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How many of your friends and acquaintances in the IT industry would be willing to jeopardize their businesses by making uncertain or dangerous investments? Even though they operate in a rapidly changing and often high pressure environment, most services providers are typically a risk-adverse group. Rather than gambling future earnings opportunities on the latest and greatest new offering or unproven business models, they take some time to properly research the prospects. And in the IT industry, where the investments made in training and technology platforms can be quite substantial, it’s especially important for those owners to do their due diligence. After all, with so many solutions and services available to support their clients’ business needs, it is much easier to take a conservative approach with new practice and partnership opportunities.

While a cautious attitude may also be a key to greater MSP business sustainability, that industry attitude also may explain why the Internet of Things (IOT) hasn’t garnered as much channel attention as it should. Basically an extension of current technologies, this term refers to the ever-growing network of physical objects that feature an IP address for internet connectivity driven by machine-enabled communications. Of course, IOT is more than a linkage system between devices. It allows everyday objects with embedded technologies to communicate and interact with external environments. IOT creates “smarter” automation, where machines are programmed to follow a variety of prescribed processes based on external inputs (including sensors, RFID chips and other stimuli)

Although a few of the big-named vendors and “future-focused” technology writers have waxed eloquently about the opportunities, it still receives only a casual mention in most SMB-oriented managed services circles. The hype has not reached a fever pitch in the channel, though the underlying infrastructure market is already quite substantial and experts suggest it will explode in the next few years. International Data Corporation (IDC) backed up that claim in a recent report, expecting worldwide IOT technology and services spending to top $8.9 trillion by 2020, with a compound annual growth rate of 7.9%.

The point MSPs need to consider is that IOT has what it takes to become a major disruptive force in the business community. In your clients’ quest to improve their operations, products and services, these machine-to-machine technologies could play a critical role in achieving their objectives. Whether looking to eliminate costly production errors or improve aspects of their delivery and procurement processes, the implementation of IOT-related technologies may fit the bill.

Infrastructure Today, Applications Tomorrow
Based on early results, the managed services opportunities for IOT could be substantial. As the business benefits of these technologies gain greater awareness, the demand for skilled professionals who can design, implement and support them is sure to increase exponentially. Experts will be needed to develop the processes and algorithms that drive intelligent automation. Those with wireless and traditional network proficiencies will be in high demand, refining and maintaining the infrastructure that will make it all work.

With that in mind, the IOT should be viewed as a crucial opportunity for MSPs. Many can help deliver the skills and services mentioned above. Since peak network and system performance will be a necessity, proactive monitoring and management will be a vital and valued service for business customers. After all, the sensors, readers and computer systems employed in IOT will be useless if they can’t properly communicate and disseminate information. MSPs can also partner with third-part providers to fill in any gaps or meet unique solution and support gaps (including GMS Live Expert).

With that in mind, MSPs don’t have to be “bleeding edge” to profit from the Internet of Things today. Many of the fundamental technologies are already available and most providers already have the skills required to support them. Network expertise is a critical asset for those looking to take advantage of IOT opportunities and automatic identification (i.e. RFID tags) proficiencies will surely increase their value.

Providers with these “next generation” capabilities should be actively promoting these attributes to their current and prospective clients. Though improvements will surely be needed as IOT technologies and applications develop, MSPs are uniquely positioned to profit today from the advances that come tomorrow. Whether talking up the benefits of proactive network and infrastructure management or giving customers a glimpse of what the future could bring, they can actively promote the value of managed services and system upgrades. That’s not only a great proactive sales opportunity for MSPs, but if their clients make those investments, it will give them more flexibility in the future and a leg up on their competition. Whether you’re fairly cautious or quite aggressive in your managed services approach, the IOT is an area of opportunity every IT services organization should consider.