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By now, it should be clear that business executives across industries are in a race with competitors to figure out how the Internet of Things, or IoT, can give them a sizeable advantage – and they’re looking to channel companies for help.

What’s not clear is whether or not channel companies are ready to assist them.

The concept of IoT sounds simple enough: “Physical sensors or actuators connect to tiny computing devices that send data to business apps to generate insights and trigger automated action back to the real world,” says Forrester analyst Frank Gillet in a research note.

In practice, though, IoT gets tricky due to the many ways it can be brought to life.

For instance, IoT can be deeply integrated in products, from automobiles to soap dispensers, or in environments, from offices and factory floors to job sites and cityscapes.  Sensors can connect via telecom networks, Wi-Fi, or low-bandwidth networks. The person leading an IoT project can be a product engineer, factory manager, or fleet operations executive. And IoT’s business outcome can vary from optimizing operations to differentiating products to even transforming markets.

Related: Zero One: Internet of Things Channel Playbook

“Because IoT can span a wide variety of products, environments, operations, and data analytics processes, there’s a rich, escalating spectrum of business value,” Gillet says.

This variety virtually cries out for an ecosystem of channel partners to help customers in vertical industries mine this business value. After all, IoT is chock full of technical complexity that most line-of-business executives and even CIOs can’t untangle alone.

Moreover, companies wanting to adopt IoT are increasingly looking to the channel, says ABI Research. The research firm predicts that IoT system integration and consulting revenues will surpass $35.7 billion in 2022 from less than $17 billion this year. That’s a compound annual growth rate of more than 16 percent.

“Enterprises looking to develop IoT solutions may not contact hardware or software vendors and instead rely on the advice of a SI to navigate the marketplace to find solution components that deliver a full solution,” says ABI Research analyst Ryan Harbison in a research note.

Related: Zero One: Tech Data’s Big Bet on Internet of Things

Most of the big channel players – Accenture, Deloitte, PwC, IBM, HP – are already in the IoT game. Others such as Altimetrik and Leverege have carved out vertical market segments. Niche channel companies can tap their expertise in a vertical market and understanding of a customer’s unique business challenges to help them find the right IoT solution.

“Consultants such as TE2 help clients such as Carnival Cruise Line and SeaWorld design experience spaces enhanced with IoT sensors and wearables,” Forrester’s Gillett says. “MLB Advanced Media enabled Major League Baseball to use beacons to enable its MLB.com Ballpark app to provide fans with location-based maps, menus and seat upgrades.”

Tom Kaneshige writes the Zero One blog covering digital transformation, AI, marketing tech and the Internet of Things for line-of-business executives. He is based in Silicon Valley. You can reach him at tom.kaneshige@penton.com.