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The tech industry generally doesn't have a shortage of desire for "champions" - companies that throw their marketing budget and/or technology leadership behind an industry or technology. The splash they make then serves as a rising tide lifting all boats, making everybody rich and comfortable. Sometimes champions are being summoned to places for which they would be its only hope for future relevance, whereas sometimes they pop up organically (like champignons, you could say) in places where the environment simply is fertile and favourable. In the former case the champions don't normally bother to show up, while in the latter case they show up to further speed up things that are already moving. 

The IoT industry could be counted as an example of the latter. On one hand it is clearly moving on with its own natural momentum (go on, just take my word for it) and on the other hand it has already attracted several major champions. Cisco and Qualcomm are championing the Internet of Everything, IBM is championing the Smarter Planet, and GE is championing the Industrial Internet. They all take somewhat different angles, but their core message is more or less the same. The physical and digital worlds are merging, or at least extensively converging, and that allows us to do a lot more. As a compromise we all could agree to call the outcome the Internet of, You Know, Stuff, or IoYKS, but let's not, for nobody likes five-character acronyms where one of the characters sticks out as a lower case.

While the IoT would materialise even without the said champion buzz, they are most likely accelerating it by raising the awareness around the concept more than a little. When it comes to this awareness-building effect, then, I would actually name Salesforce.com as my favourite IoT champion. That's because Salesforce is the one whose involvement can most help to make the IoT to reach firms and professionals that otherwise might not buy in to it anytime soon. By the firms I mean B2C businesses, and by the professionals I mean executives responsible for sales, marketing and CRM.

This matters because the early IoT strongholds have generally been found in industrial settings, and in business cases that are mainly about optimizing the use of existing assets, reducing costs, and eliminating waste. Being introduced to the CMO's office through Salesforce allows the IoT players to provide a whole different kind of value - strengthen the relationship with the customer and increase sales, and possibly even in consumer-facing environments.

At ABI Research we call this type of a value proposition Customers-for-Life business models, and we've discussed it e.g. in our recent webinar about the subject. You can listen to the replay here, with the part about this and other new business models being around the 50-minute mark. Salesforce refers to its vision as the "Internet of Customers", but I promise that this is the last time I ever type that term, because with corporate pomposity we really need to draw a line somewhere.

Either way, as an IoT proposition it's all about turning a traditionally one-off product purchase into a long-running service relationship with the customer. CEO Mark Benioff's keynote at this week's Dreamforce event indicated that Salesforce will be increasing its investment in the IoT, in order to facilitate the building of such relationships, so the SaaS group is certainly starting to look like one to watch here. It's thus also no wonder that IoT vendors like Axeda, Digi, ThingWorx, and Xively are all flocking to the Salesforce land. That's the place to be for anyone who wants to benefit from the upcoming product-to-service wave. All hail the champ.

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