Making Strides in M2M

The industry has been brandishing M2M and the Internet of Things about like it’s going to be The Second Coming and in a not so distant future everything from our fridges to our shoelaces will be connected. As always, taking an unknown technology to the Channel can be a slow process, but are resellers beginning to see M2M as a new opportunity or is it still too difficult for them to get on board? David Dungay went to find out.

What was obvious from the outset of creating this feature is that a lot more people are talking about M2M and the IoT (Internet of things) than ever before. In contributions alone I have been swamped to such an extent my inbox has been groaning under the strain! As I set out to find out more about the state of the market it did feel like something had changed and conversations were moving on. However there is still work to be done and challenges remain.

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 16.12.36Keith Curran, Co Founder of Plan.com, commented “IoT isn’t just the next big thing; it’s a significant “game changer” for everyone in the mobile industry. But the challenge for the Reseller Channel is that it’s still very much the biggest opportunity the majority of resellers don’t know how to realise yet.

But as a Reseller, despite IoT being relatively new, you’re already frustrated that the only thing anyone ever seems to be able to tell you, is how big it’s going to be. When what you really want to know, are what are the specific opportunities, how do I fulfil them, and how do I commercialise the opportunity to a level that works for me.”

Mark Shane, ICON Sales Director said “Right now M2M/IoT is not understood in the channel. Ask the average reseller if they deploy M2M/IoT solutions and they will probably say no. Ask them what M2M/IoT means and they will most likely quote the examples of a refrigerator ordering milk or home security monitored through a smartphone. These are the popular consumer examples of M2M/IoT. However, in the business field many of ICON’s channel partners have been deploying M2M/IoT solutions for some time, often without realising it, and earning a healthy return from their efforts.”

“For example at its basic level M2M/IoT is about monitoring a sensor or a device and sending a message to a system, a person or some other thing. This is what solutions from our vendor partners Multitone, BlueSky Wireless, and Fusion are built to do and are already doing in the field.”

“The problem is, the terminology M2M/IoT is not understood. The industry needs to do two things. Firstly, it must explain what is included under the umbrella of M2M/IoT. Secondly, it needs to dispel the myth that solutions are futuristic and high tech – consumer solutions probably are, but many business solutions are mundane, available today, and already being used in hospitality, healthcare and manufacturing. These are part of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) which many expect to be one of the biggest opportunities of the next few years and will ultimately dwarf the consumer IoT. ”

Dr. Rishi Mohan Bhatnagar, Global Head – Digital Enterprise Services, at Tech Mahindra added “Currently, the solutions that are provided by companies are more of ‘point solutions’ or stand-alone solutions that are not interconnected and are deployed on separate platforms. The cloud services prevail but an IoT platform with integrated security, user profiles, big data analytics is absent.

Trend has shown appetite for solutions and services that allow channel providers, utility companies, auto makers and enterprise businesses of all types for real-time billing, charging, policy and customer care offerings through Cloud or Software-as-a-Service mode.”

Working Smarter

Understanding M2M and the IoT opportunity is one thing but actually implementing that knowledge and selling solutions into your customer base is another. So what are resellers actually selling out there right now?

Jonathan Sheridan, MD of Converged Comms commented “Resellers are taking advantage of M2M in more than just a traditional high volume of SIMS’s and low amounts of data manner. The delivery method for the resellers currently is to look at opportunities within broadband resilience, mobile wide area networks and secure connectivity for mobile fleets. There are opportunities in tracking, alarm companies, vending and network surveillance which will represent large revenue and decent margin growth.”

Screen-Shot-2015-11-10-at-16.13The IoT will be the largest device market in the world. By 2019 it will be more than double the size of the smartphone, PC, tablet, connected car and the wearable market combined. That represents an enormous opportunity to be a part of not just one hardware opportunity but a much larger and multiple hardware opportunity.”

