With the current, highly bespoke IoT deployment model, there is simply no way suppliers delivering such tailored solutions can realise the full potential of IoT. These custom-built IoT developments are massively constraining adoption at scale. The true potential of IoT will likely never be realised until we have universal delivery – and that means developing solutions that can be deployed to organisations of all sizes by a strong reseller channel. There are many examples including smart parking and warehousing, where a new generation of channel friendly ‘IoT as a Service’ solutions are set to transform IoT adoption.
Head of IoT and Products at Comms365, Nick Sacke, insists that shrink-wrapped services are the key to realising the vision of IoT at scale.
The Channel’s Input
Up until now, the channel has had little input into the development or even adoption of IoT – and for good reason too. How can a reseller possibly embrace the full, end to end implementation required for IoT at scale? Ranging from diverse sensor technologies, an overall lack of network standardisation, huge initial investment, and the need for multiple vendors for just the one solution, achieving an end to end IoT deployment has been deemed too big a task, too complicated and just too high risk for resellers.
Alternatively, resellers that have been eager to become the first to provide IoT solutions to their customers have rebadged the IoT services from mobile carriers. However, not only do these services do little to build on legacy Machine to Machine (M2M) offerings, they do not maximise the true value of the technology. Besides, the major carriers are in many cases working directly with enterprises on the largest and most lucrative M2M deployments, so where does this leave resellers in an already brimming, price driven market?
It’s no surprise that IoT has yet to truly take off with resellers. Where is the revenue stream? What is the value of investing in IoT knowledge and expertise when operators are taking by far the biggest piece of the pie? And where does that leave the realisation of a connected world; of millions of sensors providing data that can be recorded and analysed to drive new efficiencies, reduce costs and uncover valuable revenue streams?
As a Service (aaS)
If the benefits of IoT are to be fully recognised, the current model has to change – and this is where the channel comes in. As the key to offering wide scale, successful deployment to businesses of every size, channel IoT adoption means developing a better, faster and more relevant IoT model for the market. IoT as a Service or ‘shrink-wrapped IoT’ is different in every aspect. Built on a proven market need – like smart parking or smart warehouse operations – IoT as a Service is available off the shelf and requires limited customisation for those who wish to utilise it. A complete end to end IoT smart parking solution, for example, will include sensors, a network, data storage, analytics and visualisation, but will be provided as a Service that can be purchased as a proof of concept (PoC), a first case deployment or even as a full-scale solution. For a reseller, there is nothing to do other than simply install it – and even that can be outsourced, if necessary.
So, what’s in it for the channel? With this approach, a reseller can become a trusted IoT advisor for the end customer. Through adding IoT knowledge and expertise, plus access to several shrink-wrapped IoT solutions, a reseller can take its existing strength in understanding a customer’s challenges and creating a business case.
As well as advocating the service, a reseller can also project manage the entire process and even support the installation if required. Essentially, the ‘as a Service’ model provides resellers with a chance to realise customers’ true IoT objectives – but without the hassle of having to undertake any complex, high risk, bespoke development.
A Complete Solution
It’s necessary to note that a shrink-wrapped IoT solution is not just a PoC. There are a number of kits available on the market that enable a simple IoT demonstration – a couple of sensors, a gateway with a wireless protocol to connect to the sensors, and an application. However, while this sounds like IoT as a Service, it’s not deployable in a live setting – it is just a demo that can be utilised to prove the concept and make a case for the requirement. The shrink-wrapped IoT PoC kits allow the end user to test IoT for real in several application areas to determine the validity of their business case and make a decision from there.
However, true IoT as a Service is different. By integrating deployable sensors and viable network connectivity, for example, the fast expanding LPWAN networking options that can connect a high volume of sensors, as well as the data storage, analytics and visualisation components can come to light. Every single aspect of this end to end, shrink-wrapped model is designed to scale to thousands, even millions of highly dispersed devices. Additionally, it is not just a conceptual exercise but a deliverable application based on a proven business need – a specific solution that is ready to deploy and will provide business value immediately.
A great example of this is smart parking. A smart parking system can be used not only to improve traffic management but also reveal new revenue streams. For example, one car park in Cambridge unveiled significant missed parking revenue due to customers not paying the minimum one-hour fee when only making a quick trip. IoT-informed analytics resulted in the creation of reduced charges for very short stays – generating £500,000 in additional revenue for the business.
The IoT Ecosystem
But of course, the sheer logistics of installing and supporting IoT on mass is daunting for any organisation and resellers everywhere – which is why the IoT as a Service model depends on an ecosystem of expert companies. Just as the LORA Alliance is a group of various sized companies successfully working together to deliver LPWANs globally, the IoT ecosystem will push industry standards for networks, sensors and best practice deployment. The newest generation of IoT as a Service providers will use this ecosystem to ensure the channel has full and complete access to the expertise and capacity required – from sensor manufacturers onwards – in order to deliver IoT at scale.
And this is key. – IoT can deliver efficiencies, large initial cost savings and revenue generation – but it will likely never inspire the trillions in investment predicted by experts if every deployment is as bespoke as it currently is. In addition to building on proven, business-driven applications, shrink-wrapping IoT will release it from the constraints of highly expensive, highly bespoke projects and provide the channel with immediate opportunity to explore IoT’s enticing potential revenue flow.
Nick Sacke, Head of Products and IoT at Comms365
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