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IoT SIs: Is an OpEx Model Right for You?

A conversation with Dean Reverman Mark Fraker BlueStar Systems integrator

A conversation with Dean Reverman Mark Fraker BlueStar Systems integrator

For most IoT systems integrators and resellers, revenue is driven by sales and installation of new equipment. But what if you could move from a CapEx model to an OpEx model? And what if you could rely on partners to keep your tech stack up to date?

In this podcast we explore the possibilities with BlueStar, a global distributor supporting SIs, VARs, and MSPs. In our conversation with Mark Fraker, VP of Marketing, and Dean Reverman, Global Marketing Manager, we explore:

  • Where the biggest opportunities are for SIs in the coming months
  • How SIs can get to market faster with the latest tech
  • Why new financing models are the key to recurring revenue
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Transcript

Dean Reverman: You can’t just flip the switch one day and go from a CapEx model over to an OpEx model. So you need to be able to bridge the gap, and we can help folks through some of those financing things.

Kenton Williston: That was Dean Reverman from BlueStar. I’m Kenton Williston, the Editor-in-Chief of insight.tech. Every episode of the IoT Chat, I talk to industry experts about the technology and business trends that matter for developers, systems integrators, and end users. Today, I have the privilege of talking not only with Dean, but also Mark Fraker from BlueStar. We’ll be looking at the technologies and opportunities coming down the pipe for systems integrators, resellers, and MSPs—and how you can get ahead of the curve.

What I’m most excited about, though, are the new business models that BlueStar has opened up with its financial partners. They’ve done some really creative thinking that will allow you to turn your business into a subscription-based model, that not only brings in recurring revenue, but is also super affordable for your customers. So, Mark, Dean—first of all, welcome to the show. Really great to have you here.

Dean Reverman: Thanks for having us.

Mark Fraker: Thank you very much.

Kenton Williston: First, let me give you the opportunity to say a little bit about what in the world BlueStar is, and what you do there at BlueStar. So, Mark, if you want to give me your quick bio.

Mark Fraker: Sure. Mark Fraker. I’m the Vice President of Marketing for BlueStar. I’ve been with BlueStar about 21 years. And if I had to sum up exactly what BlueStar is, we’re one of the leading global distributors of technology solutions for hardware, software, and services for the value-added reseller community, the MSPs and technology software companies around the globe. So, currently right now we probably provide services for approximately 12,000 resellers and software companies, and about 117 countries.

Kenton Williston: Quite impressive. And Dean, what’s your role?

Dean Reverman: My name is Dean Reverman. I’m the Global Marketing Manager here at BlueStar, and so I take care of, or I’m in part of, any of the marketing activities that we do here at BlueStar. And just to add on to what Mark said there, BlueStar is truly a value-added distributor. So our differentiator in the marketplace is providing value ads that are different—through support, configuration, education, financing, marketing—things like that, to enable our partners in the marketplace.

Mark Fraker: Well, I’ll start out on that one. But basically 2020 was the year the temperature scan became more important than the barcode scan. We had all types of solutions popping up, and I think truly what the pandemic did is accelerate the advancement of new technologies and solutions in all, across the globe. We had a lot of tech companies pivot. They created new solutions. And I have to say, it was both for essential and non-essential businesses, and they had to do this because of all the unique dynamics of 2020. Now, with that said, I think there’s going to be a carryover into 2021 and for years to come, because this acceleration of these newer technologies is going to continue. And it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about temperature scanning, to last mile delivery, to facial recognition, to social distancing, to curbside pickups, smart lockers—it was all over, across all verticals.

And I think what we’re seeing is that there’s also a major blend-in of the technology. So you have older technologies that are being blended in with the newer technologies. And this is coming from a younger group of folks that are creating these new solutions as we move forward. So, Dean, maybe you have something that you want to add to that.

Dean Reverman: No, absolutely. I think you’re hitting the nail on the head there. I mean, not only is there a blending of technologies, but, to Mark’s point, there’s new opportunities out there as well. When I think about it, Ken, when you think about the new opportunities that solutions integrators should be looking at, growing your tech stack is definitely a part of that, right? I mean today, unlike before—and we’ve seen some of the just—acceleration that is happening in the marketplace as it relates to needing to bring on new opportunities and taking those opportunities to market very fast—you have to be sensitive to the tech stack that you have, that you’re operating within. And sometimes that means developing your ecosystem, getting outside of your comfort zone and understanding what’s happening out in the marketplace.

