Having worked in the fields of machinery and logistics for many years, Stefan Schweiger of IT systems house Bechtle first became familiar with the internet of things in 2017, on a project that transformed a ‘product company’ to a ‘digital service supplier’ following the installation of IoT sensors in each product. “I saw the transparency that IoT can supply and the huge potential of this technology for business,” says Schweiger. “Since then, IoT technology has evolved even more, and it will change a lot of industries. IoT will become a commodity and a ‘must have’ in every segment and if you think about artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchain, you need to think about IoT as well.”
Why are some companies struggling with IoT rollout?
IoT is a real challenge and a highly complex topic where companies need to master different areas. There’s electromechanics, transmitting and connectivity technologies, cloud and storage expertise and analytics. Everybody wants to have more insight, but they need to guarantee the consistent flow of the data. Companies rely on physical products, such as sensors, and they need to know how to manage them once they are installed. Security is a critical issue to solve and, due to the scale, most companies are left alone. It is an organisational challenge. The need of IoT is often generated and seen by business, but IT departments have to integrate it into their current IT architecture or adapt it due to the higher generation of data.
How can Bechtle support customers in their IoT journey?
Bechtle is known for providing its customers with hardware and IT infrastructure (cloud, on-premises, related know-how and services). But in 2020, it decided to invest heavily in IoT as demand increased. In the DACH region (Austria, Germany, and Switzerland) we now have over 80 people that are focused on IoT. We have expertise in developing digital products, expertise in devices and connectivity, and we have a unit related to analytics. As one of the few players in the market, we can combine IoT know-how with the power of an IT systems house. We cover all aspects when customers want to implement and scale an IoT solution.
In the IoT life cycle, a lot of companies are left alone when it comes to deploying, managing and decommissioning, but our role is the ‘one-stop shop’ for IoT solutions. This reduces complexity for customers and helps them to work with one supplier.
How is Bechtle using the Microsoft suite of IoT products?
We are a strong partner of Microsoft and a leader for IoT platforms. Nearly all of our people have Microsoft background and are using Microsoft’s technology stack. Besides our ability to work with Microsoft’s IoT products, we are a good partner for scaling projects. We work with customers on the physical side of IoT projects and know how to connect generated data to Microsoft’s IoT products. This is a perfect partnership. I personally like the focus of Microsoft into IoT and the approach to use this technology for improving sustainability. We are now working together on a project on how to improve sustainability with IoT for a very big food producer. Combining technology and sustainability is a good cause and has real business impact for large scale companies.
What is IoT’s place in the future?
The players who went through this are now dominating the market and others have to follow. I think the topic of IoT will gain much more traction and we will see an increase in the speed of implementation, especially with cloud technology being a strong driver for IoT implementation. With more connectivity options and more suppliers of reliable sensors, more customers will implement large scale IoT cases, bringing pressure to their peers in the market. New sensor and connectivity technologies will enable more user cases and due to the increased number of suppliers, costs will come down. Edge and fog computing will play a strong role in IoT and will make it more affordable. IoT, AI and blockchain will go hand in hand and will provide companies more transparency or enable new business models.
This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue of The Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.