AS THE REST OF IT GOES, so goes IoT: The more precisely solutions address industry-specific requirements, the more likely they are to produce customer satisfaction, long-lasting relationships, and solid profits. Channel pros looking to achieve vertical success in the Internet of Things are following a three-pronged approach: Identify an industry pain point, choose the right products and partnerships to fill that need, and then hone the necessary skills and expertise.
Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room
A longstanding pain point for schools, for instance, has been preventing students from smoking in restrooms and other out-of-the way locations such as locker rooms. Now with the advent of vaping, which is virtually odorless, that activity is harder for school personnel to detect. Enter the HALO Smart Sensor, a device manufactured by IP Video that can detect vapor and/or THC from electronic cigarettes, as well as gunshots, aggressive language/bullying, poor air quality, and more. It also has a tamper alarm.
“Once I saw this product, and once I saw it worked, I definitely saw an opportunity to introduce it to schools to help them deal with the [vaping] issue,” says Jim Grass, general manager of public sector at ACP CreativIT, a full-service IT solution provider in Buffalo Grove, Ill., serving government, education, SMBs, and large enterprises.
ACP had already been working with other IP Video products through its distributor Ingram Micro. Grass says they vetted the HALO Smart Sensor by talking to installed customers, getting a demo unit to learn the ins and outs, and checking out a competitive product. “If we were going to go down this route, was this the best product to represent? Was it the other product? Was it both products? … We decided that this was the product that we were going to get behind.”
So far, ACP has installed the sensors in more than 500 schools, primarily in restrooms and locker rooms, but Grass says with the additional detection features there is the potential to install them throughout a school building. The IoT edge devices require a Power over Ethernet network drop to each location. They sit behind the school’s firewall, and are protected by hard passwords and two-factor authentication, and all the analytics are done on the device itself, Grass explains. When it detects something it’s watching for, it sends an email or text notification, typically to a school administrator or facilities manager, he says.
The sensors have been a door opener to new school customers, Grass says, and have deepened engagement with existing customers. ACP typically assists with installation and configuration of the devices to ensure they’re not getting false positives, and then provides ongoing troubleshooting. The firmware updates aren’t automated yet, so that provides an additional touchpoint with the customer “to be able to talk to them about new functionality, have them download the firmware, update it, and be able to talk to them about additional things that they have going on in their network and where else we might be able to help them,” Grass says.
The IoT solution itself is just one piece of customer engagement, he says. “If we were just selling this [solution] to them, it might not be super lucrative for us, but we carry the entire IT portfolio. … I'm looking to support them on the IT products that they're using within their district, to run the district and to teach their students. So, we've got a lot of skin in the game.”