Last week Gartner published its list with the “Ten Technologies That Will Enable Organizations to Unlock the Full Potential of the IoT” and states that they should be on every organization’s radar through the next two years.
Despite this list being of high value for bigger companies which are already well engaged in IoT technology the research might be hard to adapt and translate into strategies and action plans for smaller and medium-sized enterprises (SME).
If you haven’t read the release click here to read it in full or just take a quick look at the bullets below:
- IoT Security
- IoT Analytics
- IoT Device (Thing) Management
- Low-Power, Short-Range IoT Networks
- Low-Power, Wide-Area Networks
- IoT Processors
- IoT Operating Systems
- Event Stream Processing
- IoT Platforms
- IoT Standards and Ecosystems
The quintessence of those identified key technologies is that it will be a vital task for companies which are building connected devices to heavily invest in and think about interaction of software and hardware, product lifecycle and maintenance as well as security and interoperability with the IoT ecosystem.
For SMEs IoT products bring value but also challenges. On the one hand it is possible to create and market new products which are enhanced through a specific service and therefore sell products along with apps and support which results in periodical billings as well as customer loyalty. On the other hand a highly trained team consisting out of hardware, IT- and embedded technology engineers is necessary to build and maintain those services.
SMEs can take action in order to develop and manage IoT product portfolios which are successful in the future. Here are 4 possible strategies to achieve this goal.
Restructure Your Talent
This just works if you already have the necessary talent required to build and maintain IoT applications. Sometimes resources are hidden even in your own company. A good example might be that the software for basic devices has been created by several IT-specialists but your new connected products need data analytics and data bases which are beyond their skills. Look in your other IT departments or even system administration. Often some of those guys have experience with data processing just in different areas and are capable of supporting your product development team. Maybe they need some training but it could be a great way to give them a new challenge and save costs. Unfortunately the same is a little bit more difficult for hardware engineering – however the solution can be a distributor or partner which supports your team.
Build A Startup
Use the possibility to build a startup within your own company. To do so you can either hire young talents or build a task force out of existing employees (or a combination of those two). In a next step you form a team that covers all skills required to build a new IoT product. This team will then be isolated from the rest of the company and given creative space in order to design, define and build a new product – just like in a real startup. Offer them bonuses for great prototypes and incentives for new ideas in order to keep them motivated but don’t interfere with their work for a fixed period of time. There is no guarantee for success, but chances are, that you will at least discover the main challenges of developing a new product for your company.
Act Like A Startup
Startups often have a great idea but lack technology knowledge and business experience. In this case such innovation driven teams seek help from mentors and venture companies which invest in their projects in order to close the gap. You can do something similar even if your company is already “grown up”. In case you only need help in some departments e.g. app development look for a mentor who can train and consult your team. In case you need a lot of support and resources but do have a great product which would make sense to be connected talk to a venture company. You might find a valuable partner which can help with development, modern marketing as well as fresh ideas.
As an alternative you can look for a technology distributor who can sell you technology products along with services and expertise. For example at EBV we often provide our customers with complete solutions, consult them regarding product development and design and offer access to an extensive network of partners which can help with network, cloud, marketing or IT services.
Buy A Startup
Yep. That’s right. In some cases it might make sense to start acting like a venture company yourself. This is for example the case if you do have a product which is similar to the one of a startup without the connectivity features. A small, and young company might be convinced to join forces as you could bring in the product and experience and they could add ideas and connectivity features necessary to stay competitive. This does not mean you should go wild and buy everything on the market but keep eyes open for the one perfect fit which might come along at some point.
Those are four possible strategies. In case they are too aggressive there is another way I haven’t mentioned which can help you to stay successful: Don’t connect your products. This does not mean you should not develop a strategy which includes IoT features for the future it just means in some cases taking it easy makes sense. If you do have a product which targets for example kids and elderly people who will not need connectivity features and you can offer your products at a highly competitive price point compared to connected products you might be able to serve those target groups who are only interested in the basic functionality of your product. However, this comes with the risk to stay behind, to not learn from mistakes and to lose some marketing ground as no one will associate you with new and fancy gadgets. This strategy could make sense e.g. in combination with the mentioned plan to build a startup-like task force which works on new ideas.
Whatever strategy you choose or develop for your company, it will always be important to keep in mind that the IoT requires flexible hard- and software which can keep up with other products throughout the product lifecycle and can be updated in order to offer state-of-the-art security features at all times. Choosing the best fitting IoT ecosystems, network technologies, communication standards, app design and everything else should be achievable with the above strategies.
If I missed something or you’d like to add and share your experiences feel free to do so in the comments below.