CRN From the Coal Face

CRN From the Coal Face

10.2.2014 The Internet of Things will offer shelter from the storm


The traditional channel is being squeezed but new tech means new opportunities.


Several years ago during one of my regular radio programs on technology I spoke to the host about an umbrella that had some amazing technology built-in. The host joked that there are probably lots of crazy umbrellas out there with some amazing technology built-in and, in a brief moment of live on-air madness, I promised to deliver a new umbrella technology story to him each fortnight when I did the segment.

Leaving the studio I started to think about the promise I had just made. What was I thinking? What sort of brain-snap had just occurred and how was I going to deliver on my promise. Maybe the host (and all of the listeners) would simply forget about this little gaff before my next segment. All thoughts of that idea were put to bed when I spoke to the host the day before my next segment. He finished our conversation with the brief statement “and I look forward to your next umbrella story”.

That was it. I was apparently committed for the next year.

My initial fears quickly turned into amazement. Researching technology and umbrellas yielded hundreds of ideas, patents and products to choose from. It was surprisingly easy to deliver an umbrella technology story for the entire year – and beyond.

Some of them were quite ridiculous: solar panels on an umbrella to run LED lights around the outside to help you see better. When the sun is shining bright, you probably don’t need the lights but when you need the lights the sun is beyond the horizon or behind clouds. One had a connection to the internet and a series of LEDs. It gained updated weather forecast information (and knew your location) to indicate by a series of LEDs the chance of rain for the day.

While giving a presentation recently, one audience member asked me what was the single biggest change I have seen in my 25-plus years in the industry. The answer was easy. The ubiquity of connection. There is now a reasonable expectation that no matter where you are, what you are doing and what device you have, it will be connected to the internet. Airplanes are an obvious exception but moves are afoot in this space as well. It is interesting to note that it is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) not the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) in the US that bans mobile phone usage in airplanes – citing possible interference with cellphone towers and no mention of aircraft safety. The FAA does not actually prohibit use of personal electronic devices on aircraft.

The time is now

The left-field examples of umbrellas that I was easily able to find and the ubiquity of connection point to one thing. The Internet of Things, a term coined by Kevin Ashton five years ago, is almost upon us. With umbrellas, fridges, houses, health devices and even cars connected directly to the internet, there seems no end to what we will see next connected. How long before a chip is inserted beneath our skin at birth – similar to microchipping your pet – and our every move is tracked and monitored?

More importantly, where does the Internet of Things leave resellers?

With huge opportunities. Sit back for a moment and think about some of them. Many workplaces are struggling with the concept of BYOD. Imagine the Pandora’s Box being opened when staff want to connect their umbrella or pacemaker to the corporate network! It was estimated that more than 750,000 malicious emails were sent from over 100,000 connected devices over the holiday period in the US so cybersecurity will be a huge growth area. Google’s purchase of thermostat and smoke alarm manufacturer Nest (for $3.2 billion) shows it sees a future in smart connected devices. IDC expects 200 billion items will be connected to the internet by 2020. That is around three devices for every man, woman and baby on the planet.

Ultimately, someone needs to help users manage these devices. What use are these connected devices without correct management? Consumers will want a reliable and trusted way to purchase these items and then feel comfortable in the ongoing management. In addition to mainstream management, there are countless niche areas begging to be developed. Health products, wearable devices, smart homes, entertainment products. The list goes on.

There is no doubt the world for resellers is changing faster than an English batting line-up and resellers who are clinging to the days of selling boxes and making a margin are close to extinct. The new world is exciting and connected – and waiting for you to seize the opportunity.

Tell me the one thing you think will never be a connected device at md@smallbusinessrules.com