IoT Lab Munich—the partnership. Discuss the benefits of the partnership

By Victor Paradell, vice president, IoT Solutions & Analytics, EMEA at Tech Data

The Internet of Things (IoT) is connecting humanity to physical objects in ways we never imagined. With billions of objects exchanging an endless stream of data and becoming active participants in business processes enabled by the cloud, IoT is helping businesses transform the way they operate, creating significant efficiency gains and improved customer experience. Worldwide, IoT is a huge business, as global spending on the technology reached more than $643.8 billion in 2015 and, it is expected to account for approximately $998 billion of IT budgets in 2018.

Analytics and IoT offer the opportunity for partners to deliver new services and infrastructure, by building out existing platforms to offer even more value from them. The channel is in a unique position; it has access to a constantly developing technology landscape, and a partner ecosystem that is tapped into numerous verticals on the cusp of next-generation technology adoption. As customers become smarter, organisations recognise the importance of cross-vendor solutions and IoT applications will fast become a reality.

So, what is Technology Solutions, formerly a division of Avnet and now part of Tech Data, doing within the IoT sector and why is its recent partnership with the IBM Watson Lab so important? By working closely with IBM’s leading technologists and IoT experts, Tech Data plans to enhance its existing IoT technical expertise through hands-on training and on-the-job learning. Tech Data’s team of IoT and analytics experts will partner with IBM on joint business development opportunities across multiple industries including smart manufacturing, logistics & transportation, retail and smart spaces. This enables the future to look even more connected than ever before, meaning everything from your car to your home, to your kitchen, to the collar on your pet will be linked. By partnering with IBM, Tech Data is taking the guesswork out of IoT developments by building a solid ecosystem of the ‘bread-and-butter’ technology companies they can work with to develop IoT solutions.

IoT is important for Tech Data as it has the potential to transform every industry. Tech Data’s vendors are actively involved in developing products and solutions that will accelerate the adoption of IoT and further advance the industry.

Tech Data is perfectly positioned as an IoT aggregator, right at the centre of the IoT ecosystem, to create and optimise IoT solutions thanks to the 360-degree view of the market it possesses, from the heart of the technology supply chain.

Tech Data and IBM will work closely together to accelerate solution development with IBM’s Watson IoT and Bluemix platforms. This includes proof of concept models, IoT starter kits and an extensive catalogue of DevOps, mobile and analytics services delivered via IBM’s and Tech Datas’ cloud platforms. These IoT starter kits are just a glimpse of how this collaboration can help companies across the globe begin their IoT journey. Another reason the IoT lab is vital to Tech Data’s position in the field is that it aligns customers with capabilities and services to address the entire range of IoT complexities, such as sensor design and development, infrastructure and gateway solutions, connectivity options, cloud IoT platforms, and global inventory management; all of which will bring customers to the forefront of the IoT sector.

The new joint lab will be a key place for customers and partners to come together to collaborate and advance their solution design. It is a vital resource that will be an asset to the Tech Data portfolio over the long term. In a nutshell, Tech Data’s mission for the sector is to aggregate IoT solutions and provide a simplified route to the rapidly expanding IoT market for partners to bring innovative connected solutions to customers to make IoT visions a reality.

Posted under Internet of Things (IoT)

This post was written by on May 17, 2017

Avnet makes a push into IoT through Mars rover demo

Avnet is going out of this world to show customers that they are industry leaders in the universe of IoT (Internet of Things) solutions. In November at the inaugural IoT Emerge event in Chicago, Avnet used a Mars rover mock-up to demonstrate a complete IoT-enabled application.

IMG_3059

Visitors to Avnet’s fully interactive exhibit could ‘drive’ the rover around a Mars-like terrain and watch it send telemetry back from the surface of the ‘planet’ to a display screen. This allowed people to engage with various elements of the IoT solution including, integrated sensing, security and cloud connectivity.

John Weber, IoT technical solutions manager, says the idea of a Mars rover exhibit originated from the philosophy of Avnet helping customers go further. “We came up with the Mars theme because in the end, Mars is pretty far out there. And so, I thought, what sort of internet connected things would be relevant to that.”

