Why does it take 10 partners to start an IoT project?

Both business and technology needs are to blame

By Michael Lamp

The Internet of Things is more than just a buzzword, it’s a multibillion dollar industry opportunity—at least, for those brave enough to take on the complexity. Even before the proverbial ink is dry on your project’s sign-off, the list of requirements and vendors you need to fulfill them is growing. Most companies say it takes up to 10 partners to even start an IoT project.

How did a market built on connected technology get so fragmented? It comes down to the specialized expertise needed in three areas: sensing platforms, new business models and an evolving maintenance landscape.

Sensing platforms, data gathering and other emerging technologies add complexity
IoT starts with data. But setting up the right infrastructure to collect that data may require a myriad of specialists. Sensing systems add their own set of unique complications, many of which fall outside the realm of your typical IT skillset and are unique to your application. How do you secure or update a non-standard device? Avoid wireless interference? Regulate sensors to control connectivity fees?

That leads right into the connection: it could be cellular, which involves data plans and extra taxes on your network, or it could be internet-connected, which means you’ll need infrastructure to keep connections running 24/7.

All that is just for collecting the data. Then you’ve got to aggregate, store and analyze it. That’s usually the job of the cloud. You’ll need to engage in-house or hired programmers to customize the cloud for your specific use case. Your management software may need to access this data, or visualize the data in a form that’s applicable to your specific use case. (Haven’t built the site or the app yet? You’ll want to get on that, too.)

Wider group of business units at the table
All those different technologies mean one thing: people—and lots of them.

Until now, IT groups could manage everyone’s computer or mobile phones via standard operating systems and security patches. IoT is a whole different beast.

It involves the CEO looking for efficiencies and innovation. The CIO or IT leader tasked with scoping it. The data analysts. The programmers. And the list goes on: project managers, system integrators, operations specialists, installers, and business stakeholders—all have a role to play in ensuring an IoT project’s success from the technology as well as the business side.  

A bunch of stakeholders at the table means a whole host of requirements to satisfy. But since many of these people often have different business goals, their wish lists can complicate an already complex process.

Don’t forget lifecycle & security in an ever-changing deployment environment
You’ve considered all the stakeholders you need to consult to deploy and all the hardware, software and firmware you need to get it done—great. But deploying an IoT solution isn’t like putting a product on a shelf. It needs regular maintenance and security updates. Note that a good IoT solution is dynamic. By that we mean that it should have the ability to adapt to help meet the needs of a changing business climate.

A safe protocol today might get hacked tomorrow. A field of sensors could be compromised or marked end of life six months after you deploy them globally. What do you do? What’s your update plan? And exactly which vendor is responsible for doing it?

This means more partners in the form of security analysts and lifecycle maintenance specialists to help keep this pricy and complex IoT solution up and running. Plus, as we know with all the different business units involved, more stakeholders means more time, requirements and sometimes even cost.

Choose your partner wisely
An IoT project is a lot like building a house. If you know how to lay a foundation, wire the electrical system, lay plumbing and connect your HVAC all while staying within an operating budget, doing it yourself is easy. (Don’t forget to pick the paint color with the most curb appeal and list it on the MLS with the right interior decoration to sell quickly, too.)

That’s a lot to ask of an in-house team, though, especially once you include the time it takes to handhold all the various stakeholders from across the business through a successful implementation. Here’s where companies like Avnet, who have built their business on pulling together technology and service partners, can truly come into play. Unlike other businesses, they have dealt with sensing systems, computers, cloud platforms, connectivity, and software from a myriad of suppliers.  This is right in their wheelhouse. So a vigilant partner, much like a general contractor, can ensure you get your IoT house built on time, on budget and ensure that it’s ready to perform when it really counts. 

Michael Lamp is Director of Americas IoT Business Development at Avnet. Working alongside Avnet’s IoT team, he is focused on assisting customers to create secure and connected products. At Avnet, he strives to make technology relevant to customers; he has held positions in Applications Engineering, Management, and Technical Marketing. Michael’s 20-year career in technology ranges from automation systems to communications infrastructure, as well as experience in computer forensics for E-discovery. Michael holds a degree in Computer Engineering from Boston University.

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