Tech Data Helps Partners Pinpoint IoT Opportunities

Solution providers looking to be successful in the Internet of Things market can leverage Tech Data to expand their IoT expertise into data analytics and cognitive computing.

As use cases go wireless and compute power gets pushed to the edge, customers increasingly are turning to solution providers for help with analytics, said Colin Blair, Tech Data's vice president of data analytics, the Internet of Things, and cognitive computing.

"If data's the new oil, then you have to refine it," Blair told CRN. "You have to ingest it, you have to blend it, you have to migrate it, you have to secure it. Very rarely is someone in an IoT opportunity where they're simply passing the data and not staying engaged."

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Solution providers can deploy analytics in small, de­fined use cases that aren't terribly complex, Blair said. For instance, they can monitor the temperature, humidity and power consumption of a refrigerator in a retail setting and analyze the data to determine which readings are normal and which are not. "Whether or not people go into an opportunity thinking about the data management, they're going to get there," Blair said. "The need for that data to be digitized and analyzed doesn't discriminate. It's everywhere."

Blair said he's seen high levels of interest in measuring, monitoring and connecting increasingly intelligent devices so that they can engage in machine learning and be trained on what to do. "Machine learning is naturally what happens once you start connecting intelligent devices and analyzing the data that it's producing," he said.

Although machine learning is relatively new in midmarket deployments, Blair said it is starting to happen more regularly.

"The industrial side is the sleeping giant that's awakening and needing to know what to do with the data that's being produced to drive more efficiencies, safety and compliance," he said. "That digital data is enabling all of that to happen."

Solution providers looking to break into IoT can take advantage of Tech Data's Ideation-as-a-Service partnership, Blair said, which provides ­five days of ideation and requirements gathering, four weeks of prototyping and design, and three months to an IoT proof of concept.

Solution providers also can consult with Tech Data and have the distributor walk them and their customers through the process. End users often need help identifying where to start and where to go, Blair said, as well as developing people within their own organizations to spearhead IoT initiatives.

Clearwater, Fla.-based Tech Data historically has focused on edge IoT capabilities in the smart city, public sector, utility and transportation verticals, Blair said.

The IoT practice for Avnet Technology Solutions, which Tech Data acquired in February, emphasized software-driven routes to market for its enterprise data center customers in areas like transportation and trucking, asset management and warehouse distribution.

For solution provider Zones, IoT engagements with Tech Data traditionally centered on routing, switching and wireless devices, said Stephen Lurie, vice president of digital transformation and IoT for the Auburn, Wash.-based company, No. 32 on the 2017 CRN Solution Provider 500.

But since the Technology Solutions acquisition, Tech Data has been able to provide more of a consultative approach and help with creating an IoT evolution plan that meets the needs of the end user, Lurie said. This has come in handy in the manufacturing, transportation, retail and smart space verticals, he said.

"They've kind of transformed themselves," Lurie said, adding that the distributor's vertical expertise has been bene­ficial.

The acquisition also deepened Tech Data's line card around sensor and gateway manufacturers, Lurie said. It now can provide a list of manufacturers in each sensor category, along with education and training so that Zones can determine which option best ­ ts the requirements of a particular engagement.

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