Lexmark is using its in-house Internet of Things platform to deliver a portfolio of IoT solutions to other businesses, in what could represent a huge growth area for the company beyond the printer market, the company said.
On Wednesday, the Lexington-based company, Ky. announced the launch of the Leomark Optra IoT Platform, the first in a planned series of IoT solutions in the new Optra portfolio.
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With this announcement, Lexmark is officially “expanding into the IoT space,” said Phil Carter, director of Managed Printing Services and IoT at Lexmark, in an interview with CRN.
Optra Solutions will utilize Lexmark’s own IoT platform, which is built to enhance the delivery of company-managed printing services. For the use of Lexmark, the platform has included taking data from sensors into devices manufactured and managed by the company, and then combining data from business systems to provide crucial knowledge to customers – enabling results such as forecasting services and asset optimization, Lexmark said.
Bringing the IoT platform to other companies, “is a natural extension of what we are doing today, drawing on our history,” Carter said.
“We know IoT is difficult and it is expensive. And people get stuck,” he said. “We really think our background in managed printing services gives us credibility where others may not have it.”
With the Lexmark Optra IoT Platform, customers will be able to link data from their devices to data from other recording systems, such as a CRM or ERP system. “It’s located between them and it’s really the central and central intelligence that connects those data sources,” Carter said.
The launch of Optra IoT also follows Lexmark’s expansion into cloud services including cloud printing management and cloud fleet management, which the company has maintained as a major differentiator from other print industry vendors.
While Lexmark is not announcing a capability for channel partners to participate around Optra IoT at launch, the company plans to discover ways for partners to be included in Lexmark’s IoT group in the coming quarters, Carter said.
Here are five key things you need to know about Lexmark IoT expansion.
The service of creators of connected devices
For the first IoT solution coming from Lexmark, the Optra IoT Platform, the company is focusing on sales to related device manufacturers.
In theory, any creator of connected devices could use the Optra IoT Platform, Carter said. The platform has “wide applicability,” he said.
Some verticals that may be a particularly good fit for the platform include retail and medical equipment, Carter said. Lexmark has piloted the platform with medical device manufacturers, a bank kiosk vendor, a bedding manufacturer (which offers a mattress that includes sensors) and a manufacturer of heavy mining equipment.
After all, with the Optra IoT Platform, “we’re inventing how connected device makers use IoT to deliver results,” Carter said.
Future offerings in the Optra IoT Solutions portfolio may include advanced solutions, such as connecting Optra IoT with edge-based intelligence-based solutions, he said.
Activation of the Forecasting Service
As customers connect data from devices to other recording systems using Lexmark’s Optra IoT Platform, one of the key results is enabling predictive service on the device, Carter said.
This enables device manufacturers to move from reactive service – where something breaks down and the user has to call for support – to a more proactive service approach, he said.
As sensor data flows into the Optra IoT platform, Lexmark implements its catalog of AI algorithm and machine learning, Carter said.
“He points out an issue if he sees a problem before it shows up. And then that client’s operational support center can now take predictive action,” he said. “So it lowers the internal cost – they can pool service calls together. They can create a better user or customer experience for their end customers, as they are now actively reaching out and not waiting for it to show up.” a problem. “
Since devices also need to be replaced over time, Lexmark’s Optra IoT Platform can help optimize this life cycle, too, Carter said.
Instead of simply replacing devices based on a set schedule – for example every year X – the Optra IoT platform can look at device performance from field sensor feedback, he said. The platform can also link that response to service logs.
“You are now making a smarter decision about when that device should be replaced,” Carter said. “Or it may be that you want to have an optimized fleet on the ground. You can make sure you have the right equipment in the right places at the right time for customers.”
For example, maybe a customer’s office is consolidating or retail outlets are closing – the Optra IoT platform can help keep fleets optimized and profitable as they change, he said.
Using the Optra IoT Platform could also serve as an incentive for product innovation, Carter said.
With the platform, “I can monitor a device since it was designed at the R&D center, when it was manufactured online, when it was shipped to the field, when it is finishing in the field, and finally when it is sunset. If you can connect it the device at every step, you have what we call a digital thread that connects them all, “he said.
“I can now make much smarter decisions for all of my technical teams looking at current products in the field – but also future products in the future,” Carter said. “I can reduce the cycle time of my R&D cycles for new products, and I can also be more effective. I can fix quality problems in the field in a much more targeted way.”
Opportunities for Future Partners
For the initial launch of the Opto IoT Platform, Lexmark is not immediately engaging with solution providers around the platform as IoT is such a new area for the company – but it will not stay that way for long, Carter said. “You will see announcements with us, with partners, in the coming quarters,” he said.
The company expects its IoT push to represent an “essential opportunity” for future partners, Carter said.
Opportunities expected include co-selling opportunities with partners, which “we think will increase over time,” he said.
Other partner options may include providing solutions and services that can help clients connect to the Optra IoT Platform – such as equipping a field device with electronics and sensors, Carter said.
“Arly is clear in the IoT space, as you create a solution from side to side, you will have different partners [involved with] the solution, “he said.” We are early, but we have a vision of where we can connect those partners over time. “