For example, as Mark already touched on, we’re seeing a tremendous amount of opportunities in access control. And so, yes, that’s the use of AI—maybe it’s the use of temperature control, validating who’s there, making sure that we’re doing surveying at the point of entry into any building. And this could be front of house, so as it relates to hospitality, retail, or in senior care facilities—things of that nature, when people are coming in and visiting. There’s opportunities there. It can be back of house. For any MSP that works in a scenario where there’s back of house folks—like in warehousing—or just need access to a building. So that whole area, if you will, is completely changed. And a lot of the technologies that are involved in there have seen rapid adaptation through this pandemic.

So even though you’re having some of this adopted today, a lot of that’s going to be still relevant in a post-COVID world as well. Access control’s not going away—the need to be able to monitor who’s in, who’s out, why are they there? Those types of things, that’s still going to happen. Some other technologies and opportunities that we’re seeing that the systems integrators I know are very aware of would be like, kiosk, right? We’re seeing a lot of on-demand customer experience. And in our world, Mark, I think you’ll agree that on-demand, or that customer experience, is always key, right? And for MSPs, systems integrators, they have to understand that the end users in many markets are building solutions around the customer experience.

Kiosks can do that. They bring an on-demand type of a structure that definitely plays into the younger generation—the younger generation’s desire to control the experience, be in control, if you will, of the order taking and things like that. So we’re seeing a lot opening up there as well. So, just a couple ideas off the top of my head there. But security plays a role in that as well. And I know that a lot of solutions integrators are getting into that understanding deeper, as they try to wrangle, if you will, and pull the reins on some of these new opportunities that are in the marketplace, that I’m sure their customers are coming to them with—there needs to be an eye on security. And, luckily, what the good news here is that you start leaning on partners that have solutions around that.

For example, BlueStar has a security-as-a-service solution that we can enable partners with, and they can go to market with a very robust system, from WatchGuard and others, that have a complete software solution wrapped up that they can drop into place and have a nice, robust security around the solutions, the Edge devices, that they’re putting into place. So that’s another opportunity out there.

Kenton Williston: Yeah, for sure, for sure. And I think, to boil down everything you’re saying, the opportunity space is changing. Some things people were doing—maybe they’re not doing or they’re doing differently, or they’re investing less in what-have-you. But there’s also a tremendous amount of opportunity across pretty much every market segment for new applications. And, to the point that Mark was making, especially as folks are looking to move into a new phase of business—whether that’s a restaurant or hospitality, or whatever the case might be—there’s going to be all kinds of new requirements—whether that’s government mandate or just good business practices—that will require some new investments in technology. And I think that’s a pretty exciting thing for resellers and systems integrators to be able to take advantage of.

But I think there’s going to be a few things that are required for folks to be able to fully take advantage of these opportunities. I think part of what you touched on is that there’s going to be a lot of new technologies that are needed—so, things like AI for things like ensuring people have got their masks on properly. Or things like the security aspects that you mentioned—that may not be things that folks have been implementing before. So I’d love to hear what you see as being the biggest challenges facing systems integrators and resellers and the like for implementing these new technologies—where the biggest stumbling blocks might lie.

Mark Fraker: I’m going to say the first one is financing. The reason I say that is because the solutions that are coming out—and we talked about this earlier—are based on a consumption model. And that consumption model is no longer just: time. Like if you use the software another month, well, then you pay for another month of the software. And these new technologies—it’s consumption of X, and X is all different kinds of things. An example of that would be in blockchain solutions: that consumption of X, where X is in some cases a number of gigs that are locked down and secured; whereas in another blockchain solution it might be the number of transactions. If you took something like last-mile delivery, consumption of X could be the number of parcels delivered. In another one, it’s the number of miles delivered. And even in another one, it’s the number of transactions.

So what’s becoming very complicated is—how do you bill for all those new different types of consumption models? And when you think that by the year 2024, 40% of our channel is going to retire—well, that still holds true for all of the folks that we’re selling these solutions to as well. And then by the next year, 2025, 75% of the channel owners are going to be millennials or younger. And the thing is, they consume technology totally differently than the baby boomers. So this is going to become even more important: how do you go out and find answers still, and set up this new consumption model?

