OEMs Need to Adopt IoT Platforms and Move Up the Value Chain

By Shahram Mehraban

For industrial OEMs seeking to go to market quickly and sustain a competitive market advantage, using a multi-dimensional Internet of Things application development and deployment platform can help to jumpstart and shortcut the product-development cycle.

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During the past few years, technologies and trends such as cloud computing, mobile, the sharing economy and social media have resulted in disruptive new business models. Uber, Salesforce.com and Airbnb are the most talked-about examples, but the Internet of Things will bring disruption on a much larger scale.

The demand for IoT solutions is growing at a rapid pace. BI Intelligence’s “Internet of Things Ecosystem Research Report 2017” estimates that by 2020, the number of connected machines will be more than 34 billion—more than four times the human population.

For industrial OEMs, delivering a smart connected IoT solution can deliver substantial benefits and create a virtuous cycle in which the data that an OEM gets back from devices helps it to develop new products or open up new revenue streams. When designing and developing a connected product, OEMs need to think of their new connected solution from an end-to-end perspective. They need to think of the user experience of their product holistically, and determine the various touch points for the end user, from the buying experience to installation to provisioning of the device to maintenance throughout its life cycle.

As OEMs develop end-to-end solutions, they need to rely on partners for the various elements—for example, cloud connectivity or analytics. This yields an opportunity for OEMs to move up the value chain and provide additional services beyond their traditional product portfolio. But there’s a danger that the complexity of doing so distracts the OEM from its own core competencies and adds too much time and cost into product development, with knock-on effects to pricing, customer satisfaction and the ability to beat competitors to market.

For many OEMs, the motivation to create IoT solutions starts with reducing the costs of remote device support and maintenance, but for more progressive OEMs, that’s just the start, and they often look at how a connected device can generate new value for their enterprise through new services and business models. Building a smart and connected IoT solution requires that industrial OEMs make significant investments in resources and time to address a multitude of issues that are typically more complex than those faced by traditional or consumer product manufacturers.

One area of complexity is software. Unlike traditional or consumer products that may only require one or two applications to support the management of a device throughout its lifecycle, an industrial IoT solution often requires multiple customized applications and services to address the needs of the various stakeholders with which it may interact. There can be many stakeholders, from the OEM and maintenance teams that provide post-deployment support and services, to system integrators and partners that need to make it work alongside multiple projects and deliver custom application, to the end customers themselves who use and often manage the IoT solution.

Even the most seasoned industrial OEM can find developing these applications to be a daunting task—or, at least, one that can detract focus from their engineering team’s core competency. One global medical OEM with billions of dollars in annual sales reported that it had spent more than 24 months and millions of dollars to try and develop one management application.

For example, these are just a few of the elements that would need to be developed for a device-management application:

• User registry—who has what access rights and to what?
• Device registry
• Device search—preferably one that doesn’t require you to remember the exact or full name
• Device status—is the device on or off? When was the last firmware update performed? Which firmware update does the device currently have? When was the last service date?
• Ability to group devices by geography, network, customer, language or other parameters
• Device alerts—under what circumstances should an email or text alert be sent, and to whom?
• Device provisioning
• Billing

For industrial OEMs seeking to go to market quickly and sustain a competitive market advantage, using a multi-dimensional IoT application development and deployment platform can help to jumpstart and shortcut the IoT product-development cycle. This kind of IoT platform, such as Lantronix’s MACH10, would provide the essential applications for device management and still enable customization, helping industrial OEMs to accelerate their IoT product-development efforts.

There are clear benefits to industrial OEMs that can leverage these types of solutions. It reduces product-development complexity and total cost of ownership, helping OEMs to bring products to market faster, maintain a competitive advantage and focus on their own core competencies to deliver enhanced customer experiences.

Shahram Mehraban is the VP of marketing at Lantronix, a global provider of secure data access and management solutions for the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Prior to joining Lantronix, Shahram served as the marketing director and chief of staff of the industrial and energy solutions division of Intel‘s IoT Group.