Selecting an IoT solutions provider can be a bewildering process. It’s a crowded marketplace and a relatively new one, with a lot of ostensibly very similar offerings. But by considering a few key areas, you can start to filter between the different organisations you are engaging with, and make a strategic, future-proofed decision as to who to partner with.
Who owns what?
Is your proposed IoT solutions provider working with its own proprietary technology, or white-labelling a platform from another provider, or explicitly drawing together best of breed technologies from various different providers? There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach. Above all, you need to consider the future of your business, where you need the most flexibility and scalability, and the safety nets you have in place to ensure business continuity.
Scale and reach
Predictive maintenance, remote monitoring and asset management are three of the most common functions delivered by IoT platforms – but not all platforms deliver all of them, which might result in you having to work with multiple solutions providers. Then there are questions of scale – how many and what kinds of devices can a specific platform connect to – and sector – which industries does a provider specialise in? In most scenarios, the ideal IoT solutions provider is one who can solely offer all of the functions, scale and sector-specific functionality required, saving you the cost and complexity of dealing with multiple third parties from the outset.
Security and compliance
Of course, these should be key considerations when choosing any kind of technology provider, but they are particularly salient here, because IoT infrastructures evolve dynamically as new connected devices are provisioned and new datasets are generated and transmitted. You should carefully assess the cybersecurity expertise, technology standards and regulatory frameworks adhered to by your proposed supplier, and be especially careful if you are operating in a sector with strict or specialist regulatory demands.
Where is it hosted?
IoT solutions providers, broadly speaking, have the choice between making their platform available through a public cloud or a private cloud with some notable exceptions allowing you to install them “on-premise”. Public clouds offer great scalability and flexibility; private clouds offer great security and control and on-premise supports some national infrastructure requirements. This is not, of course, to suggest that public clouds are inherently less secure, or that private clouds cannot rapidly scale, but it gives an idea of the factors you should bear in mind when deciding which infrastructure is right for your business. Some countries don’t allow data outside of their jurisdiction and so you need to make sure they can support complicated data and server architectures. If your potential IoT solutions provider is cagey about where their platform can be hosted, then probe further.
Make it personal
The IoT landscape is vast, complex and ever-changing – which means that here, more than in most areas of enterprise technology, one-size-fits-all approaches are wholly inappropriate. Intelligent IoT solutions providers understand that being able to customise your API, for example, and tailor how it communicates with different aspects of your infrastructure, are likely to be highly important qualities. Quiz your proposed providers as to how much room there is for personalisation and customisation – and how easy these factors are to change as your business grows.
Evolution and enhancement
The data collected by your IoT platform is useless if it is not used to inform direct business actions and strategies or provide your customer value. The best IoT solutions providers offer an end-to-end approach to IoT – they not only connect ‘things’ across your network, but also have an in-depth understanding of how the data generated by those things can deliver real business insights and tangible actions. This means that the analytics and dashboard capabilities on offer by your proposed supplier should be key elements in your final decision.
Short-term suppliers vs long-term partners
The Internet of Things has huge transformative potential in multiple business sectors – but harnessing that potential generally means taking a long-term and strategic approach as to how best to incorporate connected technology in day-to-day operations. IoT solutions providers that simply want to furnish you with a software solution and move on to the next customer are unlikely to be able to help you realise the true benefits of the IoT. Look for providers who are willing to get to know your organisation’s vision – and share in it for the long haul.