On the one hand, a company with decades of experience in Operational Technology (OT) for some of the worlds largest and most complex operations. On the other, a telecommunications company that serves customers in 180 countries with a massive global communications network and related products. Put the two together and you either have an example of two old-world vendors jointly fighting for relevance in a changing world or else a partnership with huge synergies.

That is the situation with the recently announced partnership between BT and Hitachi to develop industrial and enterprise IoT solutions. With an initial Focus on Asset Intelligence and Predictive Maintenance Use Cases, but clearly a vision that goes far beyond that, the partnership unites BT’s global network infrastructure, cloud capabilities and cyber security expertise with Hitachi’s OT and information technology (IT) expertise, the latest version of its Lumada IoT platform software and integrated IoT services and solutions portfolio.

Fitting the pieces together

At first blush, this makes sense. If we look at what a successful IoT initiative requires, there are a few discrete parts: experience and creating and running IT assets, experience at deploying technology to industrial setting and experience with the connections between all those multitudinous nodes. Finally, experience tying that all together in a robust and secure way is a key requirement. Indeed Bas Burger, the CEO of BT’s Global Services business, spoke of this symbiosis when the deal was announced:

Our partnership with Hitachi will help BT to accelerate innovation and ease the path to digitalisation and IoT for our customers around the globe. Hitachi’s OT, IT and IoT expertise, long-standing customer engagements and its Lumada IoT Platform will combine ideally with our global infrastructure, cloud services and cybersecurity expertise to create powerful IoT offerings that will help maximise the success of our global customers’ digital transformation journeys.

Riffing on the partnership aspects of this deal, Ryuichi Otsuki, CEO at Hitachi Vantara and vice-president at Hitachi Ltd also spoke of synergies saying:

IoT represents a critical inflection point, in which the interests of business, industry and society are now intersecting and aligning like never before. We see the creation of strategic partnerships with leaders and market makers like BT as a critical underpinning to Hitachi’s IoT strategy as we move our company and business into the next phase of its evolution.”


There are two ways to look at this. The first way, one which Hitachi and BT’s marketing folks will love, is that this is an example of two venerable organizations leveraging some very real market scale and reach and developing shared solutions that deliver immense value to their customers.

The other angle and one which those aforementioned marketing folks will be less comfortable with is that this is an example of two challenged (some might suggest threatened) vendors, getting together to try and ensure ongoing commercial relevance.

As mentioned, both BT and Hitachi face some turbulent times and threats from existing and emergent players, when threatened, it is natural enough to jump into the arms of a well-known partner. But that, of course, doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do.

To be fair, there is some very real potential here and providing the two organizations break away from traditional large-vendor models and behaviors and actually embrace these new opportunities, this partnership could be a fruitful one. Nothing is guaranteed, however, and it’ll be fun to check back in a year or so to see how transformational this partnership really was.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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