SAN JOSE, Calif. — The industry’s two largest distributors are gearing up initiatives for the Internet of Things. Targeting somewhat different kinds of customers, they face similar challenges and paint a picture of the diversity and rapid evolution of IoT.
The $26.2 billion Avnet Inc. generally pursues an emerging class of makers and IoT hardware startups, while the $22.8 billion Arrow Electronics is focusing mainly on IoT transformations inside existing companies. Both see the work opening doors to new kinds of customers in engagements that require new skills and partnerships.
So far, both Avnet and Arrow have announced a handful of new customers and partners. Neither is willing to divulge details such as revenues for the new IoT groups. (Editor’s note: EE Times is published by Aspencore, a division of Arrow Electronics.)
“Avnet used to sit back and wait for people to quote us and our competitors when they got to high-volume production; now the idea is to be involved way further down the supply chain and help people in the concept stage … we want to get to people creating things much earlier than before,” said Pete Bartolotta, Avnet’s chief transformation officer.
To do that, Avnet acquired Premier Farnell and its Element14 online community last year, as well as Hackster.io, with a combined online audience of up to 600,000 people. In September, it added its own website, MakerSource.io, as a forum geared for partners that cover the design waterfront from concept to manufacturing, including potential investors and even patent attorneys.
“Premier Farnell sells twos, threes, and tens of units, while Avnet sells in tens and hundreds of thousands … we are now putting analytics around what Premier sells so that when we see ordering patterns, we know that people are going from playing to creating,” said Bartolotta.
The company created an umbrella IoT group more than a year ago to house both the new acquisitions and related internal services. It hopes to hire within weeks a new head for that group after Eric Williams, a 16-year Arrow veteran hired to be Avnet’s initial vice president of IoT, left the company.
“My goal is to put a lot more resources into our IoT efforts; we are rebuilding this whole thing,” Bartolotta said, including partnering with cloud service providers and crowd-sourcing sites and sponsoring design contests at colleges.
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