Competing and partnering in IoT market’s early days

Competing and partnering in IoT market’s early days

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Technology market research firm IDC predicted in June 2015 that the global Internet of Things market will grow to $1.7 trillion market in 2020, up from $655.8 billion in 2014. With a market that size, and compound annual growth projected at 16.9 percent, there’s plenty of space for companies to earn success, but also lots of opportunity to get stomped by industry giants.

A roster of large companies pursuing IoT leadership across industries illustrates the deep pockets that may be brought to bear on this market. Many are intent on forging partnerships and alliances to gain an edge in unfamiliar markets, create new ecosystems ahead of the competition, or simply to cover their bets. Those on the next tier or lower may need to be even more adept at forging new partnerships to help them better compete.

Those are definitely considerations faced by Matthew Brady, vice president and general manager of the Integrated Systems Division of Federal Signal Corp.’s Safety and Security Group. Formed in 1901, Federal Signal employs more than 2,700 workers in six countries. The Integrated Systems Division provides products for audible and visual signaling devices and outdoor warning systems. Customers range from municipal transit authorities to offshore oil rigs.

“We’ve made a very big push over the last 18 months to make sure that every one of our devices, whether its an audible, visual, or warning system, is all connected either by a hard wire connection or a wireless connection to the Internet,” Brady says. "With over 5,000 SKUs deployed in the field there are a wide range of monitoring, activation, and notification functions to be enabled and controlled."

Although it had developed its own IoT management platform, which it still supports, earlier this year the company opted to partner with Everbridge, a provider of unified critical communication and notification solutions. It is utilizing the Everbridge platform to deliver real-time contextual communications to Federal Signal’s audible and visual devices during critical events.

“We had our own product that competed with them, but Everbridge was absolutely beating us in the market,” Brady says. “So we’ve made them basically the communications platform for activation, deactivation, remote monitoring for all our outdoor and indoor warning devices.”

IoT is also changing the way his division interacts with customers. Traditionally the company would work with “Sparky the radio or electrical guy,” he jokes, but now IT is involved in everything “because you’re touching their network.”

One customer, a major transit authority on the eastern seaboard of the US, utilizes a biological/chemical/nuclear sensor system that requires IP-based integration. “If an alert on a train is in this location, say near a hospital or near a university where there could be large group of people, then you have to have rules written that say: if this happens shut the track down, activate on board audible devices, flash the lights, escalate, notify the police, notify the transit authority and so on,” he explains.

Playing on the IoT field is bringing forth new challengers as well. “We’re running into Cisco now, and we’ve never run into them in the past,” he says. Cisco is a “marketing machine” and is rapidly forming partnerships, including with one of his competitors, he says. “It would be a bad strategy for me to hope that Cisco would just move on, so I have to figure out how I’m going to try and partner with Cisco so I don’t get shut out of their IP phone systems.”

Previously director of Strategic Independent Software Vendors at Motorola where he was responsible for developing strategic alliances with developers and carriers, he is confident in his ability to do so. “I know I have more industrial deployments than my competitor, so I have a bigger camp for Cisco and a better customer base,” he says.

Still, he concedes, it’s early days for IoT. “Analysts would ask us, ‘What inning are you in with IoT?’ and I said I don’t think we’ve built the stadiums yet. We feel like we’re in the infancy,” he says. “It’s too early for me to say what lessons we’ve learned.”

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Matthew B. Brady is the Vice President and General Manager, Integrated Systems Division for Federal Signal Safety and Security Group.  Brady joined Federal Signal in 2006 to lead domestic and international sales teams in selling automatic license plate recognition to ITS and law enforcement departments; public safety products; in-car video, and outdoor, indoor and individual alerting and notification solutions. In his current role, Brady has responsibility for the Integrated Systems Division; which includes advanced integrated public warning systems and unified interoperable communication platforms targeted to public and private sectors.  He also oversees an extensive safety and security product line sold through channel markets.

Pete Bartolik writes regularly about business technology and IT management issues for IDG. He was news editor of the IT management publication, Computerworld, and a reporter for a daily newspaper. He resides in Naples, Florida.

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