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Column John Jones: A simple way to enter the world of IoT

As they enter the world of IoT, enterprises routinely encounter degrees of complexity that far surpass anything they have known before. Many of our customers, for instance, have long been in the business of making embedded products like for instance smoke alarms, and they feel very comfortable both with how to design and manufacture them at competitive cost as well as how to distribute them effectively into the market. But today, the big challenge is to connect these products and then start to display and use the data they generate in new ways that will create a desired business result. To do this you usually need to generate a workflow: the business or enterprise software such as SAP needs to be able to recognize the data and then drive an action with it. And of course there’s lots more data around, which means eventually you begin to realize there are things you can do which you never could in the past.

John Jones Avnet Silica

The Internet of Things is changing our world.

John Jones
Director of Innovation Avnet Silica


But just to capture the data, store it on a server and present it to the business software means that the customer will have to meet many, many challenges that he never had to deal with before. Usually, they already have the necessary actuators which are part of the embedded product, but then you need to get the data through some kind of gateway and some kind of common infrastructure, then probably out into the cloud where it in turn needs to be linked back to the enterprise software you’re using every day anyway.

However, things like gateways and clouds are usually quite foreign to these traditional manufacturing companies. In fact, it’s a whole new world; one of messaging protocols and telecoms; a world full of strange new low-power standards like NarrowBand IoT, Sigfox or LoRaWAN. How do you choose which one to use? What’s the network coverage like? Does it really penetrate deeply into buildings if your application requires it? And while many companies may have heard of these things, most of them simply aren’t prepared to deaogy is forcing them to go through public communications networks, so they need to know how good coverage is in, say, Benelux, or whether the new network standards have already been rolled out in, say, the UK. What does the roadmap look like in each individual country? Is putting in a private network a viable alternative costwise? What new standards for narrowband is GSMA driving? The world is getting more and more complex even just where it means picking the right network, much less to implement a solution. Working with a broad range of technology partners we at Avnet Silica have come up with an IOT reference platform, called Visible Things which we are currently deploying in the U.S. and Europe and which will enable customers to roll out IoT solutions quickly and easily. We have put all of the technology building blocks together along with the gateway and cloud infrastructure and used our expertise to pre-integrate and package them so they are very easy to evaluate and implement. Our customers are used to buying components, and that’s exactly what we’re giving them through Visible Things.

One example is cloud services as a component. Technically all we did was just integrate everything and make it easy to use. And that allows customers to simply take the starter kit we provide and use it to extract data from their systems, visualize it through a cloud service and then do something with the data using a simple rules engine. This demonstrates that all the challenges of going from edge to enterprise have been met.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing our world, including our development and strategies for buildings, equipment, devices and applications. It is shaping the way people acquire information, how they interact with each other, and how they make decisions. But unless we reduce complexity, these promises will remain empty. Hopefully, Visible Things will be the first of many steps that can get our customers started on their journey to the exciting new world of IoT.


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