The Vertical IoT
AS THE REST OF IT GOES, so goes IoT: The more precisely solutions address industry-specific requirements, the more likely they are to produce customer satisfaction, long-lasting relationships, and solid profits. Channel pros looking to achieve vertical success in the Internet of Things are following a three-pronged approach: Identify an industry pain point, choose the right products and partnerships to fill that need, and then hone the necessary skills and expertise.
Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room
A longstanding pain point for schools, for instance, has been preventing students from smoking in restrooms and other out-of-the way locations such as locker rooms. Now with the advent of vaping, which is virtually odorless, that activity is harder for school personnel to detect. Enter the HALO Smart Sensor, a device manufactured by IP Video that can detect vapor and/or THC from electronic cigarettes, as well as gunshots, aggressive language/bullying, poor air quality, and more. It also has a tamper alarm.
“Once I saw this product, and once I saw it worked, I definitely saw an opportunity to introduce it to schools to help them deal with the [vaping] issue,” says Jim Grass, general manager of public sector at ACP CreativIT, a full-service IT solution provider in Buffalo Grove, Ill., serving government, education, SMBs, and large enterprises.
ACP had already been working with other IP Video products through its distributor Ingram Micro. Grass says they vetted the HALO Smart Sensor by talking to installed customers, getting a demo unit to learn the ins and outs, and checking out a competitive product. “If we were going to go down this route, was this the best product to represent? Was it the other product? Was it both products? … We decided that this was the product that we were going to get behind.”
So far, ACP has installed the sensors in more than 500 schools, primarily in restrooms and locker rooms, but Grass says with the additional detection features there is the potential to install them throughout a school building. The IoT edge devices require a Power over Ethernet network drop to each location. They sit behind the school’s firewall, and are protected by hard passwords and two-factor authentication, and all the analytics are done on the device itself, Grass explains. When it detects something it’s watching for, it sends an email or text notification, typically to a school administrator or facilities manager, he says.
The sensors have been a door opener to new school customers, Grass says, and have deepened engagement with existing customers. ACP typically assists with installation and configuration of the devices to ensure they’re not getting false positives, and then provides ongoing troubleshooting. The firmware updates aren’t automated yet, so that provides an additional touchpoint with the customer “to be able to talk to them about new functionality, have them download the firmware, update it, and be able to talk to them about additional things that they have going on in their network and where else we might be able to help them,” Grass says.
The IoT solution itself is just one piece of customer engagement, he says. “If we were just selling this [solution] to them, it might not be super lucrative for us, but we carry the entire IT portfolio. … I'm looking to support them on the IT products that they're using within their district, to run the district and to teach their students. So, we've got a lot of skin in the game.”
VERTICAL IOT SOLUTIONS identify and solve particular industry pain points.
FINDING THE RIGHT products and partners, as well as developing expertise are key to success.
CHANNEL PROS should anticipate a consultative sell to business executives with ongoing customer engagement.
Where Is That Wheelchair?
While schools want to prevent kids from vaping, hospitals want to prevent equipment from being stolen or misplaced. Claro Enterprise Solutions, a global technology services company with U.S. offices in Miramar, Fla., has an asset management solution that uses AI-enabled video analytics, geo-fencing, and beacons to identify and monitor the location and movement of equipment within a healthcare facility. Claro partnered with Iveda, a provider of IoT platforms, turnkey cloud video surveillance systems, smart sensors, and intelligent video search technology, to develop the solution.
“What we're finding in the industry is they lose between 15% to 35% of their equipment on a yearly basis,” says Mark Popolano, managing director of business innovation at Claro. In addition to reducing theft, the solution creates a more efficient way to manage assets in real time. “Think about what happened with COVID-19. A lot of times they couldn't find the respirators and yet [they] were sitting in the basement,” Popolano says. Now hospitals can easily locate equipment, he adds. Plus, “You'll know what equipment is in a highly contagious area that needs to be disinfected and which ones are not. So it allows you then to really manage the assets appropriately.”
The solution, which is built for mobility, operates on a sub-network independent from the hospital information systems. It requires the installation of QR codes and beacons on the hospital equipment that transmit to plug-in modems via Bluetooth. Hospital staff can search for assets from their phones or iPads or receive alerts if equipment moves outside of accepted zones. The solution can also be integrated with a hospital’s video security system.
Hospital security offices can manage the solution themselves or have Claro do so as a managed service. “We can do the security and track equipment for them if they so desire because it's self-contained. We don't have hospital records. We don't know anything about the patient. We're really tracking the assets. So this is low risk.”
The solution has been running in a hospital in Taiwan for more than a year, and Claro is in the proposal stage with several U.S. facilities.
The types of IoT solutions ACP CreativIT and Claro Enterprise Solutions are providing are not install-and-ignore projects. In Claro’s case, it is a consultative sell and channel pros must be able to talk to business executives, Popolano says.
In addition, before implementation there is a discovery process to configure the placement of devices in relation to the floor plan, including safety zones and hot zones that equipment needs to move through, as well as potential frequency conflicts from MRI machines and other equipment. Typically implementation is two to three days start to finish, for up to a 300 bed hospital.
For Grass, developing product expertise is key to customer satisfaction. “While it is a simple device, it is a complex device. There's a lot of behind-the-scenes work that needs to be done to make sure that it's working for them.”
For example, the deep-cleaning products schools are using to prevent the spread of COVID-19 can sometimes cause false positives for vaping, Grass says. To optimize the devices for individual rooms, his technicians need an understanding of the programming formulas to make recommendations and adjustments for customers. “It's a product that solves a need for them, but you definitely need to be an expert. … It's definitely not a ‘you sell it and forget it and move on to the next thing.’ If you do, they won't be happy with it.”
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