The channel has been talking about the IoT in a theoretical way for years. But recent advances in technology have brought a future where partners can find practical ways to make money off of connected devices within the channel’s reach.
IoT technology, while exciting, is also scary for a lot of business owners. There’s often a significant upfront investment combined with an ongoing monthly cost to manage and support the data collection and automation technology. But the relationships that VARs have long-cultivated give them a big head start on becoming their customers’ trusted IoT advisor.
“The Internet of Things is now pervasive in applications ranging from agriculture to intelligent transportation." said ConnectedYard Co-Founder and CEO Justin Miller. "As IoT technology extends its reach, channel professionals have an opportunity to develop innovative solutions for the companies utilizing it to transform systems and processes in every business segment.”
No matter what industry or vertical resellers specialize in, there are big gains to be made by investing in smart technology. Here are four niches where the opportunities for VARs to make money off of IoT are limited only by their imaginations.
As the world’s population continues to increase, demands for food supply will rise along with it. It isn’t outside of the realm of possibility that governments will eventually subsidize smart farming the way they do certain crops today.
Farmers are already using data analytics to monitor things such as soil moisture in order to regulate water usage. Analyzing soil to determine which nutrients need to be added to fertilizer and where it should be applied is another technology that’s bearing fruit. But there’s an immense opportunity for someone with imagination to take smart ag to the next level. Connected machinery to plow, sow and reap. Automated order systems that eliminate wasted produce. Sensors that tell farmers the prime moment to plant seed or harvest crops. Automated dashboards to help them analyze trends and make forecasts based on weather patterns, increasing their odds of surviving in a changing climate.
There’s also a burgeoning vertical farming market, where agriculture is brought indoors and crops are stacked. Not only does this allow for better regulation of growing conditions, but it significantly reduces the amount of acreage needed to produce the same amount of crops. Farms could be placed within cities, helping address the urban “food desert” problem. Restaurants could order direct from the farm and have produce delivered the same day that they could market as truly locally grown.
VARs with ties to either the farming or restaurant industry already have the connections they need to begin building a smart agriculture business. Forward thinking restaurateurs, urban planners and farmers are making plans now to implement these innovations, and they’ll need to source their connected technology from somewhere. Why not you?
The public warehousing and storage industry is handled by about 4,500 companies in the US, with combined annual revenue of $20 billion. From tracking inventory to fleet management, IoT technology is finally giving warehousing a way to truly add more value to organizations. There’s only so much streamlining that can be done by optimizing routes on paper and encouraging workers to move faster.
In the warehouse, vehicle management systems installed on forklifts, tow tractors and industrial trucks can improve upon resource allocation and safety standards. Sensors built into these vehicles can lock out unauthorized drivers and track activity such as speeds and impacts. Access to this data drives insights into where organizations can improve their occupational health and safety records, saving a lot of money from unnecessary OSHA fines or workers compensation claims. Managers can more accurately track operator activity such as motion hours, lifts made and login time, potentially saving thousands in overtime pay.
Warehouses that store perishables can see at a glance when their inventory needs to be moved, and retail supply chains in all industries can be streamlined as systems connect the warehouse to a company’s sales order processing group. This can eliminate or drastically reduce the time needed for customer service representatives to phone over the orders and wait until manufacturing has supplied the warehouse with the inventory it needs. Connecting all this data to dashboards lets warehouse managers identify historical trends and produce more accurate forecasts.
Since many large warehouses are run by site managers rather than at the corporate level, VARs have a chance to connect with decision-makers in their specific geographies. They can leverage the relationships they’ve built on reselling warehousing equipment and upsell their current customers. Partners can also build upon existing relationships with supply chain managers, helping them fulfill orders more quickly and accurately or analyze data to see where individual products can be packaged into comprehensive customer solutions.
It’s no secret that the smart city carries a wealth of IoT opportunities for resellers. No matter what your niche vertical or specialty, there’s an untapped revenue stream waiting for you in the smart city sector. Not only is nearly every city trying to hop on this train, it’s easy to verticalize.
The potential of smart city applications has only just begun to be tapped. According to Navigant Research, the global smart city technology market is expected to be worth approximately $27.5 billion annually by 2023, compared to $12.1 billion in 2016. For partners with existing relationships in the public sector, connected city technologies can be a goldmine. And in many cases, you can leverage your existing vendor relationships to help establish practices in this sector. Intel and Siemens, for example, have implemented a smart parking solution in Berlin. IBM, a leader in the field, has initiatives in sub-industries from emergency management to smart stadiums.
Feel like coloring outside the vendor lines? There are hundreds of startups tapping into the smart city opportunity, many with intimate knowledge of both their technology and their geographies. TransLoc, based out of Raleigh-Durham, combined a passion for environmentalism with a vision for streamlining public transportation to create innovative transit solutions that are now in use across more than 150 metroplexes and college campuses across the country.
Finally, there’s another emerging trend that smart city resellers and service providers should take advantage of: partner-to-partner alliances. Maybe you’re a reseller of video surveillance equipment who needs a better storage solution for all the data you’re collecting. Finding a local partner specializing in hyperconverged infrastructure would up your game a lot. Or perhaps you’re (legitimately) worried about security risks. Rather than investing resources to hire an in-house programmer specializing in security solutions, you could find a managed security services provider that’s looking to break into the video surveillance market. Win-win.
Resellers have long been making money off of the automotive industry. It’s one of the oldest verticals in the VAR bag. But as time has passed and the industry has matured, the margins on reselling automotive equipment and parts has continued to shrink. Just like in most other hardware-based industries, the prospects for future success are grim without innovation.
Smart cars and trucks are in their infancy, and most large manufacturers are buying these components from, or developing them in tandem with, tech giants like Intel, IBM, Alphabet and HPE. But this technology is going to be widespread before we know it, and resellers have an opening now to get in on the ground floor. VARs may not have a shot at nabbing the sale of IoT components to BMW or Toyota, but there are endless other opportunities such as trucking, mass transit and warehouse or construction vehicles
But perhaps most promising is the opportunity to retrofit “dumb” cars. Gartner forecasts that about one in five vehicles on the road worldwide will have some form of wireless network connection by 2020, amounting to more than 250 million connected vehicles. But creative VARs will realize that means there will be about 1 billion unconnected cars on the road. Many of these automobiles have computer systems that can support connectivity, and consumers unwilling or unable to purchase a new smart car but want some of that technology will turn to their local auto-body shops for an upgrade.
What’s more, as the market continues to churn out new smart car innovations, owners of already-connected cars will be lining up for them. How many people do you know who have upgraded the sound system in their vehicles? Now imagine that mentality with technology such as immersive entertainment systems to keep kids occupied on long road trips, safety features that automatically brake or maneuver to avoid accidents or keyless entry and ignition systems that work via a smartphone app.
IoT is here, these are 4 existing industry areas, but IoT is everywhere with a sensor, modem and connectivity.
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