With help from partners, Software Productivity Strategists (SPS), Weber and his team built three Mars rovers. Each Mars rover is a modified 1/16 scale remote-controlled rock crawler that’s topped by a board stack. It’s also equipped with a USB backup battery, which powers the boards on top. The boards are made up of Avnet’s IoT starter kit and a sensing board from NXP Semiconductors.

“We used our IoT starter kit, which has everything a customer needs to capture sensor data and send it to the internet,” says Weber. But his team also needed a way to digitize data and include a meaningful user interface. “We had sensors from NXP and our IoT starter kit, but we needed to bring that all together along with the third element, the cloud.” The rovers were originally built in about four weeks. Avnet had all the hardware for the rovers, and also developed the firmware. SPS built out the user interface for the rover demo.

So how did we do it?

When people visited the Avnet booth, they were able to remotely control the rover around the foam Mars terrain (a 6-foot by 8-foot piece of foam), whilst the rover was capturing the acceleration and gyroscope data. “Earth’s gravity is an acceleration vector and we capture that vector as part of it,” says Weber. “The gyroscope indicates how fast the rover is turning in three different axes.” Also, on board the rover is a digital compass, which shows what direction the rover is pointed.

MarsGraphic

The team programmed the IoT starter kit to capture sensor data at 10 times per second, changed the format into JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) and sent it to their IBM Bluemix application. The data then goes to IBM Watson IoT Foundation, the messaging service which connects to the rover and receiving messages. Users can then view the live data and real-time analytics. This is very similar to what Avnet’s customers are doing when they’re building an IoT connected product.

The rover’s message

Weber explained, “We want customers to come to us if they have a need like this because we can help them with the entire solution, through our design and support capabilities. We’re not talking about just a board they are putting together or a sensor they are building, but the entire solution.” Avnet has the ability to do this through partnerships it has with other companies — to help customers create the complete solution. The idea behind this experiment was to showcase that the rover is relevant to IoT in the sense that we’re still talking about ‘the edge’ being the rover, ‘enterprise’ being the cloud, and then making use of the data one way or the other.

Avnet already has a tremendous technology portfolio in IoT. Mindful that it needs to continually innovate, Avnet is looking at adding more value and making customers’ lives a lot easier by adding services and capabilities that push them higher in the value stack.

Avnet has the ability to provide all the ingredients, including world-class engineers that customers use to design their products. “IoT is much more than just the pieces and bits that make up a board. It’s about an entire system,” says Weber.

 

Posted under Internet of Things (IoT)

This post was written by on February 20, 2017

Avnet’s 2017 Predictions

Marcus Adae, Vice President Strategic Suppliers, Avnet Technology Solutions EMEA

Marcus Adae, Vice President Strategic Suppliers,
Avnet Technology Solutions EMEA

 

2016 has been an exciting year for technology, and 2017 will be equally as fast paced.

 

This is how we see the next year shaping up in terms of technology trends:

 

 

 

  1. Advance machine learning: The next stage in IoT and connected technologies

This year, much has been written about the power of the Internet of Things (IoT). Advanced machine learning is the next stage in generating real value from intelligent, connected devices. Leveraging machine learning and cognitive computing with connected smart devices allows humans to interact with technology and their surroundings in ways which will drive innovation forward at an unprecedented pace. Prominent examples include self-driving cars and delivery drones, as well as products that will increasingly make up the smart home such as smart meters and other home automation products.  As the gap narrows between the physical and digital world, the door opens wider for companies to explore new and innovative products and services both in the commercial and consumer sectors, which will ultimately enrich the way we interact with our world day to day.

Advancements in machine learning and cognitive computing will greatly benefit the technology sector. As this kind of technology becomes more reliable and trusted, companies will start to use it to explore entirely new business models, gaining hidden insights to their markets and operations which previously may never have been discovered. In October 2016, Uber used a self-driving truck to make its first autonomous delivery of 50,000 cans of Budweiser beer. There are still many regulations to work through, like insurance and accident liability, but in 2017 we will see many more disruptive businesses start to deploy these technologies into real-world scenarios. Only those who can demonstrate innovation by developing solutions that complement IoT and machine learning will benefit, and 2017 will see a significant rise in the number of initiatives being invested in.

