The Internet of Things (IoT) represents a massive opportunity for IT services providers. But how they go about addressing that opportunity may require many of them to change their fundamental approach to the way they add value.
Over the years IT services providers have tended to divide themselves into hardware and software specialists. The challenge many of them will now face in the context of an IoT solution is that in these environments hardware and software are more intertwined than ever.
Not only are there many variants of what an IoT endpoint may look like, there are often hundreds, sometime even thousands, of them feeding data back to any number of IoT gateways. Those gateways in turn usually apply some level of analytics to the data that in turn is passed back to a centralized data center for further analysis. Once the date is analyzed, the application running in that data center needs to decide whether some corrective action needs to be taken, which in turn gets passed back down through the gateway and out the endpoint. Understanding all those software and hardware dependencies is a core IoT requirement.
IoT adoption is picking up
The good news is that beyond the global systems integrators more IT services firms are starting to wrap their minds around the IoT opportunity. A new survey of IT services providers conducted by CompTIA finds that one third of them expect to make money from an IoT project in the next 12 months. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) report that they already have. That compares to just 8 percent that said they made money on IoT projects a year ago.
The CompTIA survey identifies consulting as the biggest IoT opportunity (40 percent), followed by security (36 percent), and then analytics, managed services, custom app development, reselling, and infrastructure services, which are being provided by between 30 percent and 35 percent of the respondents.
Naturally, much of this activity reflects the rapidly growing maturity of the IoT space as a whole. A full 75 percent of the respondents say they now have a favorable view IoT.
Navigating organizational challenges
Of course, finding who is in charge of the IoT budget inside an organization is still a major challenge. Most organizations are still trying to navigate to what degree IT departments and operational specialists will be involved at different points in the project. The one thing they don’t want to have to do is manage a small army of IT services firms to implement an IoT project. That's why many IT services providers will need to have some degree of both software and hardware expertise to ultimately succeed. End customers may initially partner with multiple IT services providers to get that combined expertise, but over time end customers are going to look for that one proverbial IoT throat to choke.
In the meantime, it’s hard to imagine any aspect of IT that won’t be influenced in the future by the developments occurring in the IoT space. From a marked increase in the rate and amount of data flowing across networks to advances in machine learning algorithms used to drive emerging artificial intelligence (AI) applications, much of the genesis of future advances will be driven by requirements first identified in IoT projects. For IT services providers, that means IoT not only represents a potential source of lucrative revenues—it also becomes the fountain from which all kinds of compelling innovations are about to spring.