KMC Controls Calls On IT Providers To Become A New Channel For Its Internet Of Things Platform

The Blurred Line Between IT And OT

Building automation vendor KMC Controls is hoping to dig further into the Internet of Things market by reaching beyond its traditional operational technology (OT) channel to recruit new IT provider channel partners.

The company, which hosts its KMC Genius Summit conference – typically targeted at its OT partners – this week in Chicago, is for the first time inviting IT-focused Intel partners to introduce them to its flagship IoT platform, KMC Commander.

"I think there's definitely a blurring of the lines [between IT and OT], and solution providers are being pulled into OT opportunities because of client relationships," Richard Newberry, chairman adviser of New Paris, Ind.-based KMC Controls, told CRN.

Following are excerpts of CRN's conversation with Newberry.

Describe your traditional OT partner base.

We have a range of OT types – some of them are controls contractors, so they would work with electrical and mechanical contractors, and they're more of the 'smarts.' They go in after the infrastructure's been put in place, work with all the wiring and equipment, and make it talk and do things it needs to do, optimize it.

We have some system integrators that are also mechanical contractors, and some that are electrical contractors, but it is the traditional controls or mechanical contractor that is the core of our channel right now.

How are you looking to extend beyond your traditional OT partner base to IT solution providers?

We're looking to open a new channel, and that's the IT providers, by providing them with Commander. Commander is an Internet of Things solution that provides relevant data in real time on any device. So it's getting data from the device, to the gateway, to the cloud, to the device. Basically, we're looking at getting some early adopters to join us.

We'll be bringing more offerings to the IT channel, and the same offerings we'll take to our OT channel. I fully expect in the next two to five years there will be some specific M&A activity in this area, as IT providers decide it's the right thing to do to get into OT and vice versa.

What do you want both sets of partners – IT and OT – to take away from KMC Genius Summit this year?

Our event is to help our OT partners and potential new IT partners to focus on commanding the future – when we say 'command the future,' we want to help them optimize their growth in revenue and profit, give them new technologies, give them new sales approaches and training on our technologies to grow.

We want our partners to leave here with fresh ideas that they can implement when they get back. So we're challenging them to embrace new technologies and embrace change, and offer the benefit of growing.

Will IT and OT channel partners work together in the Internet of Things space – or compete?

As far as our OT guys, I don't think they will see us having a new channel with IT as a threat – it's really going to be an opportunity for the OT. As soon as one of our IT providers puts Commander into a facility, and they decide they see an opportunity in the traditional OT space, they're very likely to go to one of our OT providers and subcontract them and vice versa.

Now if we have approved IT providers, our OT players can now bring in and subcontract an IT provider – if they have the relationship with the customer, why not sell them computers, or servers, or whatever it may be, and then sub it out.

You are working with Intel and Dell – two vendors you have partnered with to build IoT solutions – to reach out to IT channel partners. Talk some more about that.

It's huge, number one, and Intel… has embraced Commander, and it's in their best interest to make sure they're the leading technology in IoT, so they want to partner with people like us that have the OT channel. We've talked and they see clearly that Commander should be able to work in the ITP [Intel Technology Provider] channel.

We plan to encourage them all [Intel partners] to buy Commander and get familiar with it. They'll be going through the training here, and we'll have follow-up sales training for the event.

What kind of interest are you seeing with your current partners in deploying Internet of Things solutions?

There's a strong interest on the part of our OT partners. ... We had an example in Orange County, Fla., where our OT partner had two new elementary schools with KMC Controls in there, and the energy management group of Orange County public schools asked them if they had a way to get some data from submeters at their schools and be able to store that in the cloud for five years and visualize that in real time.

So we installed Commander there. So as far as our OT providers, we have spent over a year and a half evangelizing and getting in front of our system integrators and their customers, and all of their customers see a need for getting relevant data, real time, to be able to optimize their efficiencies and reduce energy costs.

Talk about the balance between IT and OT in the Internet of Things, as it relates to channel partners.

I think there's definitely a blurring of the lines. Solution providers are being pulled into OT opportunities because of client relationships, but I also know that there are a lot of IoT opportunities with their core products.

If I'm an IT provider and I have a solid relationship with the school system, and I'm providing their PCs or servers, I would be a great candidate to say, 'Let's put a security system in here, or let's look at HVAC and see if it's where it should be.'

What trends are you seeing with the Internet of Things in the building automation industry?

IoT is here to stay, and the time to embrace it is now. … Everybody fears change, so my encouragement is going to be 'it's time to embrace change.' The core building automation industry has been so slow to change and, honestly, customers are getting tired of it. We've had so many new system integrators sign up with us because they say we're the only company helping them stay ahead of the competition. It's more difficult for the larger players to embrace the change, mainly because you have to be very agile.