The No-Nonsense Buyer's Guide to IoT: Part 1

IoT is DOA

Jeremy Drury

The No-Nonsense Buyer's Guide to IoT: IoT is DOA

Can you hear the sound of a deflating balloon – the one usually reserved for comedic effort? Listen – you know that sound because it’s also the sound of the Industrial Internet of Things.

Years of inflated expectations are collapsing from the harsh realities of implementing and scaling this supposed game-changing technology.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is quickly becoming a shriveled balloon on the ground.

The Purpose of the Buyer’s Guide

Perhaps we should end the article here – walk away and get back to work. We’re all busy anyway.

But what if we wanted to keep pushing because, somehow, we knew there must be some value to IIoT? Or perhaps we’ve heard war stories of an IoT sensor saving the day (although they’re rare).

Should we blow it up? I realize that could mean several things and elicit a few different responses. So, where should we go? Boom, bust, or believe?

Here’s what I have to offer if you decide to keep reading:

  • I’ve failed with Industrial IoT a lot. Therefore, I’ve learned a lot, and I want to help you avoid the same mistakes I made.  
  • I am exceedingly disappointed in the still-lagging environment of the Industrial IoT as it relates to vendors and their customers, and I’m ready to be an equal-opportunity offender.
  • I want to get practical. If there’s any hope of salvaging real value for IIoT, it’s replacing all the misguided hype with hard facts.

This article is the first in a series I’m calling The No-Nonsense Buyer’s Guide to IoT, where I dive into the solutions and facts associated with scaling IIoT and confront four key categories to improve your facility’s IIoT traction.

Category 1: Pricing

Category 2: Products

Category 3: Positioning

Category 4: Politics

But before we get to that, we need to set the scene to understand how the IIoT market became so frustrating and impractical.  

Understanding the Frustrating IoT Market

In the mid-2010s, I ran an IIoT startup focused on the asset health of hydraulic fluids, pumps, filtration, and power units. We had sensors, dashboards, smart people, and a successful pilot program. But most of all, we had… confusion in the market – and a lot of it.

There was a vast spectrum of understanding growing as more jargon began entering the space. On one side, you had the folks who didn’t even know what IoT stood for, and on the other, you had those already dreaming of Industry 5.0. But, if we’re being honest, most of us found ourselves falling somewhere in the middle trying to successfully implement the foundations of Industry 3.0.

To add to the confusion, during that time, IIoT also began rubbing shoulders with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Big Data, and the ideas just kept getting bigger and more complex – like aging fishing stories.

I remember feeling sad because I knew, with all this erupting noise, the realities of IIoT were never going to live up to expectations. Private equity and venture capital groups were making unsubstantiated claims and injecting too much money into the space, wrongfully convincing immature companies to adopt IIoT too quickly, leaving those on the factory floor frustrated, disappointed, and disgruntled time and time again.

As for the giant companies putting pressure on us to prematurely jump in head-first, they stayed grossly high-level and struggled to produce anything real; their only priority was getting you to pay a pretty penny for their services. They were experts in selling their C-Suite solutions to unprepared factory floors, making their jobs harder than they needed to be.

The Effects of COVID-19

So, what happened with my IIoT startup?

We didn’t make it.

I may be partial, but I truly believe we had something special – we acknowledged the noisy market and fought to solve facility issues by producing real solutions. We had great momentum backed by successful proof of concepts straight from the field, and then COVID struck.

What’s a recipe for startup disaster? Take an already-confusing space and heap an overwhelming amount of corporate fear and confusion on top of it. Everything came to a screeching halt; most companies went into survival mode, leaving little room for experimentation and innovation. Understanding timing is everything, and being the realists that we were, we acknowledged it just wasn’t our time.

Before our sunset, we fought doggedly to fill in the gaps these giant companies had created. We worked directly with individuals just like you by helping to solve key issues, such as:

  • Nervous IT departments and tight capital budgets.
  • Infrastructure challenges around getting connected.
  • Pricing confusion.
  • Vendor silos.