Dan Cunliffe, MD of Pangea, states “There are very exciting and very relevant opportunities for the channel. I have seen many of our partners use the capability within the M2M space and apply it to the way they are used to working with other technologies. One partner in particular is very successful in selling fixed connectivity as part of their Wide Area Networking (WAN) offering. They have been successful with this across various sectors but in particularly the construction arena, where helping the construction company get connected effectively and efficiently is very important. Pangea has introduced a productised version of a Mobile Wide Area Network (Mobile WAN) to compliment what the partner is already doing in the fixed space for these contraction companies.

This is where the channel needs to play to its strengths, by using existing relationships and helping partners seize the opportunities with new revenues and growing margins. M2M is an ever-growing opportunity, which fits perfectly into the Channel mentality of continued growth through collaboration and relationships.”

Joe Murray, Channel Director at Essensys, commented “The obvious area where the Channel has expertise is in the office/workplace/buildings. The Channel is uniquely positioned to make their customers buildings work better and ‘smarter’ for them.

There are many ‘vertical’ IoT services available today. However, it is important to stress that the full value of an IoT ecosystem will be realised as these services are integrated and interconnected into a platform. Although some exist today, much of the investment in IoT until 2018 will continue to go into the ‘IoT platform’. This platform orchestrates and automates the communications, outputs and controls of the many disparate things.”

Murray continues “Bringing these services together, staff will access the office using their mobile device, be allocated a hot desk (have DDI and voice services allocated automatically) and the business will only heat / air con parts of the building as they are needed. Continued usage of a building and its various areas can be monitored by WiFi, pinging LAN ports and door access. No human intervention is needed to manage the ‘systems’. Future development of the IoT ecosystem could include services such as meeting room management. The technologies for the Smart Building exist today.”

Curran suggests where resellers should start their M2M journey, “One obvious starting point is to look for the low hanging fruit opportunities. With the prime example being customers who have already got an M2M/IoT solution but require the connectivity to the network. Resellers can often fulfil these opportunities quite easily as the customer literally just wants the SIM cards with an agreed data tariff.”

Joe Murray adds “An easy place to start for Channel is to consider what communications infrastructure they own within their customer-base (LAN, WAN, WiFi, Mobile) and take time to analyse and discuss what other things could be interconnected to the benefit of their customer. The tech businesses who develop new ‘Things’ for IoT, continuously complain that access to the communications network and allocation of IP addresses etc is the most difficult thing they have to manage. The Channel is in a great place where it can start from the opposite end.”

Exploring the Value Chain

We seem to be still at a stage where resellers are trying to figure out if they should be approaching the market vertically or horizontally. Either approach has its merits but must be carefully considered.

Martin Langmaid Solution Architect and Technology Evangelist, with Peplink, says “We will see more specialist IoT vendors providing end to end vertical specific solutions that can be easily replicated by the channel into focused customer bases with broadly similar requirements (like those IoT vendors who have already produced solutions for smart electric and gas meters, pay and display machines etc.). These narrow focused IoT solutions will be the most successful over the next 12-18months, as they will be targeted well with clearly defined and measureable value add metrics. More vendors will bring out complete end to end solutions, from sensor devices right through to cloud based data analytics and present those solutions as a structured, supported way for their channels to deploy M2M/IoT solutions to their customers.

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 16.14.07We will also see those early adopters of M2M/IoT having realised real commercial benefit from their initial deployments put together internal business analyst teams looking to identify other ways IoT can add value and create efficiencies, which will in turn encourage more vendors and integrators to build additional vertical specific solutions in response.”

Bernie McPhillips, Head of Telefónica M2M Authorised Distributor Channel added “A vertical play will involve either developing or acquiring the capability to take an end-to-end solution to a specific market or creating a partner eco-system to achieve the same result. Such as the transportation sector, a vertical player would provide a vehicle telemetry solution including the device, application, connectivity and integrate the solution into the customer’s existing IT infrastructure.

A horizontal play will be specialising in one or more (but not all) aspects of the value chain such as devices, applications, smart connectivity or the system integration piece but across multiple or maybe even all sectors however more than likely without an end-to end solution.