I think the second problem, or the second challenge, is really the hiring of the right resources. Just to give an example: it’s no longer a “data analyst,” as what it was called for many years; but now there’s many institutions that have studies for data scientists, and it’s an entirely different skill set to a large degree—to go out and incorporate that into all of these AI solutions. And then I think one of the other challenges is the integration of new technologies into their current offering, and relying on more partnerships. Because of all the APIs that are out there, a lot of these tech companies are coming into the market, and rather than trying to go out and sell part of the solution, it’s much easier to sell some of the solution, but they have to incorporate all of these new partners. And the question becomes, how do you pick the right partner, right?

Nothing is worse than picking a partner and it not working out, and having to restart back over in a short period of time. So, on my list, I think those are the top three. Dean, you probably have a different list, or—

Dean Reverman: No, I’m going to actually keep going on that partner one, because I had that on my bullet list as well. And you’re absolutely right. As I mentioned, it’s that tech stack that I think a lot of systems integrators are now being forced to understand even more than they had in the past. Developing that ecosystem, as you stated, Mark, is so very critical. And the key there is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You don’t have to be the systems integrator out there that develops the next whiz-bang whatever. Things are happening in way too fast of a speed in order for that to occur. You just need to be able to connect your cart to the right solutions, and have things that can vet the solutions out there.

Now, when you work with partners—and I would obviously advocate a partner like BlueStar, work with a distributor like BlueStar—we have programs like TEConnect that are specifically designed for this—to help the ecosystem out there of resellers, of solutions integrators, MSPs, understand what’s happening in the marketplace, and trying to connect the dots so that we can all be healthier at the end. Understand that the vendors are moving in this direction too. They completely understand the fact that the, if you will, the necessity of having an ecosystem and developing that. So I would encourage solutions integrators even more today to look at their vendors and what they’re doing, and make sure that you’re partnering up with them. Because they as well are vetting some of these solutions out there, and getting a better understanding of what’s happening in the marketplace.

A lot of neat things come out of that. I mean, for example—and, Mark, I know you and I have been involved in this with a company like FaceMe working with Advantech. I mean, here you have a facial recognition company that really, I don’t—

Kenton Williston: Number one in the world, actually.

Dean Reverman: Number one in the world, right. You have to be able to get with the right partners, like a FaceMe, who can develop those types of solutions. They’ve got great support behind infrastructure, they understand the channel, they understand how to do OpEx business models, they understand how to work with vendors. And so navigating that field sometimes can be a challenge.

Mark Fraker: Sure. I mean, they’ve got 200 patents to their company, right?

Dean Reverman: Right.

Mark Fraker: That’s the type of partner you need, to be successful.

Dean Reverman: One hundred percent. And because facial recognition is one of those opportunities, it’s not going away. When you think of the advantages that it brings, it just brings us this advantage of convenience—whether you’re opening a door, whether you’re unlocking your bank account securely, whether you’re—whatever it is, you’re going to start seeing a lot more of that being in place. So, yeah, I’m with you, Mark. I think the tech stack is definitely one. And then getting back to the financial, and I think we’ll get a little bit more into this, Kenton, right? Some of the financial considerations of how our world is changing now that we’ve had—and not just in COVID, but post-COVID—and where the whole community is going. Right?

Kenton Williston: Yeah, absolutely. And I think, to the point you’re making there, historically the way that resellers and systems integrators and folks like that made their money was by installing equipment, selling solutions, things like that. And I actually, a long, long time ago—I’d rather not say how long—worked for one such company. I used to install computer networks in school systems back in the Midwest, where I grew up.

Dean Reverman: There you go.

Kenton Williston: Yeah. So, I mean, the entirety of the business model was to go in there. I was crawling through all kinds of odd spaces in these public schools to run physical cables, and that’s where the money was made. Right?

Dean Reverman: Yes.

Kenton Williston: And, of course, there’s still money to be made that way. But to the point that I think you were hinting at, I think that the way the business models are evolving for systems integrators, resellers, MSPs, is that there’s a greater opportunity to—instead of having everything driven by CapEx, be driven by OpEx. So I wonder if you could say a little bit more about why that trend is happening, and what it is that you think folks need to do to be able to successfully make that transition in their business model.

