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IoT Is a “Big Deal” for Tech Data and Its Partners

Added to IoTplaybook or last updated on: 03/23/2018
IoT Is a “Big Deal” for Tech Data and Its Partners

Just about every reseller, VAR, and integrator knows Tech Data Corp. A global business serving more than 100 countries and selling 150,000-plus products from over 600 vendors, the Clearwater, Fla.-based distributor is one of the channel’s top sources of products and services.

According to Colin Blair, Tech Data’s vice president for big data, analytics, and the Internet of Things, more and more of those products and services are for IoT. “About 45 people here at TD are worried every day about IoT and analytics,” he says. In fact, Tech Data adds a new IoT supplier every couple of weeks.

Colin Blair, Tech Data

How big a market is IoT for Tech Data’s clients? “It’s driving what we believe will be the next 30 years of opportunity,” says Blair, adding that the distributor is investing heavily with suppliers in integrator training and certifications for IoT as a result.

“There are plenty of IoT 101 and 202 university-type training courses on the TD Knowledge Network for our partners,” says Blair.

Blair is surprised at one group that doesn’t need as much training as expected: end users. “We thought IoT projects would require more education for end-user clients, but today many stay current on their own,” he says.

Another surprise is how much IoT demand there is outside of data centers. The three hottest areas for IoT, based on Tech Data sales, are trucking and transportation, retail businesses, and industrial applications.

The use cases seem limitless in transportation, Blair says. You can almost consider it asset management, but for durable goods, oil and gas, or agribusiness equipment in transit rather than office computers. The ability to geo-track and manage temperature, vibration, and other physical situations for cargo moving between points A and B makes IoT valuable. There are some big use cases and “tons of smaller ones,” according to Blair.

The list of IoT uses in retail just keeps growing too, and includes solutions for pedestrian traffic management, smart advertising, proximity-based merchandising, and even endcap product displays. The focus isn’t on tracking RFID tags but on ways to manage, monitor, and get more information about customers. As sensors and other IoT devices become more affordable, projects are sliding down market from regional system integrators to local shops.

Industrial IoT is a big opportunity as well, according to Blair. “The trick is to serve that market and be well grounded in industries like oil and gas, plants and factories, and agriculture,” he says. Tech Data’s Practice Builder program offers training in those and other vertical markets as well as help with products and solutions. “The more you get into the industrial area,” says Blair, “the more specialization you need.”

Vertical specialists that provide IT support services will have an easier time introducing IoT projects, he adds, noting that Tech Data has acquired several service companies to assist partners with that. The company has been delivering outsourced services for more than 10 years in the healthcare, public sector, mobility, and financial services industries, among others, and is ramping up IoT support in those verticals quickly.

The three hottest areas for IoT, based on Tech Data sales, are trucking and transportation, retail businesses, and industrial applications.

“One of our service offerings is innovation as a service for IoT projects,” adds Blair. Tech Data may provide a week of strategic consulting to learn what customers are doing, look at the data collected, and do some data analysis. That may be followed by a couple of weeks of design and development on the road to a proof of concept. Other parts of the deliverable may include specifying off-the-shelf sensors, creating APIs, recommending specific IoT devices, and even prototyping.

A number of projects are ongoing, and a few have successfully completed. Blair is always looking for new team members to help manage multiple client engagements via phone, videoconferencing, and written plans and diagrams.

“This market will be a big deal for a long time,” he says.

James Gaskin is a former reseller and network consultant, and ChannelPro-SMB Magazine contributing editor. He lives in the Dallas area.