CRN Interview: Schneider Electric Exec Talks Midmarket IoT Opportunities For Partners

Midmarket Opportunities

Gina Elliott, product marketing manager for high performance buildings at Schneider Electric, has an extensive background in smart buildings and midmarket solutions.

Elliott, who has been at Schneider Electric for three years, has been working with the company's partner ecosystem as partners try to navigate the opportunities in the smart building space and the Internet of Things.

Following are excerpts from CRN's conversation with Elliott.

Talk about your background working as the director of strategic business development at Smart Buildings before coming to Schneider Electric. How has this helped what you're trying to do at Schneider Electric?

I have worked for a consulting engineering firm, specializing in integrated building systems such as mechanical, electrical, IT and financial systems. So I came to work with Schneider Electric about three years ago, and have predominantly been working on the light commercial offerings in that market. I'm one of those few people that understands both the IT and building sides of things, and that's a rare thing in this industry. Those two areas have very different cultures and skill sets.

Before, in the early 2000s with telecom and IT, I don't think that convergence with mechanical and IT would have been possible until now. The products are there, but the technology has to get there.

Talk about Schneider Electric's high performance buildings business – what are your main offerings and customer focus?

From our perspective, we have our enterprise offering and light commercial offering – it's more suited toward any building that doesn't have a boiler or chiller plant. Our offering is around convenience stores, fast food restaurants, malls, buildings. The offerings are scaled down from the enterprise – built for the small buildings to meet those needs. They're built to have flexibility for either one seamless site, or centralized for multiple sites. So if you own a chain of restaurants you could manage all the properties centrally.

What specific products are you offering to channel partners?

We have room controllers – sometimes for a small building a room controller is all they need. That includes the SE7000 and SE8000 [room controller] series. The SE8000 series has a touch screen on it. Each device has the ability to integrate sensors, control HVAC equipment – all in one little unit. The good thing about the room controllers is that you can network them together; if you can install thermostats on your wall you can do controllers. You can install room controllers, sensors, meters, outdoor sensors, door sensors, so you'd have the room controllers and embed the sensors in them – then you could add that into the offer. It's enough of what a building owner needs, but not overkill.

What makes your offerings unique?

There's flexibility in how [the products are] installed, which is wirelessly. With wireless it's a quicker installation -- it's more efficient and less costly, and that means less downtime to the business.

Also we have the flexibility … if you're in health care, or medical office buildings – you can integrate it into the enterprise system.

The other interesting thing about it is that we have several different ways you can deploy or install our solutions. But we have a simplified one – you don't need to be a mechanical engineer. We've made it very easy for someone without that mechanical engineering background to learn to install that system.

What's the opportunity for channel partners?

We want to have resellers and contractors who are knowledgeable enough to install these systems, from IT distributors or controls distributors. We do have classes and courses that we recommend [partners take] to make sure they are comfortable with the product.

There are opportunities for partners around lighting and metering applications. IT resellers have the advantage in software and programming. They can customize the dashboard and integrate that into other systems.

There's also an opportunity for a recurring revenue stream. Today partners can help monitor the networking system for customers, so a light commercial building management system will tell if there are temperature issues, Co2 issues or other issues.

What's the first steps a channel partner who wants to get into the midmarket IoT space needs to take?

I guess it depends … my wishlist is that you understand networking because you need to understand how to deploy a cloud-based solution, as well as the security part of it. One of the most important pieces to understand is programming software. There's infinite amounts of things you can do. Of course, you need to understand the customers' business, what their needs are for energy management, what is their schedule and use of the building. You'd also want a long-term relationship with customer.

Also, an understanding of integration of multiple systems and open protocols or a basic understanding of multiple systems is important. You don't have to understand chillers and equipment like that but you need to know enough where if there's a problem, you need to be able to fix it.