Mark Fraker: Agreed. I think the biggest challenge around that for the tech companies is it’s not just the services and software that are put into a subscription model, but you need to incorporate the hardware. And that’s what’s being demanded by the younger generations. They grew up with it through the cell phone companies and such. The hardware was included in the program that was out there. However, when you start talking about purpose-built equipment that’s used in these solutions that are going outside, inside the freezers, and out into the hot sun and such, and being dropped and weather and everything else, the equipment’s more expensive. And when you have that, there’s not a lot of companies out there that are getting involved in having some type of subscription service where you can have hardware, software, and services—and BlueStar realized this.

This is something that a couple of years ago—actually going back about five years—we tried to work with different financial institutions, and really didn’t have any takers until finally we found a financial institution that we partnered with. And now we have the ability to take hardware, software, and services to any percent mix and match that you have, and go out and offer them as a subscription-base, or OpEx, solution. But if the reseller chooses, they can be paid upfront, 100%, at the day of installation. Now, if they want, they can go 80/20: get 80% upfront, 20% over the life of the contract, and on a monthly basis—50/50, 70/30, whatever they want. So it’s very, very lucrative, and it makes it easy for the tech companies to go out and sell this: offer the OpEx and be paid in a CapEx.

I think the other advantage is—if I said to most of the people on this podcast, "Are you going to be using the same cell phone in three years?" Your answer’s probably no. Right? You want new technology. So why would any of us expect our customers to use the same technology three, four, five years later? Why wouldn’t they want to take advantage of 5G, and so on? It makes all of our applications and our solutions run better, so why not provide that? So the other component that we added is called a Rip-and-Replace, where after three, four or five years we’ll come in with a reseller and replace all of the hardware, all the software and the services input at the back end, and start all over again.

So from the end user standpoint they’re getting the newest and greatest solution out there, both from software services and the hardware. And the reseller—it makes it very sticky for the tech company to retain that account. So I think those are a couple of things that we’ve noticed that are so important as this is starting to change and move over to an OpEx. And so we had to have something that would fit every tech company’s business plan—whether they had a direct sales model or an indirect sales model. And this program really opened up doors. And to the point that when we got involved in COVID last year, a finance company that we work with—and it’s still in place today as we speak—is that they offer deferred-payment plans.

Dean Reverman: That’s right.

Mark Fraker: So if you need to bring in a deal into a new quarter, or if you need longer times for payback because of COVID, this was a great way to do it. And it wasn’t just three or four months. We had some people that were asking for one-year deferred payments. So very, very lucrative program.

Dean Reverman: Yeah. And to Mark’s point and, Ken, the work the way you cued it up—it is really a changing landscape. I mean, the subscription wave is here, right? I mean, I don’t know where we are in the wave, but it’s definitely happening. And when you look at the younger generations, the way the millennials buy—just the behavior of the society—it is much more embraced today than it ever was in the past. I love your analogy, Kenton, of crawling through the crawl spaces and running wire. There’s always going to be a need for that, but the way the companies are funding it—completely different today. And the need has to be there.

So as solutions integrators are out there, they have to understand that they have to stay on the edge of this, they have to be in the driver’s seat. And the financing tool is absolutely a way to do that. Now, the Hybrid SaaS program that Mark just spoke about, there aren’t that many of those in the universe out there. We feel like we’re very unique in that. But what that does, Ken, is it really helps these solutions integrators bridge the gap. I mean, you can’t just flip the switch one day and go from a CapEx model over to an OpEx model. Or it’s very difficult to do that without a significant amount of planning, and maybe some deals that are very advantageous towards that. So you need to be able to bridge the gap, and we can help folks through some of those financing things. But a really good question there.

Kenton Williston: Some interesting things I think both of you have raised about the merits of this CapEx approach—I think in particular, this Rip-and-Replace program you’ve been talking about is pretty noteworthy. Usually I think when people contemplate an OpEx business model, it’s like, "Well, I’m going to get my physical infrastructure set, and then I’ll have services that run on that, and that’ll be the subscription." And what you’re pointing to is something that has been common—like in the IT space, where either the companies themselves or the resellers would have ongoing refresh: so that every-so-many years everybody in the company has a new laptop, so they’re not running on something that’s old and crusty. And it’s also common in the consumer space, right?

