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Exploring murky world of IoT: Where are the best opportunities?

Vertical and subvertical market segmentation is more important in IoT than in other types of technology products and services because IoT is diverse. Most vendors are trying to tame the breadth of the IoT market by prioritizing specific verticals. TBR believes the IoT market is beginning to stabilize if not mature, and this is a good time to focus on vertical markets and use cases within those markets. Not only will this help our clients allocate their
resources, but we also believe an analysis by vertical gives us insight into the current and future maturation of the IoT marketplace. — Ezra Gottheil, Principal Analyst

The exaggerated expectations created by IoT hype play a big role in how vendors approach IoT in 2018, for better or worse

HAMPTON, N.H. — Internet of Things (IoT) vendors are succeeding by focusing on business problems, not transformation, according to Technology Business Research, Inc.’s (TBR) 3Q18 Commercial IoT Market Landscape. Shane O’Callaghan of TSM Control Systems, a PTC customer, explained it at LiveWorx2018 in the most straightforward manner: “IoT is not a technology project; it’s a business project.” TBR believes leading vendors are gaining market traction because they are molding their IoT go-to-market strategies around solving tactical business problems with solutions proved by case studies.

Vendors that focus on technical aspects are unlikely to gain breakthrough success and will be relegated to being component suppliers to vendors more engaged with customers at a business-problem-solving level. At LiveWorx 2018, PTC CEO Jim Heppelmann told analysts PTC may have been looking too far forward, focusing on cutting-edge technology, and had trouble explaining IoT to customers and how its platform, ThingWorx, would improve outcomes.

Like PTC, some vendors appear to be caught between trying to evolve from a component-positioned, technical-messaging vendor and a vendor trying to solve business problems. And many vendors are struggling to rise above the messaging of more successful peers or put a unique twist on their solutions to differentiate them amid an increasingly saturated and hypercompetitive market.

In its 3Q18 Commercial IoT Market Landscape, TBR deeply examined paths vendors are taking to evolve.

  • Emphasizing partnering is one approach most vendors use. Partners are critical because most IoT projects include components from several vendors, and very few of those vendors have a relationship with the customer.
  • Increasingly, IoT is embedded in both hardware and software products from independent hardware vendors (IHVs) and independent software vendors (ISVs), respectively. IT vendors are leveraging large- and small-scale ISVs and IHVs to bring their technologies to a broader market beyond providing custom solutions.
  • Some vendors are narrowing their focus and messaging to verticals in which their expertise matches the challenges experienced in the vertical.
  • Some vendors are beginning to sell off underperforming business units or looking for attractive acquisitions in their areas of focus. TBR expects 2018 to be a year of consolidation and acquisition activity.

The 3Q18 Commercial IoT Market Landscape looks at technologies and trends of the commercial IoT market. Additionally, TBR catalogs and analyzes by vertical more than 350 customer deals, uncovering use trends, identifying opportunities, examining maturity, and discussing drivers and inhibitors.

For additional information about this research or to arrange a one-on-one analyst briefing, please contact Dan Demers at +1 603.929.1166 or [email protected].

 

ABOUT TBR

Technology Business Research, Inc. is a leading independent technology market research and consulting firm specializing in the business and financial analyses of hardware, software, professional services, and telecom vendors and operators. Serving a global clientele, TBR provides timely and actionable market research and business intelligence in a format that is uniquely tailored to clients’ needs. Our analysts are available to address client-specific issues further or information needs on an inquiry or proprietary consulting basis.

TBR has been empowering corporate decision makers since 1996. For more information please visit www.tbri.com.

GE and Microsoft are getting more serious

General Electric Co. (GE) and Microsoft have been strengthening their Internet of Things (IoT) partnership for at least a year, and a July 16 announcement documents a new, closer stage in their relationship. TBR believes this partnership benefits both parties. GE makes its Predix IoT platform more attractive to the growing number of customers standardizing on Microsoft Azure for cloud services. Microsoft improves its industrial IoT (IIoT) and operational technology (OT) credentials, as well as its ability to go to market in the IoT world where the collaboration of IT and OT create challenges for IT companies.

