Partner or Perish

E-mail Tom Kevan

Several years ago, I asked a sensor vendor's representative when his company would begin integrating wireless communications with its sensing devices. His response was: "We do sensors, not radios." That kind of specialization is not long for this world.

The Need for Change
As users see what can be accomplished by blending complementary technologies (e.g., sensors, communications, processing power, and tailored software), pressure increases on technology providers to meet growing market expectations. If a company can reduce its costs and optimize its processes by using hybrid products, it will seek out and do business with those vendors that can deliver the desired features and capabilities.

But the sales rep was right: Not many providers can cultivate the expertise and manufacturing infrastructure necessary to produce this new generation of devices. In fact, it is often a fatal business decision to try to be all things to all people. So how can they stay in business and meet rising customer expectations?

Alliances and Partnerships
The answer is in the news nearly every day. Vendors are forming business alliances to get the technical expertise, production capabilities, and marketing channels necessary to bring hybrid products to market. Here are a few examples.

On June 12, Vidient Systems, a developer of intelligent video surveillance and analysis software, announced that it was partnering with Intergraph, a provider of spatial information management software, to integrate Vidient's SmartCatch software with Intergraph's integrated command-and-control system.

Brooks McChesney, president and CEO of Vidient Systems, explained what the two vendors gained from the collaboration: "Increasingly, it's the integration of new technologies that is providing today's greatest breakthroughs in ensuring the safety and security of our public facilities. Our partnership enables intelligent video surveillance behavior-recognition and analytics to be fully integrated with Intergraph's globally recognized security command-and-control system, providing our customers full, real-time situation awareness of their facilities."

On June 7, Today at Sensors carried a news story describing how sensor providers Conax Buffalo Technologies and Sensicast Systems announced a product development and business alliance to build and offer comprehensive systems for temperature monitoring using wireless sensors in industrial environments. The collaboration melded the expertise of the two vendors to meet customer demands and provided business benefits as well. Gary Ambrosino, CEO of Sensicast, explained, "Conax's extensive experience in temperature monitoring across a wide range of applications has made them the premier supplier of temperature sensors. By integrating Conax's sensors with Sensicast's wireless technology, we'll be able to offer a reliable, best-in-class temperature measurement system. As our new global marketing partner, Conax extends Sensicast's sales reach to 25 countries worldwide."

In another news release, Tendril, a provider of system software for developing and deploying wireless sensor and control networks (WSCN), announced that it had partnered with Ember Corp. to help customers easily and quickly deploy WSCN applications. Through the partnership, Tendril and Ember planned to integrate Ember's ZigBee-compliant networking platform with other environments, including IP networks, building automation networks, and PC/PDA-based applications, enabling rapid deployment of WSCN applications in a variety of fields.

Tendril CEO Tim Enwall said, "This partnership between Tendril and Ember is significant because our combined technologies dramatically simplify the process of developing nontrivial wireless sensor and control network applications. Together, Tendril and Ember have learned that organizations using this integrated solution are able to build and deploy powerful, IP-connected WSCN applications in a matter of days, rather than the months of labor typically required using other normal development methods."

The Bottom Line
These are just a few of the examples that point to a change in the way technology providers are meeting customer needs. After all is said and done, if a vendor can't handle the combinations of technologies that the market is calling for, then it better join forces with other companies and flesh out its product offerings. When this happens, everyone-providers and end users—benefit.

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