Like you’ve got an Apple+ kind of plan, where every year you can get a new phone. And I think it just makes sense for the commercial IoT space as well. Because, to your point, the hardware does change rapidly and new generations—whether it’s the communications or the processing performance—like we’ve been talking about AI a lot, for example. And right now we’re in a very hot development time for what kind of AI capabilities are possible through the hardware. So what’s going to be possible two years from now is going to be different—very different from what’s possible today from a hardware perspective. So that all totally makes sense to me.

Dean Reverman: And if I could—not just that, but let’s also remember or recall, right, Mark? We can, through a program like Hybrid SaaS, you can—and the solutions integrator needs to understand this—it’s not just the hardware, not just the software, which are important, but also services. A lot of times the training is a part of the services that they’re providing—not only just initially, but ongoing as well. So those services that these solutions integrators are providing today, those can be wrapped into these OpEx solutions as well. And that’s a critical point there.

Kenton Williston: It’s something that I’ve been thinking about—hearing this very radical shift in how resellers, systems integrators, MSPs can approach their model—is how do you approach your customer and say, "Hey, we want to do business a little differently." Or the customer is raising their hand—or what does that sales pitch look like to actually make that very new kind of business possible?

Mark Fraker: I think sometimes it comes down to the solutions that are out there. I’ll give you a great example. So, for hospitality in 2020 we saw some decline in the technology spend, but not as great as what we saw. We saw a shift in the technology spend. So rather than that technology spend coming within, let’s say, for point of sale, 20 feet inside the front door, it all went outside to the curb. And that technology spend was for BOPUS, click and collect, or ROPUS, and also curbside pickup—everything. So I think when that happens, what’s driving it is how those solutions are coming to market. And so they’re saying, "Look, we can make this affordable for you, because the solution that we’re providing has a great ROI on a monthly basis." I mean, I’ve seen some of the tech companies go in there and say, "You can have a curbside solution for the same cost as drinks for a four top in your restaurant per day." And when you start talking that type of solution for the hospitality entrepreneur, that makes a tremendous amount of sense for them.

I think that you’re seeing it as, in supply chain and in the DC world, as automation is driving the bottom line of supply chain, for example, right? When you start talking about autonomous vehicles inside a warehouse, or the amount of carousels that are going in and such—they’re doing it because of the labor force that just can’t hire the people to come in and do it. So what they have to do is make their employees much more efficient.

I think one of the best stories around that would be where one of the big-box hardware stores brought in some robots with screens on the front, and people could walk inside the front door and they were greeted by a robot that said, "What are you looking for?" And someone could hold it up in front of the screen, and it would say, "That is called a such-and-such. Here, I can take you to where it is." And they thought it would have an adverse effect on their labor force—that they would think that they were replacing them, and the opposite happened. Everybody wanted to have that robot in their department to help take care of pricing and inventory and everything else, because it freed them up to have more customer one-on-one experiences. So I think a lot of this has to do with the new solutions that are out there, and what the consumers are demanding of the business owners today.

Dean Reverman: Yeah. And it’s that age-old pivot, right? You always think, "Oh, these robotics are coming in and they’re going to replace. . . ." But you’re absolutely right. And we’ve seen that in other instances as well. But getting back to the point, I guess, on the OpEx, you have to be able to have some financial flexibility in order to offer those types of solutions. And those solutions are very, very rapid. And, Kenton, as we mentioned earlier, that it’s that tech stack as well, that the solutions integrator is walking in the door with. The solutions providers today have to be flexible in offering a broader scope than maybe the niche that they’ve been in for a very long time. It may manifest itself in robotics or automation, as Mark just mentioned. It could manifest itself in a lot of different ways, but having the financial capabilities through programs is key towards that.

Mark Fraker: Yeah. I mean, you look at the SMB market out there—so 90% of the small businesses go under because they’re undercapitalized. It doesn’t matter what vertical they’re in—they’re undercapitalized and that’s why they go under. So when you take something like an OpEx and put it out in front of them, it makes it very attractive for them to continue and take that along their journey. Plus, as Kenton brought up, when you start talking about a Rip-and-Replace, that even makes it more attractive to them, because they know they’re always going to have that best technology out there. And to the younger business owner—they grew up with technology, they demand the best technology. You’re not going to walk into one of their places and there not be 5G.

