Building the Right Partnerships will be Crucial in IoT

July 15, 2015

In designing and implementing end-to-end IoT solutions, enterprises will need to build partnerships and collaborations with others in the IoT ecosystem, either at a strategic or operational level. These partnerships will assist enterprises to achieve such crucial tasks as product and service development, creating new channels to market, or adding value to applications and services. IoT is one area where the expertise of one company will not be enough.

Technology Domains in an IoT Architecture

The second White Paper to be released in the ThingWorx Enterprise IoT series will outline an important challenge in IoT: the complexity of IoT architectures. To deliver an end-to-end solution, IoT architectures will potentially require seamless solutions across the six following technology domains:

  • Device domain – connected assets including sensors, devices, and modules
  • Local Network domain
  • Wide Area Network domain – connectivity technologies enabling the transfer of data directly from devices or local network gateways to the Service Enablement domain
  • Service Enablement domain – platforms and middleware
  • Applications and Data domain – provisioning, development, storage, and management of applications and data
  • Enterprise Systems domain – back-end enterprise / corporate systems

Within each individual domain, a specific set of products, services and skills will be required. And within IoT, the configuration of these domains may change from use case to use case, so enterprises cannot view this as a one-off partnership programme activity but as an ongoing programme.

Enterprises will need to identify a host of potential partners including device and model manufacturers, M2M and IoT platform providers, connectivity providers such as mobile network operators or fixed line communications service providers, solution providers and system integrators.

Whether the partnership is based on a ‘build’ or ‘buy’ model (which will influence the operational or strategic nature of the partnership), the nature of the partnership will have a defined functional scope. A few examples are cited here on the horizontal axis of the diagram. Finally, partners may exist for single use case instances or for multiple use cases, again beginning to influence the operational and strategic partnership nature. Enterprises will begin to recognize that as partners appear in the top right hand and ‘distant’ area of the full diagram, these are partners of increasing importance (and potential risk) to the enterprise.


Figure 1: Illustrative schema of partnership models in IoT [Source: Machina Research, 2015]

Value of Partnerships in IoT

Partnerships in IoT are not only technical or commercial necessities. Enterprises exploring the field of IoT will have heard time and time again the words of ‘fragmentation.’ This is hardly surprising. As enterprises get into the detail of designing, developing and implementing IoT solutions, they very soon encounter the challenges posed by geography, multiple technology options for similar functions (for example connectivity and the host of options between short range wireless technologies, low power wide area networks, cellular networks, fixed-line solutions, and so on) and the richness and diversity between the vast number of IoT use cases in existence and emerging.

In an earlier blog, we mentioned the need for scalable, agile and flexible architectures. The same words may be used in the context of partnerships because for IoT markets, these partnerships will need to be scalable, agile and flexible as well. We will revisit the topic of partnerships in the third paper of the Enterprise IoT series, and share a view that these partnerships are in fact one of the substantial keys to creating value in IoT markets.

Read the Machina Research Whitepaper