The Channel is in the prime place to seize this opportunity, as the trusted provider of a range of services to your customers it is likely they will turn to you first. I urge you to be ready for those conversations. Those that benefitted most from the surge in the mobile market were those that were ready to take their customers on that journey. The same happened with the evolution of mobile data, mobile email and many other solutions so why should we think M2M will be any different?”

Curran also thinks there is good money to be made outside of connectivity, “Although there is still good money to be made in terms of the simple connectivity piece the real winners in the reseller space will be those who research and deliver other areas of the overall solution.

For example engagement with device manufacturers is a relatively easy way to drive margin enhancement in the overall solution provision. And invariably you don’t need to become the product expert overnight as many manufacturers offer advice and on the use, application and support of their devices.”

Realising the IoT

I have often heard people say M2M and IoT is almost too big to comprehend, this may be true but once you look past some of the basic opportunities suddenly a bigger picture emerges.Bernie

Steve Haworth, CEO, TeleWare commented “With ‘IOT’ the market opens up a lot to wider solutions. Whereas the M2M market mainly focused on the sale of airtime and devices, the opportunities to store and analyse the information and produce greater value makes this a broader market for the channel. Customer acceptance will grow in both consumer and B2B markets driven by big players such as Nest creating smart homes and Cisco and IBM promoting ‘smart cities’. The opportunities for channel could be endless but then this requires discipline not to try and overcomplicate things for the customer.

As the information flowing across these solutions begins to be more sensitive and capable of controlling access to secure areas for example then security will be another area that will grow off the back of this. Requirements for private networks such as Private GSM networks or secure WiFi will become necessary for some installations and this will require greater knowledge and customer intimacy than the mobile operators themselves can provide.”

Mike van Bunnens, Managing Director, Comms365 says “M2M will continue to evolve at a pace and the next wave will see applications and security become prominent factors for differentiation. Right now, the market is dominated by few companies, many of whom may not necessarily be providing the depth of service required. There is a massive opportunity for resellers to grab a share of this market, adding value to the existing customer base, increasing differentiation, and gain a foothold in a fast moving, dynamic market, with opportunities to secure solid business growth.”

Working in Partnership – Case Study

17NH-36m-Endurance-E-3120-less-co2-Paul-Fox-GalleryLessCO2 is a full service wind power provider, with over 50 successful wind turbine installs across the UK. 

The challenge: LessCO2 and their customers needed an intelligent, real-time information portal that would enable customers to securely view live and historic energy and performance data from their wind turbines. The solution needed to be ‘always on’ and easy to retrofit.

The solution also needed to integrate the data from the turbine with the companies’ Salesforce CRM so it can enhance business management systems, suggest preventative maintenance plans, log all faults, create support tickets and where necessary notify the engineering team and generate appropriate service responses for the customers.

The Solution: Adey’s customised Industrial Conel 3G Router and a managed VPN system that allows the Serial and Ethernet technologies within the turbine to communicate securely with the outside world. A bespoke application running on the router extracts data from the turbine and then sends it across Mobius’ secure private cellular network, allowing LessCO2 to present the information in a customer friendly manner over the internet (mobiles, tablets, laptops), whilst ensuring the sensitive data is protected from malicious attacks.

Having access to this live and historic data allows LessCO2 to be notified of any potential issues across their fleet of turbines and can therefore act accordingly. It also enables them to provide an enhanced service plan for their customers, generating ongoing revenue for associated parties.

Summary: Through this effective partnership (Airtime Reseller, Hardware Integrator and End-User) the solution is now deployed and positions LessCO2 as a market leader in their sector, enabling them to reduce costs (site visits, maintenance, automating administrative tasks) and increases ongoing revenue streams and customer satisfaction.

Ed Says…

There is no doubt the M2M opportunity is real, it’s here, and it’s ready to be taken advantage of! The biggest stumbling block for most resellers is how, how do I make money, how do I get involved, how do I sell it. It is still early days but things are starting to take off now, and because the market is so vast we are still only scratching the surface. My advice is get your M2M journey started, go and talk to some potential partners. If you don’t start looking at this market soon you may find opportunities, and customers, passing you by.

 

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine