For a single business to create an entire end-to-end IoT offering, covering all aspects of hardware and software, is near impossible for a large, well-established company – let alone a start-up. There are simply too many diverse specialisms required in order to create operational IoT ecosystems – ecosystems being the important word here.
There is, in a way, no such thing as a standalone IoT product or service – rather, the IoT is a series of networks of symbiotically connected hardware and software.
As such, building a strong – yes, ecosystem – of partners is imperative when getting a new IoT business off the ground.
Here, then, are the specialist areas you need to think about.
Hardware: sensors and connectors
The IoT begins, of course, with connected sensors installed in hardware throughout an organisation – or indeed, in individual products ready to be sold. One of the first groups of partners a new IoT business should think about, then, are organisations that can engineer and install such devices. Typically, as new IoT businesses evolve and grow, connectivity is ‘baked into’ such hardware at the point of manufacture, rather than installed further down the line.
Connectivity: data transmission
Next, IoT ecosystems need partners who specialise in networking and connectivity – organisations that are experts in whichever protocols are being worked with. WiFi is perhaps the form of connectivity that most often springs to mind, but Near Field Communications (NFC), cellular communications, Bluetooth and a wide range of other protocols are used in different IoT contexts. Another aspect of connectivity to consider is how the different moving parts in an IoT network integrate to and connect with each other, so systems integrators are often a vital piece of the partner puzzle too.
Security: data and device protection
Security is a huge priority for the Internet of Things, and an area that most start-ups are simply unable to service in-house. Securing the IoT requires a range of technologies and processes, from encrypting data in transit and at rest, to generating unique identities that verify every connected device on a particular IoT network.
Insight: data analysis and action
The major selling point of the IoT is generally its ability to harvest data that previously went ignored, and turn that data into tangible insight and action. This requires powerful engines capable of analysing vast quantities of data, and translating it into understandable business information and recommendations. In many cases, machine learning and processes such as artificial intelligence and even augmented reality are harnessed here, in order to truly maximise the intelligence gained.
Finally, consider terms like the ‘smart city’ or ‘connected healthcare’ – entire sectors or industries where different IoT networks come together to share information, learn from other and integrate previous disparate services and datasets. Such examples are IoT partner ecosystems at full maturity, where organisations with different specialisms come together to create something even greater than the sum of their parts.
It is, of course, a complex picture. Yet engaging with a broad spread of well-established, highly specialist partner organisations is actually the best way of simplifying your IoT start-up journey.