Connected technologies can help nearly any industry, but are becoming more popular within logistics. IoT will support shipments and cargo, allowing them to be constantly monitored and all the information gathered can be sent back to HQ, enabling the industry to become more reliable and dynamic. We’ve already seen Amazon piloting the usage of drones for rapid and premium delivery services, but we can expect to see many of the traditional logistics companies such as UPS and FedEx starting to get into the connected technology game throughout 2017.

 

  1. Mobile technologies in the ever changing tech world

With mobile technology now ubiquitous as it is, it has become more or less an extension of our very selves, often acting as the voice and eyes into the digital part of our existence, be it our online social interactions, our work emails or our EBay addiction. Interacting with a mobile device, especially for the younger generation feels natural and intuitive.  As this technology advances, the opportunities for mobile technologies to improve workflow become limitless. Mobility has become a life and work style, and is an accelerator of cloud adoption enabling increasingly more flexible approaches to collaboration, sharing of data and time management. At the same time, the rapid move to the cloud for core applications such as ERP, CRM and other productivity tools is accelerating the adoption of mobile solutions, empowering the mobile worker.

Who will benefit the most from the other and grow faster? It is certainly not an easy call but one thing is sure, in 2017 mobility will be an even bigger opportunity for the channel, especially for managed services and mobile security.

 

  1. Analytics are becoming fundamental to the distribution sector

Analytics is an increasingly critical part of any business and is one that will certainly become more important and prominent in 2017. Analytics offers more insight than ever before to help organisations make better business decisions in real-time. Partners that service the supply chain will be aware it has never been more important to know more than simply what your customers are buying. These organisations are embracing advanced and cognitive analytics to understand what their customers are thinking and what motivates them, as well as insight into what supply is needed and where it is in the warehouse. Data is very much the new oil, the value of putting your data to work to empower multiple lines of business, from operations, to marketing, to sales, will unlock untold potential for many organisations. One example of this is the Industry 4.0 and the smart factory. This involves the coming together of a number of technologies, but analytics will play a big role in modelling the wealth of sensor data in a factory to determine output, machine health and production quality in conjunction with using analytics to determine demand and predict issues. The smart factory is expected to contribute to an economic boom, which many refer to as the 4th Industrial Revolution.

This is obviously a very grand example, but in 2017 the channel will see more customers becoming heavily reliant on detailed business insight from their data to gain competitive market advantage. Cognitive computing will give them competitive edge and deep customer understanding and become the basis for how and where they grow. The substantial growth in cloud as a platform for innovation will provide new routes to market to support this.

 

  1. The cloud will become a starting point for business transformation

This year we have seen cloud adoption and trust in cloud technology move forward at orders of magnitude far greater than previous years. The ways in which it has been adopted ranges from the born in the cloud start-up companies benefiting from the mobility and low investment risk that cloud brings, to the enterprise leveraging new and interesting approaches to B2B connectivity, streamlining cross company operations and collaboration. Another big driving force of cloud is the sheer volume of consumers that services can address today and the unpredictability of demand around those services. Organisations need cloud to be agile and flexible in handling that demand while also ensuring continued availability of service and facilitating ease of access to those services through any manner of devices. Cloud, when used correctly, addresses all of these challenges.

The cloud will also become an enabler for new security solutions, especially data security, as its perceived disadvantages transform into advantages. The European General Data Protection Regulation that will be adopted in May 2018 will put pressure on companies to ensure the security of data collected. Companies wishing to move to the cloud quicker in order to outsource these responsibilities will benefit from a better quality of IT infrastructure, provided by companies with a clear focus and mandate around data security in the cloud. This will dramatically reduce capex spending, allowing organisations to invest in local security products and services for their current on-premise IT networks.

Cloud technologies and businesses’ attitudes toward the cloud are maturing daily, with less companies seeing it as a rogue element (or shadow IT, as it’s often referred to). As more companies are stitching it into the fabric of their core IT strategy, it has become more trusted than ever and in many senses has become a data and services fabric bringing new levels of agility to those organisations that embrace it.

