Digital transformation is enabling previously disconnected entities, such as heating systems, houses, retail systems, cars, and appliances, to come together. By linking “things” with sensors and actuators via data gateways and sophisticated control systems, it is now possible to deliver and receive information that allows these entities to be managed on a level that previously was simply impossible. Andrew Bickley, director IoT, Arrow EMEA talks more about these transformations
This evolution has already seen major efficiencies in manufacturing, supply chains and logistics and is on the way to giving users far more control and enhancement over the processes that they are managing and, ultimately, over their lives.
Of course, this connection system has been given a name – the Internet of Things (IoT) – which has for some time been developing within the banking, healthcare, retail, automotive, transport, energy, manufacturing and utilities sectors. The IoT is well under way, with much of the essential groundwork already completed and most of the vital elements already in place, including global connectivity.
Much has already been written about smart cities and within these are elements that we take for granted today. We now expect, while hundreds of miles away from our homes, to be able to turn our central heating systems on or off, monitor outside and inside our homes or instruct our digital TV devices to record a programme.
It is estimated that by 2020 there will be 50 billion connected devices around the world – 24 billion of them phones and tablets and 26 billion nodes. Of this total, more than 30 billion are expected to be connected wirelessly to the internet.
As organisations are being pushed to increase productivity and sales, while decreasing operational costs, they are turning to the IoT for the answer. Chief operating officers recognise the tremendous opportunity to improve business processes and reduce internal costs related to running their business, while product development specialists view an opportunity to create new and differentiated revenue streams in order to better connect with their customers and increase loyalty.
One of the biggest benefits of having a workable and effective IoT or, indeed, an IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things), is that manufacturers, service providers and other organisations will be able to modify, customise and even personalise their offerings based on ‘real’ data. Also, asset and facilities management functions will be much more effective because the data they are using will not only be available in real-time but will also be analysed and updated on a continual basis.
However, the reality is that even with all the developments that have taken place in the IoT landscape there are many companies that still have poor or non-existent links between their operational technology and their IT systems. Clearly, implementing an IoT system requires these elements to mesh seamlessly so that organisations can access their networks and control them effectively if they are to be able to make sound business decisions based on the high quality data that they are receiving.
For many years Arrow Electronics has been supplying many of the key components of an IoT infrastructure. In the past year, the company has introduced eVolve, a global IoT offering which is designed to enable genuine digital business transformation. In terms of architecture, tools, expertise and resources, the eVolve solutions provide the bridge between the physical and the digital that enables users in the industrial, retail, life sciences and smart cities sectors to develop powerful IoT solutions and bring them to market much quicker and much more effectively.
The eVolve IoT tools comprise software suites that have been developed, refined and honed over many years using insights that grew out of Arrow’s enterprise computing expertise.
The eVolve offerings include specifying hardware, carrying out system integration for IoT, implementing the cloud data platform, maintaining the network, and product life cycle management for assets that have reached the end of its operational life.
To deliver a comprehensive IoT solution, eVolve comprises four areas: design – covering hardware such as sensors, boards and gateways, software design tools, and connectivity components such as cellular, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi; operate – involving infrastructure platforms such as the off-premise public cloud, the on-premise private cloud and the hybrid cloud; optimise – including data analytics, device management and performance dashboards; restore – providing support in terms of warranty and maintenance as well as value recovery where digital footprints of confidential information are disposed of with social responsibility when decommissioning hardware. Arrow is an acknowledged leader in asset disposition, which is a critical service for the IoT market as systems are upgraded and replaced.
Delivering M2M and M2P communications
Companies are now looking for higher level solutions and the key to a successful IoT installation is that it genuinely delivers connection and communication not just between machines and machines (M2M) but, more importantly, between machines and people (M2P).
Two key elements of Arrow’s eVolve IoT offering are the Arrow Connect and Arrow Insight software suites. For M2M, Arrow Connect is capable of linking any device to any platform for data exchange and remote control while the Arrow Insight M2P toolset allows any device to be managed.
One of the key tasks that Arrow Connect has to carry out is to manage different types of connectivity and protocols that all need to link to the cloud. This complex task is simplified by the software suite running on the gateway of the IoT system while at the same time enabling devices to connect to the data platform.
Arrow Insight works in conjunction with data platforms, such as Microsoft’s Azure IoT, IBM’s Watson IoT or Amazon’s AWS IoT and Splunk. Insight is a bespoke customer dashboard which can be used as an example for the management and control of “things” to improve operational efficiency.
One popular Arrow product is the SmartEverything IoT board, which is a prototyping platform that is ideally suited for M2M applications. Capable of reducing development times significantly, the SmartEverything IoT wireless node sub-system features a sensors and sensor shields, ARM-based communications processor as well as an encryption system, and multi protocols.
Delivering the connected evolution
We are still in the very early stages of the move to a totally connected society but there is great momentum towards delivering this vision. Organisations have recognised the potential service improvements and operating efficiencies that the IoT promises and are investing significant resources in working towards these goals. As these are challenges that have never been faced before, it is important that the best minds, methods and experience are brought together to create solutions. Arrow’s eVolve will certainly form part of this solution and help accelerate the connected evolution.