I am disappointed to say that years later, those same issues are still prevalent. Now, I find myself in the unique position of no longer being affiliated with a specific company, and I feel called to pick up the torch and help guide us by offering solutions that are helpful, valuable, and real.

I can now look at both vendors and customers and ask the hard-hitting questions about why they struggle to work together and fail to get any type of IIoT traction.

Issues with Implementing IoT

I want to consider a fresh approach to reconciling our issues with IIoT traction on the factory floor – one that calls to the carpet the responsibilities of both the vendor and customer, because y’all are struggling big time.

On one hand, it seems IIoT vendors are sticking to the old adage of selling hammers and convincing everyone their problems are nails. Conversely, the customer wants something good, fast, and cheap. Let’s unpack the specifics of the real challenges preventing each from gaining traction.

Vendor Issues

  • Silos – Forcing customers into a solution that doesn’t work with the rest of their facility’s ecosystem is like asking them to go to the store and pick up chips, bread, and milk, and use three different checkout lines to pay. It’s inefficient and doesn’t make sense.
  • Pricing – Some are month-to-month Services as a Solution (SaaS), some want to hit the capital or maintenance budget, others offer “try before you buy” programs, but most have “hidden fees”.
  • Value – “Preventing downtime” isn’t an acceptable example of add-value, and it won’t make the sale. Potential customers need a real, tangible value, and if they can’t be shown how the solution will translate to true dollars and cents savings for their business case, a larger transaction shouldn’t take place.
  • Specifics – Some vendors are no better than “snake oil salesmen”, only providing high-level examples that lack any real substance behind them. If they can’t walk you through a specific use case supported by factual, in-depth details relating to your specific application, walk away.

Customer Issues

  • Pilots – Some customers find themselves being a “forever pilot” where they don’t really know what they’re looking for, and they hope the sensor will catch something to make a case for scaling the solution. They’re too afraid of risking asking for something that might not work, so they either move too slowly or not at all. 
  • Costs – Vendors can’t help you if you can’t provide them with specifics. All scalable IoT projects have some form of financial downtime or uptime model associated with them – if you can’t get these numbers, or if you don’t understand them, ask for help.
  • Effort – You say you want to move fast, but often simply getting started requires a dozen meetings with half of the organization, and when you’ve already used half of your budget for the “people costs” associated with installing the sensors, this can be difficult to accomplish.
  • Wallet – The maintenance wallet has a unique habit of being thinner than paper during good times and infinitely wide when things hit the fan. We need to find a consistent, happy middle ground in order to invest in helpful technology.

I’ve intentionally said the quiet part out loud – there are sales models out there that suggest the actual selling process should involve:

  • Lying
  • Stealing
  • Hiding

This isn’t done maliciously or intentionally but because we lack the information, time, or patience needed to have important and direct conversations. This leads to us overstating or understating budget and availability, wanting as much information as possible for free, and avoiding calls and emails when we don’t have answers.

This leads to both sides being frustrated, disappointed, and disgruntled. Again.

The four vendor and customer issues must be confronted to resuscitate the Industrial Internet of Things. The question is whether we have the desire and capacity to do so. I have personally seen companies prevent tens of millions of dollars in downtime events because of IoT – I know it’s possible, it’s just hard.


As this story continues beyond this article, I will reach out to both vendors and customers to have the hard conversations, learn more about the specifics, and share them with you through my living IoT Buyer’s Guide that you will have direct access to via Reliable Plant.

During this process, I will:

  • Strive for vendor clarity on siloed solutions and confusing pricing models.
  • Look for vendors that have specific, valuable solutions to sell and highlight them for you.
  • Guide you on how to have your ducks in a row so you can land a quality vendor and effectively scale their solution.
  • Question you on what you plan to do with the IoT data and how you will create value for your operations.

Through this process, I hope to provide the missing piece to this puzzle with authentic value for both you and your vendors.

If you have any questions or would like me to call you specifically, reach out to me at

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About the Author

Jeremy Drury is the vice president of IoT Diagnostics. He is focused on connecting prediction to production with the industrial internet of things. As a veteran of the manufacturing industry, Je...