Dean Reverman: No. They would have a bit of an issue with that. Yeah, absolutely.

Kenton Williston: Now, something I’m curious about—so the ROI angle totally makes sense to me. Another factor that I’m curious about—we talked a little bit about security earlier. And that, to me, seems like a real potential benefit of this sort of approach—that you’re not just one-and-done with your security, but you’ve got a constant watchful eye keeping things up to date. Is that something that end customers find is a compelling selling point for this sort of approach?

Dean Reverman: I think so. In one angle, why that—not only just from the end consumer, but I guess another point here is that solutions integrators really need to become aware of the legal issues as it relates to security, and things of that nature. I mean, parts of this channel—vendors, for example—are becoming very deliberate in who they choose to partner with. They want to partner with those that can commit to data ethics—adopt data handling practices that reflect their own values. I mean, what we’re seeing in the marketplace is a need for that, if you will, understanding of the legal issues. I mean, of course you have things like GDPR over in Europe, that is this umbrella, if you will, that handles a lot of the concerns as it relates to that. Here in the United States, it appears as though the adaptation for similar types of things is happening at the state level.

Mark Fraker: I agree with you a hundred percent. And I don’t think we have one vendor that we’re dealing with where the discussion about security comes up. And they, right now, are doing a lot of partnering with companies that you might think that they’re a hardware company, but they’re also a software company, right? So they sell an appliance, but it also comes with a monitoring application to it. So as they go down the road, they’re looking for any rogues that are coming into the enterprise system, notifying people, blocking them, and keeping that particular business safe and secure digitally. It’s something that every RFP that I’m seeing come back from any end user through our reseller channel and up to us when they ask us to participate in—I haven’t seen one in the last probably three, four years that doesn’t have security brought up.

Kenton Williston: Yeah. And this leads me to, I think, real key questions. We’ve talked a lot about the business models, and how critical financing is to enabling all of this. But there’s another aspect that I can imagine would be pretty frightening, frankly, to a reseller or an MSP or a systems integrator. And that is just the fact that we are talking about a very complicated combination of technologies. We’re talking about [inaudible] retail space, for example. You’re not just dealing with a point of sale system anymore, but now you’ve got to think about AI and facial recognition and all these security concerns and have the robots wander around your store. And most of these are not going to be familiar to you, if you have really been specializing in the point of sale business.

So I’d like to talk a little about how you make that leap from where you’ve been traditionally, to now offering these very sophisticated, complicated solutions. Because I think, and I’m interested to hear your point of view on this, that one of the key things about this is not only to, as you were saying, pick the right partner, but also that those partners need to offer more kinds of holistic solutions. So, like one of the things we’ve talked a lot about on the insight.tech website—which I hope everyone will pop over and visit after listening—are some Intel-certified solutions known as Intel Market Ready Solutions.

And the whole idea of those is that this is something that’s already been deployed, more or less in a form that’s going to be offered to you, and that you can with confidence say, "Yes, this is ready to roll out at scale, and it’s going to include the hardware, the software, the services, the security—all this kind of good stuff." So I’d love to hear your thoughts on: how do you incorporate all these fantastically complicated, and sometimes new, technologies?

Mark Fraker: I’m going to go back about 12 years. This has always been a problem. As technology has advanced, it has gotten more complicated, especially as you have a lot of these technologies blending together—it’s blurred over the different lines of technologies. And we create—and, in fact, we hold the trademark on—what we call In-a-Box. And we’ve put this out online, so that if someone has an idea similar to what you’re talking about, Ken, where they want to take multiple technologies, multiple solutions, different hardware platforms, and bring them together, they can go to this portal and start answering questions and laying out what their ideas are and how it all fits together.

When they hit “submit” on that, it comes into Dean’s and my group and goes to a group of specialists that specialize in retail or government or healthcare, and hospitality, digital signage—different technologies and verticals. So we have solutions across all verticals like that to help people understand: "This is my goal, this is what I’m trying to do." And then we take our resources, match them up, and try and help them find some incremental new revenue along the way.

