Intel’s Chess Move for Scaling IoT

Intel and its Internet of things (IoT) partners were early in defining packaged IoT systems, which the firm calls Market Ready Solutions, or RFP Ready Kits for markets where systems integrators and installers play a significant role. This strategy for building scale in the industrial IoT market has been successful for Intel and its partner ecosystem. Four years ago, there were 175 Market Ready Solutions, which had achieved 5,000 deployments, and by 2022, this had grown to 350 different offerings, reaching 30,000 deployments. Overall, more than 550 Market Ready Solutions have been created, with a total of 80,000 deployments since launch.

Since 2019, Intel has been using a Chessboard approach to identify the potential for IoT systems by mapping uses of IoT onto sectors. For exploration of this model, see Intel’s Systematic Effort to Scale Industrial IoT. This has been useful for assessing market opportunities, finding what systems exist for each of them, working with partners to serve those opportunities and selling the solutions.

I recently talked to Sunnie Weber, channel partner and scale leader in Intel’s Network and Edge Group (NEX), about how things have progressed in this area. We also discussed how the Chessboard has held up as a marketing tool through the pandemic, as well as the subsequent supply chain shortages and the current economic uncertainty.

Intel has continued to develop the Chessboard approach and now uses it to help with forecasting in many ways. For example, the squares are now coloured to reflect an estimation of the silicon addressable market — referred to in the Chessboard as SAM — serving to visualize demand for computing power in each square. This allows Intel to assess the long-term potential for each market and use case.

Another development of the Chessboard is an extension of earlier work and involves mapping the relevant Market Ready Solutions onto each square. This can be done at the top level, but is arguably more useful if it’s done region by region, reflecting the mix of partners and systems in that region. Ms Weber said that Intel is already getting requests from partners to take systems developed in one region and adapt them for use in others, which is normally a quicker way to expand the local catalogue than developing a new system from scratch.

The use of colour in the Chessboard has also been extended to create a heat map of deployments in the latest sales period. On its own, this is useful for short-term forecasting. And by including the number of Market Ready Solutions in each square, it’s also useful for highlighting any mismatch between demand and the range of systems available. As before, a regional or national view is even more useful than a worldwide overview.

According to Ms Weber, the original benefits of the Chessboard are still evident in Intel’s dealings with partners, especially with onboarding new ones. IoT is a broad and confusing market, but the Chessboard presents the most common uses of IoT in an accessible way. It enables highly focussed discussions between partners on which areas of the market to prioritize, as well as what’s needed to move to an adjacent market with a similar solution.

Although several parts of the market have been disrupted by world events, the Chessboard has remained a useful tool because of its focus on the demands of users and offerings that address these demands directly. Other supply issues are, of course, relevant to how opportunities are addressed, but they aren’t built into the framework itself so they don’t detract from its use.

Adding short- and long-term assessments of demand has been helpful — as market conditions have changed, so have customers’ priorities. For example, there’s a much greater focus now on energy efficiency, reflected in the colours in the heat map moving between uses, enabling an easy, visual approach to updating product forecasts.

Also, matching estimated demand to supply by showing the number of systems available in each square is a very handy way to monitor how each segment is served as user priorities move around.

Ms Weber was keen to point out the increasing use of the Chessboard at a regional and national level, too, as Intel continues to expand its partnership programme to include smaller, sector-specific systems integrators worldwide. These are often highly localized — for example, retail technology partners in the Philippines are different from those in Thailand or Egypt.

The Chessboard remains the best segmentation approach CCS Insight has seen for industrial IoT marketing. The use cases relate directly to customers’ operations — although priorities may change with market conditions, the use cases themselves remain durable and popular. The Chessboard also focusses on the fastest-adopting sectors, and it serves all players in the partner programme from chipset providers to installers.

However, we continue to caution that the Chessboard needs constant review. It addresses 10 use cases and 10 sectors — a large part of the market, but not the whole thing. It should be seen as a useful lens and a good portfolio management tool, but not as the only way to view the market. Ms Weber highlighted that there’s a constant stream of new use cases being pushed to the surface by Intel’s partners, notably by solutions aggregators such as the major industrial distributors.

Also, the demand heat map and SAM indicators are certainly useful for Intel internally, but they don’t yet reflect the system value available to partners. Clearly, a lot more work is needed to expand the coverage of those metrics, especially if they’re to be calculated country by country and system by system. But this seems to be a good way to help the whole partner ecosystem and provide greater clarity on where the collective focus should be.

Lastly, given that 80,000 systems have been installed, there should be some very useful business case data available, or at least an estimation of the payback period for each of the squares on the Chessboard. If Intel, or its partners, can add this in, it would provide a layer of data that would be hugely useful for customers as they plan and buy IoT solutions.

It’s obviously easier to recommend these extensions than it is to collect and aggregate the data. But it looks like there could be a few more useful developments in the Chessboard as the IoT market continues to build.