With the cloud likely to take over in 2017, other sectors may feel a bit of a hit. The cloud is beginning to be seen as the most reliable storage, security and business transformation solution on the market, and IT departments will need to undergo a digital transformation in all of these areas to stay ahead.

The key for the upcoming year will be to ensure partners tap into both data centres and cloud expertise, combining all their strengths to become the ‘one-stop-shop’ for technology solutions, and creating a fool-proof way to succeed within the cloud in 2017.

Posted under Big data, Cloud Computing, Internet of Things (IoT)

This post was written by on December 16, 2016

“NOT another dashboard!” and “No more alarms either!” – The case for visualisation in utility companies

Visualisation is a catch-all term for displaying data, usually via web or mobile, in a graphical, conversational and an intuitive way.

David Hartwell, Business Development, Digital Transformation, Avnet Technology Solutions EMEA

David Hartwell, Business Development, Digital Transformation, Avnet Technology Solutions EMEA

Nowhere have I seen a more urgent need for visualisation than in utilities. There are tens, or even hundreds of thousands of sensors in a typical water utility company’s network, and the increased need to understand their network better, with the ever-closer promise of practical smart metering, means there is going to be an explosion in the number of sensors connected to their systems and consequently, the amount of data they’ll have to deal with.

Information overload

Water utility control rooms in most large utilities are typically handling well over a million alarms a year and someone is supposed to look at, and make a decision on, every one of them. If we ever get smart water meters, which promise to allow flow, temperature and pressure measurement at every customer, then the problem gets much bigger than it is now.  If the water network looks like branches of a tree, then they’ll be measuring down to leaf level. Will all this data help understand the network better? I really don’t think it will until the way network data presentation changes. The benefit of such granular data is clear, as it will enable the water companies to manage their networks in a more pro-active and efficient manner, but it carries the considerable downside of being “Data rich but information poor” and overloading the operations teams.

Better network knowledge

The three main operating costs for water companies are: electrical energy, chemicals and labour. Taking the largest cost item, electrical energy as an example; water is heavy, therefore, water companies consume huge quantities of it to transfer this essential liquid to our homes and industry. If average and peak pipe pressures could be reduced in order to save energy; there’ll also be less leaks, which means a double benefit. Treatment of sewage also requires energy intensive processes to clean it to the high standards required before being discharged; this is an area where process improvements and optimisation can again reduce energy costs. If the behaviour of the network and treatment plants can be better understood and optimised in more detail, then the companies can reduce this major cost, and maybe bills will even go down. Everyone will be happy, especially customers and regulators. This is just one example of a concrete business case for visualisation.

Knowledge is not systemised

However, there is an easy trap to fall into: just measuring more doesn’t make you understand better; in fact it can be quite the opposite, as there can often be quite contradictory measurements in a complex system like a water network. An operations manager will have an innate understanding of the system and how it is behaving – they balance, optimise and cope with emergencies; the model of the network behaviour seems to be hard wired in their brains, but even they cannot do justice to all the information available from the network sensors and optimise the network as a whole, for the multitude of parameters required from temperature, pressure, flow, water quality and others.

Single system view

As yet more systems are brought in to monitor an ever-increasing range of parameters, more screens need to be reviewed, maybe with more alarms (certainly the case with IOT). A common cry from both IT and operations is – “Not another dashboard” or “Please, no more alarms”. What’s needed is an integrated, single graphical view that combines graphical information system views, system topography, disaster planning and many others into a single whole. This is not some massive systems integration project that will require huge investment and unable to show any benefit for years, but an over-the-top visualisation that draws data from current systems, but even more importantly, has the ability to learn rules from real people (e.g. operations and maintenance staff) and for itself (machine learning). Such an implementation would reduce the amount of alarms by a large factor. Couple this with predictive analytics, where, for example, weather predictions could be used to set the network up for maximum resilience to flooding, for instance pumping out all the wet wells (small reservoirs) in the affected area in advance of a major weather event, or to predict when garden sprinklers would be used and for how long.

