The IoT market is heating up

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Industry leaders talk about IoT market growth, developing the required skills, available partner opportunities and how solution providers can capitalise on them

IoT is forecasted to become a multi-billion market in the Middle East. The rapid development of IoT technology is creating new business opportunities for service providers in various domains. So, how solution providers can capitalise on these opportunities.

After years of technological advancement and market development, the IoT is poised to unearth a world of untapped ICT opportunities. IoT is an enormous and complicated ecosystem that requires the joint efforts and close collaboration of ICT solution providers, enterprises, research institutes, and governments. IoT solutions are unique in that they are ecosystem dependent rather than a box solution or purely technology dependent. In the last couple of years, many IoT-related initiatives like smart cities have developed from proof of concept stage to actual full-scale projects.

In addition to this, other smart city related services involving IoT, such as smart poles, smart parking, smart waste management, smart building, etc., are already being executed at different scales in different countries as small or medium pilot projects. IoT can streamline business processes, boost productivity, and give customers better products and services, while providing potential for grander innovations. The arrival of 5G will further accelerate the growth of the IoT market which further opens up a vast pool of opportunities for businesses and channel partners alike.

All these initiatives and projects are expected to grow into large scale roll-out in coming years and expand the IoT landscape. As organisations in the Middle East increasingly recognise the added value that is provided by IoT, the region is seeing increased adoption by customers and organisations across different sectors. Simultaneously, as these organisations develop their IoT infrastructures, governments in the region are increasingly supporting the momentum and ultimately create an ecosystem where IoT can unlock economic growth for the region.

Alaa ElShimy,
MD and VP of Enterprise Business Group at Huawei Middle East

Through OpenLabs and partnerships, Huawei is developing a strong IoT ecosystem and working with partners to integrate IoT solutions into industries and expedite commercialisation of the IoT industry. “Huawei OpenLabs solve practical problems of IoT-related projects by coming up with real use cases, like smart parking, smart transportation, smart building, digital oilfield, etc. Huawei has, with partners, been developing excellent IoT solutions that continuously promote the industry ecosystem and drive innovation,” explained Alaa ElShimy, managing director and vice president of Enterprise Business Group at Huawei Middle East.

“The biggest challenge for Middle East customers in their IoT deployments is that they do not have customer references for seeing which IoT solutions make the most sense for their business and industry. IoT solutions, in particular, are more complex than traditional deployments, and often require modernising IT infrastructure, and trial and error,” stated Mohamed Khan, channel head – SAP Global Partner Organisation in MENA.

Mohamed Khan
channel head – SAP Global Partner Organisation in MENA

SAP organises design thinking workshops with partners and customers to showcase use cases, work on new concepts, and move towards developing proofs of concept, testing, and eventually production. “Our Co-Innovation Lab in the UAE also leverages global best practices in developing innovative IoT solutions. This whole process of bringing IoT solutions to a live business stage could take anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months,” Khan added.

According to ElShimy, IoT is all about the right ecosystem, and so it is crucial for stakeholders to have the right skills. Huawei has undertaken many initiatives to build the IoT skillset in society and across our markets through seminars, workshops, hands-on labs, and training initiatives for our partners in our OpenLabs. The vendor also has an online IoT developer forum where API’s for all IoT related products are available for ecosystem partners to develop applications.

Using IoT, cloud computing, and big data capabilities, Huawei’s open IoT connection management platform provides secure centralised network access, supports a variety of devices, and manages the collection and analytics of massive amounts of data. These enhanced functions allow customers to create new value from IoT connections.

Dr. Chris Cooper
GM for Lenovo DCG META

Lenovo DCG has a dedicated IoT division where the employees are trained on the subject. “On a commercial level, IoT is a relatively new field. The result is that it remains more challenging to find the right talent. This is not to the fault of employees, nor the employer, but is owning to the fact that the sector is evolving faster than the human being. That said, according to Coursera, the Middle East region has some catching up to do when it comes to the availability of talent in the IoT sector. In my opinion, addressing those gaps, requires a mutual effort by the public- and private sector,” Dr. Chris Cooper, general manager for Lenovo DCG META.

Lenovo DCG has also teamed up with a number of industry partners to support edge/ IoT use cases. These include: Pivot3, which is working with Lenovo on smart city applications; scale computing, which along with Lenovo will enable retail customers to deploy mini-data centres at the network edge; VMware, whose Project Dimension will extend VMware cloud to a software-defined data centre in a hyperconverged appliance-as-a service; in addition to several others.

Lenovo created an IoT division last year to help customers turn their traditional endpoints into smart and connected devices, transforming them into analytical engines to further drive productivity and efficiency.

By offering end-to-end solutions to its customers, Huawei makes it easier for its channel partners to implement end-to-end solutions with lower total cost of ownership for their customers and higher margins for themselves. “We bring a competitive edge for our channel partner in terms of our own investment in IoT space through OpenLabs which help our channel partners and their customer realise these projects from concept to reality with minimal pre-project investment,” added ElShimy.

SAP’s Partner Program takes two different approaches to enabling partners: integrated industry approach and an integrated solutions approach. What SAP offers against our competitors is end-to-end software solutions that are specialised by industry vertical sector. Channel partners and their customers can find a major benefit from building apps and integrating artificial intelligence, machine learning, and IoT into software solutions, such as SAP Leonardo.

Technology vendors need to train their Middle East channel partners on two key aspects: business consulting, which can drive customer engagement, and the technology tools of the IoT. The biggest business opportunity for Middle East partners is in business consulting, who can then bring in specialised channel partners on the technology tools side.

IoT in the Middle East is still in its nascent stage, and over the past year some of Lenovo DCG’s most strategic partners have built their skills in IoT. “Enterprises, and thus channel partners, are faced with increased complexities. The feedback that we get from large customers who deploy our technology is this: the products must naturally be compelling but the ecosystem into which they settle is everything. It’s no longer enough for tech companies to provide smartphones, laptops, servers, storage and networking products and then step aside. Their value comes in helping their customers pull it all together, in providing a holistic vision of a world that is not only connected but smart. Something which we support our channel partners with,” said Cooper.

Customers are looking for solutions which are practical, executable, have minimum TCO, and have a measurable ROI in definite time period which can demonstrably benefit their organisation or end user. Hence, solution providers need to develop real use cases for customers.

Middle East channel partners have an early adopter mindset in IoT, in investing more in their own IoT industry knowledge and also training. Khan added that this is evident from the number of channel partners that are joining SAP’s Independent Software Vendor program, in order to become more profitable by building pre-packaged solutions that can deliver new capabilities in the IoT field. “Once partners develop such solutions, they can then be replicated across different industry verticals,” he added.

“Solutions providers can capitalise on opportunities by working with ecosystem partners, technology companies, sensor and data management companies, etc., to implement practical use cases for their customers, rather than discuss theoretical applications. To date, Huawei has more than 1,000 companies in its IoT ecosystem to develop a variety of end-to-end solution,” stated ElShimy.

While the Middle East C-suite has a strong understanding and appetite for the IoT, they often need the knowledge and business cases to gain boardroom sign-off. Increasingly, CIOs need to emphasise cost savings, business efficiency, and real-time efficiency to gain boardroom buy-in for IOT projects.

“Middle East channel partners need to change their way of business from selling or implementing solutions to becoming business consultants that can advise customers on the right IoT solutions to meet their business needs. Developing IoT solutions is a two-way street. Customers both approach us after they have seen IoT solutions elsewhere,” Khan explained.