Internet of Things – Fertile ground for B2Bs

When it comes to monetising the Internet of Things, it can appear that consumer scenarios are the only play, connecting people to cars, homes, and kitchen appliances, clothing and health info.

If you’re a B2B company, it’s understandable if you are having a lingering wallflower feeling. Fear not. You’re invitation to the dance is waiting. In fact, the market potential for IoT may be as large for B2B companies as for B2C, if not larger.

Here’s a look at just a few of the ever-expanding list of IoT opportunities for companies that serve business to-business customers.

Business versions of consumer offerings

It’s true; many IoT offerings do indeed target consumers. But often, those same products and services are equally applicable to business. A prime example is DropCam. With its namesake consumer version, you can keep an eye on hearth and home from anywhere. Its commercial counterpart lets you do the same for your small business.

And if you’re curious, the recurring revenue angle for DropCam comes not from its cameras, but from the cloud recording and storage of the video they capture, services that employ a subscription billing model.

Dual business and consumer use cases like this exist across the spectrum of IoT offerings, from smart watches to smart bands and beyond.

The all-important middleman

Some IoT products will be simply too costly for many consumers to buy outright. Enter B2B middlemen and subscription billing.

Consider the growing market for IoT-connected weightlifting and fitness equipment — or “smart dumbbells” for the oxymoronically inclined. These pricey systems automatically track the progress individual gym-goers make over time. They remember precisely how much weight someone lifts, how many times, how far they run, how fast and so on from one session to the next. A real boon for any fitness buff, if only they could afford it. Thanks to companies like UK startup Gymtrack, now they can.

Gymtrack is rolling out IoT smart workout gear to businesses, namely fitness clubs, which will in turn make them available to their customers through their monthly membership fees.

This same trend is unfolding in industries such as healthcare, where the high cost of IoT-powered diagnostic and imaging systems is being offset by similar B2B arrangements and recurring payment schemes.

The ginormous industrial internet

How large is the market potential for the Industrial Internet? Estimates vary, but the consensus is BIG. As in somewhere between merely ginormous to unprecedented in human history. Indeed, Cisco CEO John Chambers puts the number at an eye-popping $19 trillion over the next decade. Whatever figure you go with, B2B companies stand to claim a healthy chunk of the IoT pie.

The Industrial Internet is extending far beyond the factory floor, where automated systems, RFID, telemetrics, and other IoT innovations have been in use for years. IoT is transforming supply chains, ERP and distribution across diverse industry verticals.

The Industrial Internet is also launching a new era in predictive maintenance. For example, NCR is using IoT connectivity to monitor the tens of thousands of ATMs and cash registers at its customers’ locations to anticipate when individual units need to be serviced before they cause problems. Examples of industries that are doing likewise include fossil fuels and alternative energy.

Cool data makes profitable products

B2B opportunities await companies that can provide the infrastructure and services required to make IoT a reality. IoT enablement is an enormous topic. Let’s take a quick look at opportunities in just one aspect of it — data packaging.

In the NCR example in the previous section, machine data is the critical piece that makes predictive maintenance possible. In this case, IoT data is a means to an end. It serves the ultimate goal of improving the performance of deployed machines and devices.

But increasingly, IoT data is not just a means to an end; it’s the end itself, the product, if you will. Think of a consumer product everyone knows about: Fitbit. It’s the health data from the wearable device that matters, not the device itself.

IoT startup Xendo is tilling this fertile ground. It’s a specialised data packager that uses aspects of IoT such as machine learning to extract information for its customers. It’s worth noting that Xendo can monetise IoT without having to deploy and manage its own devices. Instead, the company harnesses its customers’ IoT data. With Xendo, you can quickly find individual emails, documents, spreadsheets and more across dozens of disjointed cloud applications, including Salesforce, Gmail, Office365 and Evernote.

Xendo’s business model works because its customers put a high premium on quickly finding specific files lost in seas of cloud data. Data is the lifeblood of practically every industry today and it will only become more so. B2B companies like Xendo that can add incremental value to IoT data chains are poised to make substantial gains as IoT adoption explodes.

The good news is the IoT examples presented here can all monetise via recurring revenue models which are both predictable and exponentially lucrative. Better still, rather than being mere bystanders in the ever-expanding IoT opportunity, more often than not, B2B companies will be the driving force behind it.

Brendan O’Brien is co-founder of Aria Systems

Image Credit: Shutterstock / everything possible