More systems equal more silos

It’s a fact of life that information systems will be replaced and more of them will appear in the operations environment; each one of course adds value, but at the same time adds workload and another silo of information. However, the value of the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts if they could be seen as a single entity: “The network”. Visualisation of data is a good place to start; I have long held the belief that everyone in a water company should have access to a mobile app that would tell them the health of the network at least at summary level. I can think of a few operations directors who would shake my hand if I could give them an app for their Smartphone that informed them, in real time, what was happening in their part of the network; showing outfalls, water quality issues, burst mains, unplanned outages, and other key network parameters.

It’s not so hard to start if you think “Agile”

So, what to do? I recommend starting with the users who have to make the most complex operational decisions and discuss in a workshop environment, how they’d like their dashboard to look; then build a “wire frame” (non-working prototype), which should be completed in days, not weeks and constantly iterate the design and build with the users involved every step of the way. This is known as agile development and is the de facto standard for implementing quality visualisation projects. I’d make sure some machine decision making capability, however basic, was also included, as rules development is a key skill. An agile approach to IT implementations is novel in the utilities space, but where I have helped implement it, it has created users who embrace these new systems because they feel ownership, want to make it work and know how to get it improved quickly. With some help, most utilities have the internal resources to be able to do this themselves, they just need to be shown how.

 

David Hartwell started his career in the UK Ministry of Defence and spent 21 years in the nuclear industry primarily engineering control and safety systems for various production and experimental nuclear processes. Since leaving the MOD, he has lived and worked in various countries from China, United Arab Emirates, Hungary, Netherlands and the USA implementing engineering software solutions. He joined Avnet just over a year ago to join the then new IOT division. Previously, he was UK sales leader at IBM for the MobileFirst mobile platform products. His career has spanned engineering, project & programme management, pre-sales, business development and sales disciplines.

Posted under Internet of Things (IoT)

This post was written by on November 11, 2016

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Will IoT and M2M mean anything for the channel?

IoT and M2M learning are going to get a lot of coverage this year but do they offer any revenue generating potential for the channel?

Craig Smith, director IoT & Analytics, EMEA, Avnet Technology Solutions

Craig Smith, director IoT & Analytics, EMEA, Avnet
Technology Solutions

Whilst the notion “anything that can be connected, will be connected” may be a bit overwhelming, this is not a new concept for the channel where networking and security is the mainstay of business.

The opportunity that Internet of Things (IoT) opens up for enterprise connectivity is immense.  Employee productivity, increased asset utilisation and supply chain efficiencies are just some of the key benefits organisations will enjoy.

One of the most exciting opportunities is greater use of smart devices in the enterprise space.  More easily accessible, near real-time organisational and operational information will lead to greater efficiencies for frontline staff and faster more effective decision making for business leaders. The networking and security infrastructure requirements to deal with vast amounts of data and analytics will provide the perfect storm of opportunities for the channel.

In this enterprise connectivity phase of IoT, the market for analytics software will open up even further.  The need for predictive and reflective analytics will present an ideal opportunity for consultancy and services for those business partners skilled and nimble enough to take advantage of them.  Services will enable partners to stay close to customers as they find additional business applications for IoT and machine to machine (M2M).  Channel partners will need to keep ahead of the game to provide business solutions using the most relevant software, networking and security products.

Security software and services are already in high demand to manage data transfer and analytics without leaking information and risking security intrusions.  Data derived through automated responses from remote sensors requires a more advanced level of security.

For example, transmitting data remotely from an oil rig floating in the North Sea requires secure cloud storage which is capable of handing millions of small data packages securely from multiple devices and locations.  Mobility adds another dimension with the requirement for asset tracking and management, as well as secure data transmissions over public networks.  What UK business partner wouldn’t like an opportunity to take at the look at the security requirements around this application?

As the different phases of IoT and M2M arise it will be impossible for individual channel partners to keep tabs on every opportunity. Building a robust IoT ecosystem with distribution at the core will be the secret to success for the channel in the coming year.

Posted under Internet of Things (IoT)

This post was written by on October 11, 2016

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