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The IoT is coming into focus for the channel

If there was a hot-button topic for IT channel partners in 2014, it was the Internet of Things (IoT). Who wasn’t talking about it?

As we previously quoted Pew Research, the IoT is a catchall phrase for numerous devices, appliances, vehicles, wearable material and sensor-laden parts of the environment that are interconnected and feeding data back and forth.

The IoT is poised to transform the data center as we know it, according to Gartner. It’s primed to drive new business opportunities for vendors and partners alike.

And, in a November blog post for partners, Steve Benvenuto, senior director for business development with Cisco’s worldwide partner organization, wrote that the company launched three specialization programs — Connected Safety and Security, Industry Expert, and Manufacturing — designed to offer collaborators IoT-specific tools and training.

Benvenuto projected the market for Internet-connected devices to be worth $19 trillion in 10 years. The Cisco executive also noted that the company will introduce additional IoT specializations sometime in the first half of 2015 to support new products and solutions.

Perhaps one of the leading indicators of just how important IoT is, is the jockeying for prominence by vendors and others around the creation of standards around how newly created IoT devices will talk to each other and share data.

“We’re still in such early days with this that I don’t think that we can really tell which ones will take the lead, but that will be something to watch over the next year,” said Seth Robinson, senior direct and technology analyst at CompTIA.

In October, CompTIA released a research brief, “Sizing up the Internet of Things,” analyzing how IoT will create new business opportunities. Industry estimates report that the number of connected devices worldwide will grow from 14.4 billion in 2014 to more than 50 billion by 2020.

The CompTIA report also identified a number of players that are likely to profit from IoT: device companies, data analytics/big data companies, companies skilled at tying services together using APIs, IT solution providers, telecom carriers and cable companies, networking equipment/software companies, sensor/chip companies, and platform and ecosystem providers.

Jeff Hilton, founder of the Alliance for Channel Success, was a bit surprised at some things he saw happening this year in the IoT space. “Initially, I thought it was just for the biggest of companies and biggest of partners, but I’ve heard some success stories that involved smaller partners,” he said.

Admitting it’s very early to talk about IoT success stories in the channel, these earliest cases indicate that IoT isn’t the province of $10 billion companies and multimillion-dollar partners alone.

Looking ahead at 2015, don’t expect the volume around IoT to quell any time soon.

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