Christian Neumann

08.05.2019
5 min reading time

We are not a marketplace and also not an IoT platform

We are not a marketplace and also not an IoT platform

There are a lot of buzzwords flying around the world. Unfortunately, it happens far too often that meanings are lost or blurred beyond recognition. In a world that is currently developing, such as in the context of digitization, this is usually very natural. After all, it must first become clear which term means what.

As a party affected by the discussion, we as tapio want to create some clarity here. After all, only if we all have a common, equal understanding of the terms can we exchange meaningful and value-adding information. The whole discussion reminds very strongly of the beginnings of the "Cloud" debates, until finally someone clearly defined what PaaS, IaaS, and Co. are, much was discussed past each other. We want to explain the following terms in this article:

  1. (IoT) - / (IIoT) - / Technology Platform
  2. eCommerce
  3. Marketplace
  4. Ecosystem

Platforms of any kind

This refers only to a technical infrastructure with which solutions are developed and/or on which these solutions are operated. The additions IoT (Internet of Things) or IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) are pure marketing " Blend Grenades." The intention is to express that certain technical functionalities exist on the platform that have been developed especially for these applications.

Here one can argue whether it is still worthwhile to use such additions because the large platform providers all have very comparable functions in the portfolio. So it is no longer a real differentiator. If you look under the hood of the platforms, you will find technical differences, and it should not be said here that it does not matter which platform you take, but the selection must be made based on the "purpose" and not from a purely technical point of view.

You can compare it a bit with the various car manufacturers. Their products are all driving, all have at least four wheels and you can get from A to B. What you do with them is up to you, and you can choose the best product based on your needs.

eCommerce

It actually came up around the turn of the millennium when the first widespread offers were created where you could buy goods "online." The "e" actually only indicated that there was now an electronic channel in addition to the traditional channels (such as a shop, paper catalog).

What is typical here is that it is about physical goods that are only selected and ordered electronically. Furthermore, it is a 1:1 relationship between a customer and a retailer or manufacturer who sells the products. If the manufacturer sells the goods himself, this is often referred to as "direct sales." This is especially the case if the manufacturer otherwise only sells via dealers. The avoidance of the dealers was often seen as a strategic goal of the manufacturers to collect the margin of the dealers for themselves. In some industries, this has also become an established model. Just think about your hotel or flight bookings: when was the last time you were in a travel agency?

But as soon as a product is worth explaining or it is not entirely straightforward to find the right variant or configuration, expert advice is still necessary and thus often a qualified dealer. eCommerce is therefore merely one of many channels, especially in the B2B environment. However, eCommerce still has a hard time selling goods that require explanation.

If you have ever tried to configure a car on a website, then you know in what depths you can lose yourself. Now imagine what it would be like if you had to assemble your new CNC machine yourself online for the particular production process. You can do it, but you don't have to! As a tech-savvy enthusiast, this experience may be a great weekend activity. But this time is not efficient.

Classical e-commerce will provide more and more solutions and configurators for a wide variety of products in small steps. The next few years will show how far we can go here. This will also show whether, for example, the furniture trade is primarily handled via e-commerce.

Marketplace

Actually the same as eCommerce only with the small difference that on or by means of the marketplace not only products of the manufacturer or the dealer are offered, who operates the marketplace, but that completely many different offerers are active. The analogy really comes from weekly marketplaces, as you may still know them from your city. At a central location, many dealers/manufacturers set up their stands at one day and try to sell their products to you. The physical place where the market takes place would then be the "platform" (see 1).

The "marketplace" in the digital sense works in the same way, and it is usually also about physical products. In the beginning, Amazon was essentially an eCommerce trade for books. But what Amazon now also has is the "Amazon Marketplace." Here Amazon only acts as an intermediary. Third parties" sell their goods on the Amazon Marketplace. Here Amazon is the marketplace and is the foundation for others to sell their products. What all retailers have in common is that they use the essential functions of Amazon. In any case, the presentation of the goods and the billing. In some cases even the logistics, namely when Amazon delivers on behalf of the retailer from an Amazon warehouse. Otherwise, it is pure price competition, and everyone fights against everyone. The competition on a marketplace is very price driven and is not a successful business for all retailers.

Ecosystem

The ecosystem now refers to the fact that various participants have realized that it is also necessary to realize content-related synergy for the customer. It is not enough to have an infinite number of services in one place, as in a marketplace situation, it must also be possible for different services to complement each other. If you only think of physical goods, this sounds trivial. If you buy a pot and a cooking spoon on a marketplace, it doesn't matter whether the two producers have an ecosystem or not. They will work together in your kitchen. But if you go into a digital world and it's no longer about physical goods, but about services, then it becomes clearer why an ecosystem is something other than a marketplace.

tapio provides such an ecosystem where different manufacturers can not only offer their digital services but also exchange information about machines, tools, and materials. This leads to common digital services that provide added value to the customer.

Let's take our tapio MachineBoard as an example. In a marketplace, you could buy independent solutions from the various machine manufacturers to monitor their machines. Then you would have a central place where you could find multiple products just like in an app store, but you would find it very difficult to leverage synergies. Namely, only if the various manufacturers can exchange information bilaterally. It's like the situation you have on your smartphone today with messaging apps. Or have you ever managed to have WhatsApp messages appear in your iMessage account?

As an ecosystem, tapio and its partners take a different approach. Everyone should and can develop and market their own solutions! As an ecosystem orchestrator, however, tapio makes sure that synergies are not lost. So a customer can see the information about the different manufacturer machines in the MachineBoard, and these are also immediately understandable. All machines show their condition in the same way, e.g., in an idle situation. This provides customers with a clear overview of their machines.
With machine monitoring, this may still be simple, but now try to imagine what it would be like if all the physical objects in a production line could also know each other digitally, exchange information with each other? A very colorful network of synergies could be created, and the various participants could focus on their specialist know-how.

In an ecosystem, the goal is therefore to jointly develop customer benefits.

In this sense, I hope that we were able to create some clarity.

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