Dean Reverman: And that’s a critical point there. I mean, Ken, to the beginning of your question there, it is really hard for a solutions integrator to understand and to navigate that world. I mean, I came out of that world; I completely understand what it’s like to be in charge of a company’s direction. There you are—you do your day-to-day, but there’s other opportunities out there. When you look at MRSs from an Intel and our case, things like that, or the In-a-Box, as Mark was just mentioning—in our case, In-a-Box is an answer to the market demand for the need to solution. So what I would advocate to solutions integrators—in order to take a step you need to dip a toe in a particular area. Look for such things as the Market Ready Solutions from Intel, and/or the In-a-Box solutions that we have, because these will help you get there. Why? Because they’re holistic solutions that have been vetted to a certain degree.

For example, we’re developing market-ready solutions right now with Intel, with great partners like Seneca and Navori on digital signage. We understand that there’s a lot of solutions integrators out there, that as businesses start opening up they saw the advantage that digital signage brought to the marketplace in being able to do real-time messages—counting people, and things like that. Well, that’s going to continue to be pervasive throughout. So how do you get into that? How do you vet those types of solutions? Well, you look at market ready solutions that are available there. That’s just one example.

We talked about facial recognition—yet another solution that we’re developing right now with Intel and FaceMe and Advantech. So again, I’ll just answer it by saying there are entities out there like BlueStar, like Intel, that are putting resources behind these solutions, vetting the partners along the way. So as a solutions integrator continues to develop their tech stacks, they should look at somebody like a BlueStar and the programs that they have in place to help them get down that path. They don’t have to feel like they’re out on an island. There are resources out there in those ways, and they should be utilizing them.

Kenton Williston: To kind of wrap up everything I think I’m hearing you say: it’s that we’re in an environment now where there is an opportunity—and perhaps even a requirement—a need for systems integrators to rethink the entirety of their business model, which can be a pretty frightening proposition. But the reality is there are a lot of things, a lot of resources available to them, that can make that exercise actually pretty painless, because they have resources with companies like BlueStar, with Intel. Folks who can not only help them make the leap to the new technologies and to being able to actually offer the sort of sophisticated services, but even the financing and the training to not have to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, on all these fronts, and to be able to fairly seamlessly make this transition.

Dean Reverman: Yeah. And that’s it, Ken, and I don’t know that we need to scare people in saying they’ve got to change their business model tomorrow. But I definitely would think that solutions integrators are—if they have a long-term plan, a two-year, a three-year, a five-year plan—they should be morphing into these types of things, so that they can continue to progress and take advantage of where the marketplaces are going as it relates to OpEx, as it relates to these types of solutions. And, yes, sometimes it is difficult to do, but understand that there’s partners out there that have resources that you can lean on to do that and build on your ecosystem. It’s critical. It’s going to be critical for solutions integrators moving forward.

Kenton Williston: Excellent. Well that just leads me in to say, thank you so much to both of you for joining us.

Dean Reverman: Absolutely. It was a pleasure being here.

Mark Fraker: Thank you very much, Ken.

Kenton Williston: Yeah. So, Mark, Dean—where’s the best place for folks to find BlueStar online?

Dean Reverman: Well, yeah, go to bluestarinc.com. That’s where you can find us. @thinkbluestar is where you want to find us in Twitter. Of course, you can find us on Instagram as well. And we have a LinkedIn profile as well. So any of your social needs—that’d be the best way to get us, is see us there.

Kenton Williston: Fabulous. Well, thanks again so much for your time. This was really an interesting and enlightening conversation.

Dean Reverman: Very good. Thank you. Thank you once again, Ken.

Mark Fraker: Yeah, thanks, Ken. Appreciate it.

Kenton Williston: And thanks to our listeners for joining us. This has been the IoT Chat. If you enjoyed listening, please support us by subscribing and rating us on your favorite podcast app. We’ll be back next time with more ideas from industry leaders at the forefront of IoT design.

About the Author

Kenton Williston is the Editor-in-Chief of insight.tech and served as the editor of its predecessor publication, the Embedded Innovator magazine. Kenton received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering in 2000 and has been writing about embedded computing and IoT ever since.

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