IoT connectivity in the UK IT channel – The opportunities & challenges

Jon-Paul Clarke Business Development Director at Wireless Logic

Jon-Paul Clarke

Comms Business, one of the UK’s leading IT channel magazines and web portals, has put a number of questions to the IoT connectivity market. Responses have been published in the October 2019 edition (link below).

Wireless Logic’s Business Development Director Jon-Paul Clarke responds to David Dungay, Comms Business’s Editor, answering questions on the growing demands for IoT communications across the IT and Reseller Channels.

As the IoT market starts to really take off some partners are finding themselves coming across opportunities which they don’t the internal skills to fulfil.  In this article we take stock of the IoT market and look to cut through the hype. Where can the Channel really add value to their customers with IoT technology and still retain the commercials?

Editor: “Are partners still best place to have the customer conversation around IoT, what should partners be aware of when positioning themselves as an IoT expert?”

Jon-Paul Clarke: Channel partners are best placed to have an initial conversation with a customer around IoT requirements. They own the relationship. Suites of their products and services are already within the customer. Yes, they are best placed, but don’t for one minute think that it’s an easy ‘bolt-on’ sale…

IoT connectivity isn’t just about putting a data SIM into a device, the devil is in the detail! For the uninitiated it can be easy to miss the customers technical requirements, who in many (EG: hub & spoke, or SIM to SIM communications) cases are also new to IoT and unaware of the technical demands of their own requirements. For partners that think that and deliver that, I simply say… beware. IoT-enabled applications are more and more becoming mission-critical to organisations. Connect with the wrong type of connectivity and the results can be disastrous.

Are partners experts? Can they discuss key issues such as security, failover, redundancy and accountability?

As IoT applications become more intrinsic within an organisation’s technology eco-system, don’t try and layer on communication with a consumer-facing connectivity solution. Superficially it will work… but without the security, the infrastructure, the necessary SLAs to deliver always-on service.

Of course, position yourself as experts… but experts within your specific vertical markets that you serve, to supplement your core products and services. Then overlay your expertise and experience with specialists that can deliver on advanced IoT focused connectivity.

A partner’s expertise should be focused on the all-important relationship with the customer. Build on what you are doing already with IoT… but don’t let IoT be your downfall. Oversell and under deliver…That is the danger if you don’t provide the right watertight solution.

Align yourself with the right experts. And make sure when you choose who you work with, the talking matches the reality. We are finding that end-customers seeking IoT connected solutions are demanding – they want scale, resilience, pedigree, reach, financial stability, and above all, sector experience, so that when it comes to the right advice, experts who know their stuff can deliver. It is for that reason that I make the point again – stay within the sectors and vertical markets you know. Don’t try and move into new verticals where you don’t have a track record. With the right managed services IoT connectivity provider, they are likely to have a broad reach of experience – evidenced by incumbent customers across multiple sectors. That is who you should set your stall out with.

Editor: “When is it time to bring IoT skills in-house? Is there an advantage to having skills internally rather than strategic partnerships?”

Jon-Paul Clarke: The more skillsets you have in-house, the stronger your position will be when discussing IoT strategies. Whilst investment may be significant, having a broad understanding of the complexities will enable more doors to open.

What to invest in? The ideal is to recruit IoT specialists who have direct experience within the vertical sectors that you work in. Do not go for a broad approach and be all things to all people. It won’t work.

My recommendation is to create opportunities and then work with specialist managed services providers to deliver on the solutions. For this you need a complete team behind you. Remember, it’s not just about connectivity. It’s about the systems architecture, the integration into incumbent customer-side networks, having an acute understanding of the nuances of each mobile network, and being able to deliver secure end-to-end communications which can’t be compromised. Plus, a customer service team to address mission-critical challenges, system failures and rapid response times.

So my advice is… align yourselves with strategic partners who can deliver, who can protect your own reputation, and can support you as new opportunities present themselves. Selling is one thing… successful implementation another. The right IoT partner will work with you, providing all the necessary Support in the early days, and grow with you as your capabilities grow.

Choosing the right IoT connectivity solutions provider – Do your due diligence:

Scale – An organisation that has the capability to respond, with the right resources, manpower and skill sets.

Beyond these shores – More and more deployments aren’t just about UK-centric applications. Ensure your partner has the structure to deliver Europewide and globally. Relationships with local networks, an understanding of local market conditions, and an ‘on the ground’ presence in your strategic target markets are all key.

Capability & Resilience – Failure of infrastructure will not only damage your customer’s business – it will damage your own reputation. Make sure your partner has solid and defined solutions in place – secure network to network interfaces, fibre links to the major carriers, redundancy, and comprehensive data centre infrastructure.

Confidence – Financial stability, quality through ISO accreditation, and track record – you want to align yourselves with providers who work in your sectors, are already connecting major players within your space, and quite simply won’t let you down.

Experience – Sector experience within your target markets – so that they can talk the language of your customers and evidence use cases demonstrating knowledge and expertise to enhance your IoT offerings. It’s a fast-changing and evolving market – ensure your partner is able to keep you abreast of the new and relevant technologies.

Support – 24.7 support desk. Rigorous Service Level Agreements. UK-based, and where appropriate, Europe-wide-based personnel.

Editor: “Smart buildings, is this a prime opportunity for Channel? Where else should partners look to gain traction with specific IoT solutions?”

Jon-Paul Clarke: If facilities management, HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) lift control, access management, CCTV, parking… and more… are your areas of expertise, then yes, Smart buildings is a growth area for IoT connectivity.

But for each application, factors such as bandwidth, data consumption, secure interconnects and signal strength are all considerations to expedite the right solution for your customers. And in more instances, end-to-end solutions requiring suitable pre-configured routers are now coming to the fore. Importantly, the facilities management space is becoming more automated, more self-managing, and more reliant on the ability to deliver free-flowing data to enable fast and responsive interaction of the application.

The reliance on secure cellular connectivity is becoming more integral to successful implementation, negating the need for application providers requiring access to fixed line networks – more often and not firewalled for third party use. So standalone cellular connectivity comes into its own working independently to in-place networks without any form of compromise to existing infrastructure.

Editor: “Has IoT opened up opportunities for new partners to enter the market with different specialties? Is this a threat to the traditional Channel or just another opportunity?”

Jon-Paul Clarke: The entire market is on an upward growth curve. As connectivity technology evolves – whether with new LTE NB-IoT, Cat-M1, LoRaWAN or SIGFOX, developers are creating new applications based around the new opportunities that next generation connectivity provides. For the channel, it’s necessary to keep fully up to speed with evolving connectivity solutions and then focusing on their own vertical expertise to be on the pulse for when the next best application comes to market.

With low power, low data usage connectivity coming to market, application developers are starting to think way outside the box! All of these developments shouldn’t be seen as a threat. If the channel is aware and ready for the changes ahead, opportunities will appear. Be prepared.

David Dungay – Editor of Comms Business magazine

Have the IoT conversation with your customers now before they start to drift away from you. Start small and simple but keep the business benefits tangible and easy to understand. Your customers will want IoT at some point in some form, make sure you have already had the conversation when it happens.

To read David’s article in full, click here.

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