Customer demands for emerging technologies are driving IT channel companies to experiment with the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), drones, 3D printers, and virtual reality (VR), according to a Tuesday report from CompTIA.

Some 72% of executives at 400 US IT businesses surveyed said that customer demand is their primary reason for offering emerging technologies. This demand is also driving vertical industry specialization by these channel partners, 62% said. Three-fourths of companies said they are optimistic about the channel’s future, up from 63% in 2016, the report found.

“More and more customers are getting ahead of the curve and proactively seeking out new technology solutions to help their business,” Carolyn April, senior director for industry analysis at CompTIA, said in a press release. “They still rely on their technology providers for guidance and insight, and not every customer is this proactive, but a growing number of end users are comfortable doing their own due diligence and research on new and emerging technologies.”

SEE: IT leader’s guide to the future of artificial intelligence (Tech Pro Research)

Emerging technologies including IoT, AI, and VR present a new revenue opportunity for the IT channel, according to 75% of executives surveyed. Companies are either experimenting with or offering IoT software (48%), IoT hardware (47%), AI (42%), VR (37%), and blockchain (34%), the report found.

In terms of emerging tech challenges, executives cited the need for technical training (58%), the cost of entry into the market (45%), and difficulty hiring staff with the right skills (43%) as the largest challenges, according to the report.

More channel firms are also seeking out vertical industry specialization, the report noted, as 75% said having at least some vertical industry work within their business is important. However, it remains unclear how many companies are fully immersed in a vertical industry.

“Selling the same infrastructure solutions that they would sell to any other type of

customer is very different than becoming a real vertical industry specialist,” April said in the release. “A specialist understands the very specific applications, needs and requirements that pertain to that industry. They become a de facto expert for that industry. That’s where the money is.”

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • 72% of executives at US IT businesses said that customer demand is their primary reason for offering emerging technologies like AI, IoT, and VR. — CompTIA, 2018
  • 75% of executives surveyed said emerging technologies present new revenue opportunities for their companies. — CompTIA, 2018