Conversations near a Conference

By: Carl Ford


IoT World is going on this week in Santa Clara. We started the week with meetings in San Jose and Santa Clara and have 20+ meetings and speaking on two topics. It’s a very good show. Kudos to Gavin Whitechurch and his team.

My first two days have been spent in the Santa Clara Hyatt adjacent to the convention center in meetings with clients and other industry heavyweights.

Two conversations in particular struck me as worthy of writing about. One for its insight and depth of collaborative discussion. The other for its content regarding poor messaging.

Let me set the stage first. Almost everyone who is here believes we have not even begun to tap the market opportunity of IoT. Whether you want to dive into a vertical or look at the entire spectrum of solutions, the market is rich with problems needing a solution. Many companies have unmet requirements, broken business models, unmet needs, and missed opportunities. The organizations we speak with have untapped market opportunities.

This is where the insight came in with a discussion from a friend at a Tier 1 MNO. He was sharing his experience with business leaders that often have a problem that IoT can solve, but don’t have a full perspective or responsibility. He says often he comes across problems that people want addressed but are not in charge of. For example, a company has a problem with theft and wants to track their goods. An IoT track and trace solution would fit nicely into this mix. This problem of the theft is drawn to the attention of security. It starts as a physical security discussion, but they don’t have access to all the shipment data and they would have to deploy people since they have limited IT resources or skills. Security brings this to the attention of IT. IT listens but candidly does not monitor the shipments—only the transactions—so they don’t look for a solution.

Now comes the insight. If you are stuck in these circular discussions, the problem is not an IoT problem yet. The people you are talking to don’t have a span of control that matches to an IoT solution. This means you either have to go up a level or find the right organization that cares about these issues.

And here is the inverse of this discussion: Meeting with a platform company that is looking to differentiate themselves from the plethora of platforms out in the market. This company has focused on supporting hardware companies with almost-out-of-the-box, ready-made reference solutions. In reality, many (if not most) of the platforms available have these libraries today. Additionally, many have offered MVNO services.

The hardware companies may need to see a reference design, but the Pareto Principal (aka the “80/20 Rule”) would indicate that a reference design—while being 80% of the code—only takes you to 20% of the value.

The additional 20% of development needs to meet the requirements of the business case. These requirements include, but are not limited to, the integration to specific environmental issues and the management dashboard and training. These additional requirements extend far beyond a lump of code.

This is a job for a systems integrator.

And here the insight from our Tier 1 friend shows comes up again.

Everywhere I turn, I hear about digital transformation and digital twins. You would think that systems integrators would be the ones pushing the conversation and value of IoT. Yet connecting the dots and showing the benefits of IoT has not been understood, on their end.

It’s clear we are a fledgling business. It’s also clear that we need to improve our messaging to climb the hockey stick.