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B2B companies in sectors like manufacturing, agriculture, smart buildings, mobility, and smart city applications are forever looking for ways to accelerate their technology, improve their business offerings, scale their production, and grow their customer base. The expansiveness of IoT as a discourse and a sector means that no one can do it alone. Instead, this is a sector where success is facilitated through building relationships, partnerships, and alliances.
But what do these connections mean in reality, and how and why do we build them? What collaborations make the most sense?
The last 18 months have shown the value of banding together. We’ve seen companies close their doors and down tools in attempts to alleviate the transmission of COVID-19. Logistical problems lead to supply chain challenges and many companies were left with hardware unable to leave the factory floor due to semiconductor silicon chip shortages. It forced some small businesses to defend their relevance, some even risking business closures. If there was ever a time to lean on your friends, and leverage their existing resources and relationships, this was it.
Examples of success include everything from a startup piggybacking onto a bigger brand for faster deliveries to two companies joining forces to market their offerings collectively for businesses shifting to digital-first.
Cloud service providers have been forming their own ecosystems for many years. These ecosystems are built around the most common IoT platforms such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, but also represent smaller platforms specific to particular industries and niches.
However, it’s a complicated space for IoT practitioners. As more and more companies shift from on-premise to cloud and edge-based solutions, the specifics of what services they get becomes even more important. Vendor lock-in or siloed offerings can become a significant pain point if a company’s needs change over time as their technology pivots and sprawl.
Shifting from vendor-specific to multi-cloud solutions can be one way to meet the challenges of these changes. But it can also create a skills problem within your own organisation. Over time, developers who work with the same cloud service provider tend to attain a deep domain knowledge of its specific tools, processes, and configurations. This knowledge may not be easily transferable, and you may find yourself in the position of needing to skill up your team or hire new people altogether.
Thus, being part of a broader ecosystem can enable you to leverage the benefits of a variety of solutions as well as access robust customer and developer support in a way that not only meets your current needs but can expand to represent those in the future.
It would be fair to say that in IoT, we see a mammoth army of worker bees working on different aspects of the ecosystem. For example, let’s look at connectivity. We have an abundance of Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) connectivity options –including LoRa, SigFox, LoRa, RPMA, Symphony Link, NB-IoT, and LTE-M. Despite the efforts of analysts and the companies themselves to tell us otherwise, we’ve seen no clear winner or Queen Bee. Instead, we have a compendium of different standards and solutions that best suit various business models and use cases.
So far, it seems that the ubiquity of IoT means that there is no real need for a winner. Instead, customers must choose the partnerships that best meet the connectivity standards most needed. This is no easy task.
Most vendors must undertake a delicate trade-off between the different package or subscription components on offer, including price, power, bandwidth, range, consumption, and cost and balance their current and future needs. It’s very much a balancing act, and building relationships with connectivity providers is crucial to find the solutions that best meet your needs.
Done well, a partnership can improve your credibility and fill any gaps in your technological stack. It can give you access to complimentary resources and technologies, and open the door to new relationships. These, in turn, can lead to new partnerships and alliances that not only improve your products and time to market but advance the technology for all.
A partnership with a trusted company can also ensure you have appropriate data protection and cybersecurity provisions. Meeting the best industry standards takes time and knowledge, and secure vendors add an additional layer of protection and safeguarding for both you and your customers.
Partner programs can also improve your brand recognition. It can provide access to new sales channels and greater visibility to potential customers. IoT is extensive, often unwieldy, and at times confusing in terms of the number of formal and informal ecosystems, networks, and communities. But it is also exciting, fascinating, and forever moving forward as various collaborations bring us closer and advance our technologies further than would be possible if we worked alone.
Anthony Sayers, Director of IoT Ecosystems & Partners, Davra
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