As interest in the idea of the “Internet of Things” (IoT) grows, recognition of the complexities associated with pulling together all the pieces of the IoT supply chain is also becoming clearer. Given this reality, the IoT market leaders will be those companies that build the strongest partner ecosystems.
As Cisco Systems says in its promotional campaign, the IoT market is quickly becoming the “Internet of Everything.” Every day it seems more and more plausible that there will be a reason to place sensors on almost every conceivable object, device and wearable item to gather information, analyze their behavior and try to improve their performance.
Whether it is to improve business processes or human health, the potential benefits are becoming more and more obvious. And, the technological capability to strive for these benefits is becoming more and more possible. Even more importantly, the economics are also becoming more attractive.
However, achieving real benefits from IoT deployments depends on the cooperation of multiple players. Like many other segments of the software and technology industry, the IoT supply chain is highly fragmented. The piece-parts of IoT extend from chip and sensor manufacturers to software vendors and communications providers. In between reside a widening array of data storage, integration, analytics and management companies offering legacy on-premises and new, cloud-based solutions.
Not only is there a proliferation of players across all these segments, there are multiple industry organizations and standards seeking to govern how various aspects of the IoT supply chain works. As a result, there are numerous protocols and many industry-specific regulations that impact how the IoT is deployed in various vertical markets.
Of course, the complexities of this multifaceted environment are made even more confusing by the proprietary interpretations of the industry “standards” by the leading players. The launch of the Industrial Internet Consortium led by GE is one of the more prominent groups seeking to bring some sanity to the rapidly evolving IoT playing field.
Despite all the chaos, the confluence of machine-to-machine (M2M) standards and IoT best practices is enabling a growing number of companies to successfully implement an assortment of IoT deployments. And the early market leaders are not necessarily those companies with the most advanced technical solutions. Instead, the emerging IoT leaders are those companies that are erecting the best partner ecosystems.
This shouldn’t be surprising. Nearly every new wave of technology innovation has been led by the companies that have succeeded in rallying the broadest set of business partners. Those companies that enlist the most third-party developers to enhance their native capabilities with the best value-added functionality are better positioned to gain a competitive advantage. And those companies that align with the strongest players from a go-to-market standpoint are also in the best position to win.
In the IoT world, creating a partner ecosystem that extends from the connected object to the business end user is becoming imperative. I recently had the privilege to see how one IoT company is assembling their partner ecosystem to cover this end-to-end requirement.
Axeda Corporation’s Connexion 2014 conference brought together many of its partners to show how they are serving their mutual customers. Axeda’s partner supply chain showcased at the conference extended from Intel and Broadcom at the chip level to Oracle and SAS capturing and analyzing the data generated by Axeda’s IoT capabilities. AT&T promoted its communications capabilities, while Appirio and Wipro demonstrated their data and systems integration skills.
One of the important announcements at the event was a new partnership between Axeda and Salesforce.com that will enable users of Salesforce.com CRM to access Axeda-generated data to better serve their customers. A year ago, few would have anticipated this type of alliance. But, today it is another example of the expanding ecosystem of IoT players and how the market is quickly becoming the “Internet of Customers” as Salesforce.com likes to say.
[Disclosure: I was compensated by Axeda to participate in the Connexion 2014 conference, and Axeda is a sponsor of THINKstrategies’ Connected Cloud Summit.]
Jeffrey Kaplan is the managing director of THINKstrategies, founder of the Cloud Computing Showplace and host of the Connected Cloud Summit focused on the IoT market on September 18 in Boston, MA. He can be reached at email@example.com.