Skkynet at CSIA 2017

Several of us at Skkynet had the pleasure of attending the Control Systems Integrators Association annual conference (CSIA 2017) last week, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  Everyone appreciated the beach-side venue and great food, and the balmy weather was a welcome change to Ontario’s cold, rainy spring. The theme of the conference this year was “From Best Practices to Transformative Business Models,” which set the tone and direction of many of the presentations and resulting conversations.

The idea of transformative business models was presented by Mike Harvath, CEO of Revenue Rocket Consulting Group, who offered a vision of the way digital technologies and the IoT are changing how business will be done by system integrators over the next few years.  One of the main differences he and others foresee is a shift from projects and products to services.  Citing recent trends, such as companies providing lighting as a service, Harvath foresees system integrators designing projects and providing products on a service-based model.

Many of the integrators we talked to at CSIA 2017 understood the Industrial IoT in the terms of cloud-based data storage and analytics.  Offering their customers this kind of cloud service would fit the transformative business model, they felt, but a number of questions were raised about how to implement the vision.  In a special “Unconference” on transformative business models, we had a chance to brainstorm and bounce ideas off one another in a peer-to-peer environment.

Top Concerns

Among the top concerns were how to start moving towards a service-model business in general, and how to provide secure IoT services in particular.  Most of the customers for these system integrators are large manufacturing or infrastructure companies, like energy or wastewater facilities, and tend to be conservative in adopting new business models.  Likewise, being engineers and responsible for multi-million dollar budgets and mission-critical systems, the system integrators themselves are being cautious.

I spoke with a number of them about business transformation and the IoT, and most indicated that they are open to the idea, but that seeing is believing.   They and their customers want to see examples of secure IT to OT connectivity, cloud-based data collection, and good return on investment.  We had some enlightening conversations about Skkynet’s secure-by-design approach to the IIoT, and showed them on some demonstration hardware how to monitor and control a system from a web page or smart phone.  The revenue-sharing opportunities of the SkkyHub service struck a welcome chord with those who were getting serious about shifting towards a more service-oriented approach to their business.

Overall, CSIA 2017 was a good experience—a chance to meet those in a position to use or recommend the DataHub and SkkyHub, and find out whether their customers can benefit from this kind of technology.  It turns out that many of them can, and they are starting to realize it.