IoT Checklist: 5 First Steps For Solution Providers Breaking Into The Internet of Things

Taking The Big Leap Into IoT

According to a CRN survey, 49 percent of channel leaders see IoT as a meaningful opportunity – but less than 10 percent of revenue that the channel is getting today is coming from IoT, as solution providers struggle with figuring how to break into the market.

Luis Alvarez, president and CEO of Alvarez Technology Group, a Salinas, Calif.-based solution provider, is one of the few who is generating revenue from IoT. Alvarez is working with clients in the agriculture vertical to implement connected sensors, helping them monitor crops and water utilization.

At XChange 2016, a conference hosted by CRN parent The Channel Company, Alvarez stressed that IoT is "happening today," and it is opening a big opportunity for traditional VARs to jump in.

Following are five first steps for solution providers to break into the IoT market.

Specialize In Verticals … At First

The Internet of Things requires channel companies to have a deeper understanding beyond technology – solution providers need to have a deep knowledge of their clients' line of business.

"Solution providers need to specialize, at first," said Alvarez. "Talk their [clients'] talk. Understand the terms they use. As your IoT practice gets bigger you can add more components."

In Alvarez's case, he needed to understand different components of the agricultural industry – including the main challenges that farmers facing, such as crop and water yield and maintenance. After this understanding, he was able to understand where the opportunities were to streamline operations and become more efficient using technology.

Get Out Of The Data Center And Back Office

As an extension of specializing in certain markets, Alvarez stressed that solution providers need to be able to work in those environments – not just in their office.

While VARs may be accustomed to implementing technology in the office, Internet of Things applications will force solution providers to leave this environment and get out to their clients' spaces – which, in Alvarez's case, would be the field.

"Our engineers are comfortable working in the office, but getting them on a tractor is more difficult," said Alvarez. "IoT isn't in the office – it's in the plant, in the field, at the retail store. Solution providers need to understand where this is being deployed."

Be More Connected With IoT Vendors

The dynamic between solution providers who are implementing IoT solutions and their vendors is a bit different. The channel needs to leverage technology from an array of vendors – some of who they may have never worked with before – and put these pieces together for a complete IoT solution for customers.

While many well-known IT vendors are currently investing heavily in the Internet of Things, such as Intel and Cisco, operational technology vendors play a big role in IoT for manufacturing, building automation, and smart cities – and some of these vendors, like KMC Controls, are actively looking to partner with IT solution providers, said Alvarez.

"Get connected to the IoT vendors your customers are using right now," he said. "Many of these vendors have current partners who are up to the task [of implementing IoT solutions]. I get calls from agricultural tech vendors daily who are hoping to gain a foothold with clients."

Go To The Consumer Electronics Show

Solution providers looking to build up their Internet of Things practices can get a lot of new innovative ideas from the Consumer Electronics Show, the annual trade show in Las Vegas where vendors show off their latest and greatest products.

While typically focused on mobility products, this year's CES in particular had a heightened focus on connected devices, 5G networks, and IoT applications.

"CES is not only an awesome show, but to me, has been critical to our growth as a company and our understanding of the Internet of Things," he said. "Most of these technology trends are starting in the consumer arena, and then moving to the business room."

Alzarez also noted that clients are interested in other technology that CES showcases, like VR and robotics.

Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Alzarez's final tip for solution providers was to be innovative and think creatively as they work with clients to come up with IoT solutions.

"Get out of your comfort zone," he said. "The Internet of Things will require you to think outside of the box."

Customers want the Internet of Things, said Alvarez, and as the market becomes more competitive for the channel, solution providers need to change their mind-set and think of new ways to interact with customers, design IoT blueprints, and implement solutions.