Find Your Value in the Supply Chain

Where is the value in the IoT supply chain? Where is the opportunity for you as a comms provider? According to Lorrin White, MD of Bamboo Technology Group, the answer is simple; it’s everywhere, but with one caveat – it is only everywhere if you’re prepared to be flexible and work collaboratively with others, so everyone can benefit.

Uncharted territory

Bamboo_Lorrin White

Firstly, let’s address where this IoT scepticism might be coming from. IoT is a new and emerging industry. It is uncharted territory, so the prudent business should adopt a sceptical position until proven otherwise, right? Perhaps the analysts’ predictions are too far-fetched? Maybe.

But from my experience, while they might not always get the numbers exactly right, if all the analysts are saying broadly the same thing they’re worth paying attention to. In business, sometimes it is worth ditching the scepticism.


For those that have already jumped into the IoT supply chain, where are they finding the value? From our own experience, we see value (and therefore profit) in every link of the supply chain, from the device or hardware manufacturers to the software developers, telecoms partners and resellers.

Stand out from the crowd

It is difficult to make a name for yourself in IoT as a generalist, so you need to specialise and develop your niche. If you haven’t found your niche yet, remember the IoT industry is still in its infancy, so you have time. Just don’t wait too long.

How will you stand out from the crowd? Does your business already specialise in a specific vertical for example? If you’re a specialist in healthcare, construction, retail, energy, transportation etc. then you should build your IoT niche from there. Your vertical specialism is your strength, so take advantage of it. Bear in mind that even within your vertical there are many roads you could go down, so pick one area to focus on and build the best solution possible. Don’t go after everything. Use your existing knowledge and skills to build a solution that solves one specific problem really well.

If you don’t specialise in a vertical, could you bring a broad solution to multiple industries and take the horizontal route? Solutions like digital signage, vehicle telematics, surveillance, network security, big data analytics etc. can be brought to all industries through the IoT supply chain.

Better together

Collaboration is essential. The most successful IoT companies are those that know they can’t truly be successful on their own. IoT solutions need devices to be manufactured, they need data connectivity, specialist knowledge and consultants to sell it. But they also understand you must be flexible with your partners in the supply chain and be prepared to tailor your contribution to the whole so that everyone gets a fair share of the pie. There is no room for stubbornness or a one-size-fits-all approach with so many participants in a supply chain.

Don’t shoe-horn your data

It will not come as a shock to hear that IoT lives and dies by the quality of its connectivity. A device cannot be smart if it can’t communicate, so good network connectivity is a must. But first you need to think about what ‘good’ connectivity actually means. Does good simply mean ‘good enough’ or does it mean multi-network connectivity to ensure the best possible connection? Does it include 4G, European or global roaming, and pooled data packages between all devices?

The question you need to ask yourself when it comes to IoT connectivity is this; “am I paying for more than I actually need?” Do you need 4G in 26 countries for example? Do you even need 4G? Do you need global coverage, or will UK be enough? You should not pay for more than you need, as that will either result in an IoT solution that is too expensive for the customer and doesn’t sell, or is unprofitable and unsustainable for you.

Pick your niche, pick your partners, and be flexible

Value can be found for everyone in the IoT supply chain when you focus on your area of expertise, find good partners and put the effort in to tailor the constituent parts (hardware, connectivity etc.) to suit the end use case. By tailoring your design specifically to the needs of the user and collaborating with the right partners to deliver it, you can ensure no IoT opportunity is left unfulfilled and everyone achieves a fair margin to make it viable for the long term. This is particularly true for the connectivity, where rigid packages can hold back innovation or even prevent an otherwise viable IoT solution from even getting off ground.

You might have to develop a few ideas before you find the use case that fits your business. But remember, it took Thomas Edison over 1,000 attempts to create the first working light bulb, yet that one success spawned the electrical revolution, and gave birth to three entirely new industries that have transformed the world we live in today; electric power, recorded music and motion pictures. All starting from one light bulb; the defining ‘light bulb moment’.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine