.4 billion connected ’things’ in use in 2016, up 30 percent from 2015, should translate into ample channel opportunities with IoT, solution provider executives said. Market researcher IDC, meanwhile, says spending in the ’explosive’ IoT market will reach $1.7 trillion in 2020.

The key to tapping into that market growth is knowledge of customers, said Mont Phelps, the CEO of NWN Corp., a $350 million national solution provider – and No. 70 on CRN’s 2015 Solution Provider 500 - that’s growing at a double-digit clip. "Information and information management is really important, but it is also important to understand the business so you can ask the right questions," he said. "That is the key. You can have endless supplies of information and data and then you have to convert that into answers. In order to do that, it takes technology and understanding the industry."

Work With CIOs And COOs

Jeff Lamont, founder and directing manager of Terra Advisors, a Wheaton, Ill.-based VAR, said the key to success is helping drive a strong working relationship between the CIO, who controls IT operations, and the COO, who controls business operations. ’These two parts of (the) business have not been integrated over the past year or two, but these areas of business cannot be separated anymore, as both will have to work together with IoT,’ he said.

Lamont said that while he does see companies in different phases of implementing IoT solutions, two-thirds of the firms he works with are still trying to figure out how to improve their operations from IoT platforms. The channel has an important part to play in this opportunity for consultancy, he added.

’Our revenue opportunity is to work for organizations that don’t have these solutions today and who need to select the right vendors, trial the solution, software platforms, and sensors installed on devices,’ he said.