Blog | September 11, 2012

4 Technology Trends Smart VARs Are Cashing In On

By Jay McCall

I recently attended ScanSource’s Partner conference in Greenville, SC. The value-added distributor celebrated its 20th anniversary. During the morning keynote session, Mike Baur, CEO, identified and Greg Dixon, CTO, expanded on four trends that are disrupting the IT channel:

1. Mobility – There are multiple trends happening in the mobile space that VARs need to pay attention to. “These trends are having the biggest impact on your customers’ IT departments -- way bigger than the cloud,” says Dixon.

a. BYOD (bring your own device) – We’ve talked about this trend as recently as last month (See “4 Takeaways From CompTIA 2012”), as it was one of the top 4 trends mentioned at the recent CompTIA event I attended. Your customers’ employees want to be connected to company email, personal email, and social media – all from their mobile devices. “It’s all about creating/maintaining a happy workforce,” says Dixon .
b. IEEE 802.11 ac is enabling gigabit speeds and resolving the issue of connectivity to “the last 100 meters.”
c. Another important trend within mobility is the explosion of the Android operating system. “Microsoft has no plans past Windows Mobile 6.5,” says Dixon. “The Android OS is exploding because people are familiar with it and it’s free.”
d. The effect of what Dixon calls “iDevices” (i.e. any mobile device with Internet access) on the commercial market. VARs need to look at opportunities and threats, especially in areas such as:
i. Communications,
ii. Security,
iii. Rugged portable data terminals (PDTs).

2. Mobile payment. Check out all the competition heating up in this space:
a. Google Wallet (requires NFC phones. Used by Home Depot);
b. ISIS Mobile Wallet (supported by big carriers – AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint; Also supported by AMEX, Capital 1, Chase, and NFC phone manufacturers);
c. PayPal Mobile (100 million users; McDonald’s is doing a pilot);
d. Paydiant (The mobile app reads a QR code with the device’s camera. No credit card data is stored on the mobile device);
e. Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) – This mobile payment solution is being supported by major retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target, Sears, Best Buy, Lowes, Publix, 7-Eleven, Darden, and Shell Oil
f. Square – 7,000 Starbucks Stores are rolling this out and it’s being endorsed by billionaires like Jack Dorsey & Richard Branson.

3. Big Data – The big data trend deals with the challenges of capturing high volume, fast velocity, and a variety of types of information. How can we store it all? Analytics is a key component. “Retailers using big data sources such as product reviews, transactional data, and social chatter to analyze customer buying behaviors,” says Dixon. Last month’s CompTIA event also focused on this trend. (Check out, “3 Things You Need To Know About Big Data”)

4. M2M (machine to machine) – It started with the Internet of information. Next came the Internet of media (e.g. YouTube). Then came the Internet of People (e.g. Facebook) followed by the Internet of Commerce (e.g. Amazon.com). We are moving into the next era of the Internet, which is the Internet of things (also known as the Internet of everything). This trend focuses on attended and unattended devices. Here are some examples of the latter type of devices:
A commercial freezer’s temperature starts to rise. As soon as a certain threshold is reached, the freezer initiates contact with a technician, including diagnostic advice letting the tech know which tools and/or parts he needs to bring.
A cow at a large dairy farm hasn’t been milked in a couple of days. At the start of the third day, an RFID chip tagged to the cow sends a message to the dairy farmer alerting him to address this problem right away.
The technology behind unattended devices is known as M2M. In addition to the aforementioned examples, M2M systems can be found in warehouse inventory, vehicles w/ RFID chip.

Dixon summed up his presentation by suggesting VARs, resellers, and MSPs analyze the above trends using a SWOT (strength, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) assessment. “Don’t overuse your strengths or else they become weaknesses,” Dixon warns. “Identify the areas you’re weak in, and then build that muscle.” With regard to evaluating the opportunities and threats of the above trends, Dixon advises VARs and MSPs to weigh the costs vs. benefits of becoming skilled to capitalize on a particular technology trend. “If the cost is too high, it may be better for focus on mitigating your losses,” he says. His advice for helping you make this determination is to ask yourself the following four questions:

  • What can I control?
  • Who are my allies/partners? They may not be as affected as you are.
  • Does the opportunity offset the threat? If not, need to mitigate threat.
  • What resources do I have to deploy toward the threat? Use resources carefully. Sometimes you join and sometimes you beat them.
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