How MSPs Can Leverage Sensor Technology to Add Customer Value, Revenue Streams

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The industrial IoT market is growing as companies boost efficiency.

Pushed to transform by the pandemic, organizations in many sectors have adopted or are planning to adopt remote sensors, connected medical devices, wireless video cameras, smart building systems and other Internet of Things tools. The industrial IoT (IIoT) market is now growing by 16.7% a year, in part because IoT technology not only helped companies cope with the challenges of remote work, it also helped many to operate more efficiently and deliver better user experiences.

Manufacturers, office-based workplaces and health care providers in areas with rising vaccination rates are starting to combine the remote access and automation they adopted last year with new in-person experiences. IoT devices will play a role in both remote operations like factory management and in-person settings like office spaces. For example, Forrester expects the rise in demand for connected machines to keep field service and OEM technicians busy retrofitting unconnected equipment to make remote monitoring and management easier.

Forrester also forecasts that IoT technology will play a role in making offices safer and more efficient through applications such as activity monitoring to avoid crowding and smart lighting systems for energy savings. Meanwhile, the migration to telehealth services during 2020 will push the value of the internet of medical things (IoMT) devices market to $158 billion by next year, up from $41 billion in 2017. This growth promises to give patients more options for remote monitoring of chronic conditions and expand health care access for patients who don’t live near providers.

However, “everything is hackable,” according to an FDA official, speaking in May about the cybersecurity vulnerabilities of connected medical devices. That poses risks not only to data but also to patient health. A report from the American Hospital Association’s Center for Health Innovation states that ransomware attacks — such as the global WannaCry attack that infected 1,200 medical devices and temporarily disrupted health care across the UK in 2017 – as “threat-to-life crimes.” Because the IoT connects the internet to the “real world,” it’s critical that IoT devices are up-to-date and that networks are secure. It’s also important to act quickly on the safety and security information that IoT equipment and device monitors can provide.

Monitoring IoT Across the Enterprise

Not all organizations have the resources to handle all of their IoT network maintenance and monitoring in-house. Some also lack the resources to fully leverage the data their IoT networks generate, which can lead to missed opportunities for efficiency and service improvements. As a result, the managed IoT services field is growing quickly — from $3.6 billion in 2019 to a projected $10 billion in 2025 in the United States.

This growth in demand gives managed service providers (MSPs) new opportunities to grow. By helping customers manage their growing inventory of IoT assets, monitor their wireless sensor networks and respond to alerts about equipment function, product safety and security issues, MSPs can offer their current customers additional value, add new revenue streams and reach new customers.

Managed IoT Service Areas

What do managed IoT services look like? There are two primary areas where MSPs can help their customers: taking care of the IoT equipment and networks, and then handling the data that the devices generate.

  • IoT asset management: Asset management may start with installation. This is usually easy for end users to do when the scope of the project is small. For example, it may only take a couple of hours for a food plant manager to install remote temperature sensors and wireless door sensors in all of the facility’s coolers and freezers.

However, installing those devices for an entire grocery chain or a major school district’s foodservice facility may require more time and staff than the end user can spare. An MSP can install the sensors and bridges that the customer needs, activate the network and its connection to the cloud, configure the end-user internet console, and assist with user permissions setup.

Once the network is in place, it should operate with minimal maintenance requirements. However, the MSP can also keep up with security news related to the equipment, conduct security checks as needed and install firmware updates when required. MSPs can also help with compliance as requirements evolve. For example, any time the government updates its list of banned manufacturers, such as Huawei, enterprises need to make sure they’re in compliance with the current rules. MSPs can help in both cases, by installing location tracking tools on selected equipment and keeping a database of customers’ IoT equipment manufacturers.

  • Connected equipment monitoring: Managing the assets is half of the IoT MSP role. The other half is monitoring and managing the data the IoT devices generate. For example, hospitals and manufacturers may want to use IoT sensors to track the location of expensive equipment for loss prevention and to save time looking for things. MSPs can set up these trackers to send alerts when a device moves outside a geofenced area, for example.

MSP monitoring can be especially helpful when facilities are closed or operating with reduced staff. In these cases, the MSP could be the first to realize, for instance, that a pharmacy freezer has failed, and the clock is ticking on the vaccines inside. MSPs can also layer several different kinds of sensors in critical areas to make remote assessment easier. The pharmacy freezer might have a remote temperature sensor as well as a wireless door sensor and video camera. In case of an alert, the MSP can check the video and door sensor data to see if the problem is a door left open, a plug accidentally pulled out, or something else and then respond appropriately.

Over the longer term, MSPs can help clients analyze and understand trends that emerge in their data. For example, if the data shows that one shift in a factory is consistently less efficient than others, the MSP can flag it for busy managers to address the problem. Equipment function, measured by remote vibration sensors, can detect small declines in performance early enough that the MSP can schedule maintenance long before equipment failure.

As more organizations harness the power of IoT, there will be more opportunities for MSPs to help them get the most from their investment. By offering IoT equipment installation and management, monitoring and data analysis services, MSPs can position themselves to benefit from the growth of IoT.

In the News

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