Reentering the IoT Analyst Atmosphere - My view from the not-so-cheap seats


Few of us are lucky enough to find a career that gives us a close-up view of a world altering technology. For over 22 years, I’ve had the privilege of working in the wireless technology and telecommunications space with strong focus on transformative M2M and IoT technologies and solutions. While marketing themes come and go, IoT solutions and the data they generate continue to demonstrate solid growth and indeed provide the data underpinning for the digitalization and AI/analytics trends that permeate the market headlines today. Without IoT data and control systems that form the foundation of the 4th industrial revolution, much of the advances in logistics, supply chain, automation, fleet management, that form much of the global economy’s backbone would simply never advanced to modern levels. IoT technology and strategies are the core tools for organizations to gain crucial visibility into their operations, machines, products, and buildings that make them more competitive and efficient.  For that reason, I am excited to join the group at James Brehm & Associates to once again help clients navigate the IoT universe and choose solutions to enhance their company operations, products and services.

In 2018, after 20 years as an industry analyst and consultant, I joined IBM’s AI organization to lead the analyst relations program for the company’s IoT and Supply Chain groups, which gave me an insider’s view into the progress and challenges of industrial IoT solution providers. The view from the analyst’s perch and from inside a leading IIoT solution provider confirmed several key lessons for me on the successful commercialization and growth challenges of IoT.

Expediency of project design and commercialization leads to limited or disappointing outcomes
The most consistent observation I have gained is that enterprises are often overwhelmed by the organizational change required to implement and harness the potential of IoT for their operations and products. This dynamic reflects the fact that, for many companies, the decision to buy an IoT solution is a pointed effort to solve a specific problem, which is essentially IoT opportunistic buying. Even though IoT point solutions can be effective for a particular purpose, opportunistic IoT implementations often fail to account for the broader benefits available through a more thorough assessment of how IoT can facilitate and generate operational improvements throughout the company.

For comprehensive IoT solution providers, the organization of sales teams along strict product/solution lines limits the ability of salespeople to address the broader needs of their clients and, consequently, tremendous cross-selling opportunities for their own companies. While single-focus projects may be expedient and all that is immediately required by clients, a well-coordinated sales effort to conduct a more thorough assessment of a client’s needs will open up more solution and managed services sales as well as reduce the customer’s future headaches trying to stitch dozens of independent IoT projects and their data into a meaningful and integrated whole.

Still Relevant: Intelligent choice of connectivity remains crucial to ensure the IoT solution adapts to long-term requirements and network availability
Having stepped away from tracking the adoption of IoT connectivity technologies for a few years, I’m surprised to see that many companies continue to struggle choosing the correct approach to long-term connectivity for their project. Despite clear advances in many areas of IoT, surprisingly the choice of connectivity in key sectors continues to challenge key solutions like telematics and fleet management, among others. The savvy choice of connectivity tech is the key for the long-term function and efficacy of any IoT project, but many companies fail to envision the changing long-term data requirements of their IoT projects leading many to choose the least expensive and most expedient options. Careful analysis of data dynamics (e.g., data throughput, frequency of network engagement, software/firmware update requirements, energy usage for battery-based devices, etc.) must be paired with analysis of costs associated with deployment and device replacement as well as long-term network availability, particularly with cellular networks.

Cellular IoT connectivity was a key area of focus for my work at Machina Research and Gartner, allowing me to help clients determine what cellular modules would best serve their technical design, data needs and business requirements in countries across the globe. 3-4 years ago, one of the most consistent conversations I had with clients concerned the sunsetting of 2G and 3G cellular networks and the impact that the shutdowns would have on existing and future IoT deployments. To my surprise in 2021, a sizeable percentage of cellular connections for vehicles and other devices remains on 2G or 3G networks despite the imminent plans for most operators to shut off these networks in favor of LTE and 5G networks. It is imperative that companies with 2G and 3G-connected IoT devices and machines recognize the fact that upgrading to 4G modules is no longer optional in top markets. Without an aggressive and well-planned choice of connectivity modules in 2021, many vehicles, fleet management solutions and other devices will simply go dark. Not only does upgrading modules ensure that devices stay connected, it also gives companies a fantastic opportunity to upgrade the devices, software and platforms they use to dramatically improve the IoT solutions they have in their vehicles and machines.  Upgrading to 4G modules opens up a great opportunity to add devices/sensors with greater capabilities to capture a broader array of data and facilitate more robust analytics. I’m excited to again be part of an organization that can provide strategic and tactical guidance that ensures viability of connectivity and the right mix of data throughput and energy requirements to meet long-term business requirements and device evolution in the field.

One of the strengths of JBA is our ability to work with companies to identify IoT solutions that will have significant benefit for their operations, products and services, but in a more comprehensive manner with a view for long-term viability and integration. In addition to advising buyers on how to best address their current and still unrealized IoT needs, JBA is also well positioned to help vendors reframe their approach with clients and develop a more holistic style of engagement while still achieving success with individual IoT solutions. For a comprehensive and practical assessment of your company’s potential IoT needs, reach out to me at [email protected].

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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