Getting IoT Technology Partnerships Right

No company can create an IoT solution alone, so vendors must form strategic partnerships to access complementary technologies for optimizing the customer experience and protecting user data.

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Illustration: © IoT For All

The Internet of Things (IoT) is constantly evolving, and so is the way people interact with the world. The latest IoT advances promise to bring smarter cities and driverless cars, but fulfilling this vision requires that vendors understand the complexity of multiple technologies and the rapid pace at which they’re changing.

The fact is, no company can create an IoT solution alone, and vendors increasingly must form strategic partnerships that give them access to all the necessary complementary technologies. Today’s IoT partner ecosystem is so fragmented that it’s easy to forge weak alliances leading to solutions that deliver a poor customer experience. On the other hand, an effective partnership will speed up the time to market for solutions that not only optimize the customer experience but also protect users and their personal data against growing cybersecurity threats while offering the scalability to support growth and changing requirements.

Why Form Strategic IoT Partnerships?

The right partnerships help vendors overcome technology and feature gaps in their solutions. Reducing time to market is the main goal, and all the partner’s resources and expertise can be leveraged to accelerate solution development. Partnerships also enable a vendor to align its solutions with advanced technology platforms.

Vendors that join the partner program of a large technology provider can use the organization’s large sales channels to break into the market and gain greater visibility. This offers benefits to both the vendor and its technology partner. In contrast, a partnership with a smaller provider without the same resources can be a prolonged, tedious and costly venture that may ultimately hurt the vendor’s business and limit its growth opportunities. Vendors should carefully choose their partnerships so they can tap into the complementary technology assets that are critical for developing and offering solutions that provide the necessary combination of connectivity, scalability and security.

End-to-End Solutions

Given a choice between working with one or multiple suppliers, it’s always wise to choose the former. Complex business needs are best solved with a complete end-to-end solution from a single partner who offers all necessary elements including the IoT platform, application, architecture, security, connectivity, product/UX analytics and enterprise cloud solution.

This type of partner also offers a wide palette of services and can provide the most efficient and timely support possible across a solution’s many iterations from ideation to launch. Without this level of support, a solution’s delivery schedule and quality of its user experience may both be jeopardized.

Connectivity

Consumers are confused by the myriad of available IoT solutions, making connectivity one of the most important product features since it’s such a big determinant of whether a product is easy to set up, easy to use and will continue to operate reliably.

First and foremost, a vendor needs to understand which connectivity standard best suits its solution before locking in a partnership. Any solution that’s used to run a business must deliver the same high quality of service to every customer, but today’s IoT connectivity technology options usually force a tradeoff between bandwidth, power, consumption and range. This means vendors must have access, through their partner, to a variety of connectivity services that can be flexibly priced to meet specific customer needs.

Scalability

This is the make-or-break feature of any IoT solution. It’s easy to build a prototype in beta, but a vendor’s ability to scale the solution without compromising security or functionality relies heavily on a good technology partner and its services.

As an organization grows, its system, network and process requirements are accelerated. Data migration, latency, connection time, scaling infrastructures and meeting service level agreements (SLAs) are very crucial, among other issues. These organizations need a vendor that enables them to manage different ranges of plans at scale and can accommodate their growth, and most would rather pay as they go rather than overpay and underuse.

On the flip side, customers don’t want to limit themselves if they need to expand. They don’t want to feel stuck within a boxed hardware and software solution that cannot be adapted for future needs. They also want a vendor that’s transparent with cost plans and gives them a heads up when their expenses are likely to hit their budget ceiling.

The right technology partner enables vendors to navigate all these challenging customer dynamics and expectations.

Security

Security threats are growing at an accelerating rate as cyberattacks proliferate throughout the rapidly expanding IoT. It’s critical that security is considered from the start of the solution development process. The more things are connected in IoT, the more attack surfaces there are for hackers trying to access private information.

Every organization needs to evaluate its vulnerability to attack, no matter its size. Vendors should choose a partner that prioritizes security at least as much as they do. The key is a multi-layered security strategy that spans the device, network, systems and data. The right partner should be talking about the most appropriate solutions for user authentication, access control mechanisms and adaptive authentication, among other topics. The partner will also help an IoT vendor choose the best approach for the critical task of protecting the unprecedented amounts of user data today’s solutions gather.

While strengthening security will increase costs, it pays off in the long run through improved credibility, greater customer loyalty and potentially higher revenues. The cost of not making the investment may be even higher if there’s a breach that leads to lost customers and diminished trust and credibility. Security is often the best place to start an IoT technology partnership.

There are tremendous opportunities ahead for vendors targeting the rapidly growing market for connected solutions in IoT. Rather than go at it alone, the best approach is to partner with a large technology provider that has the end-to-end solutions and large service offering necessary to support both current and future customer requirements. The right partner will ensure that a vendor can scale and evolve its offering to meet changing needs and deliver the multi-layered security that’s critical for defending against hackers and safeguarding the large volumes of private information that today’s IoT solutions generate.

Written by Sneha Murali, Strategic Partner Manager, Microchip Technology