GE and Microsoft announced their “largest partnership to date,” according to a Microsoft press release, with GE standardizing its Predix solutions on Azure, and both companies integrating the Predix portfolio with Azure’s capabilities, including Azure IoT and Azure Data and Analytics. The companies will also co-sell and go to market together. GE will deploy Azure across its business for additional IT workloads. This latest partnership builds on last year’s announcements in July and October of closer cooperation between the two companies.

GE first introduced Predix in August 2015 as an end-to-end cloud IIoT solution. While the Predix cloud was interoperable with other cloud platforms, the emphasis was on a complete solution. Following a large investment and marketing effort, it became clear that competing directly with general-purpose cloud platforms was both unnecessary and counterproductive. Providing a complete platform wasted GE resources and placed the company in direct competition with huge cloud vendors. In 2017 GE adopted a strategy of focusing on its differentiated capabilities and highlighting Predix’s interoperability. The July 16 announcement makes GE’s relationship with Microsoft much stronger than its partnerships with other vendors.

While the newly announced partnership helps GE, the future is not clear for GE Digital, the division that offers Predix. In November 2017 the company announced cuts of more than 25%, about $400 million, within GE Digital. Predix development is increasingly focused on GE’s primary businesses — aviation, power and renewable energy — but as of April, a company spokesperson said only 8% of GE’s industrial customers were customers of GE Digital. TBR believes that a sale of GE Digital to Microsoft is likely, as GE narrows its focus and Microsoft expands its footprint in IoT and IIoT.

IoT evolves rapidly

Internet of Things (IoT) offers long-term sustained growth for many IT vendors, especially vendors that can successfully position their offerings as critical components for a wide range of IoT solutions. This opportunity, however, is accompanied by challenges in product or service design, market targeting, partnering, and reaching decision makers within customer organizations. IoT’s diversity of solutions, its operational technology (OT) market, and the multicomponent and multivendor nature of its solutions all demand new approaches from vendors.

Canonical seeks to solve the IoT software puzzle

Despite Internet of Things (IoT) having become a common term in business transformation vernacular over the last three years, its development is still akin to a self-guided home improvement project — you can find all the pieces at the store, but there are numerous brands per item and no guarantee the pieces will fit together; and you can find an endless number of blueprints online, but you won’t be able to tell which one is best for your situation or which will have the most lasting appeal. To most customers, IoT is a puzzle.

Most vendors are trying to simplify IoT to drive customer understanding, and ultimately sales. Some have been more successful than others: Dell Technologies (NYSE: DVMT) in ICT, Amazon Web Services (AWS) in cloud infrastructure and Atos in services. Canonical seeks to solve the software problem, primarily related to increasing solution complexity and abundance, the absence of effective security, lack of interoperability, and inability to update at scale, as well as housekeeping challenges for developers, all of which TBR believes are the largest hurdles to assembling and maintaining an IoT solution.

Successful companies will organize for continual IoT innovation

In the Internet of Things (IoT) era, successful companies will innovate constantly, at all levels of the organization. The most successful of these companies will change their culture and processes to foster this innovation. For many companies, IoT will trigger organizational change, which, in turn, will drive innovation in other areas as well as IoT. TBR believes that IoT is not a technology revolution, but rather a business revolution that will change how companies operate and evolve.

Innovation will occur at every level of the organization, and IoT and IoT-related solutions will proliferate. To prevent sprawl and consequent security and efficiency implications, IT will set standards and provide standard resources where practicable. At the same time, IT will facilitate innovation by being responsive, and by providing and supporting horizontal IoT tools. Successful IT vendors will serve the needs of IT departments supporting distributed IoT innovation. Dell EMC’s concept of “IT transformation,” which is one of supporting innovation, describes this model very well.

IoT everywhere

IoT and IoT-related solutions will proliferate because IoT offers many valuable potential solutions for many business processes, particularly as additional lower-cost solutions become available. Despite its long history, IoT is immature. The near future will bring many more prepackaged solutions, easy-to-use components and more efficient data utilization. These changes will lower costs, improve ROIs and make many more solutions feasible. Many new solutions will require no new data, but will integrate or analyze IoT-generated data to deliver more value.

IoT’s value potential is not confined to companywide transformative projects. There are opportunities for valuable solutions at every scale and in many different business units and departments within each company. Therefore, successful companies will enable the development and refinement of new IoT solutions throughout the organization, not just in designated departments or groups.