Absolutely, the growing Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem is a huge opportunity for the distribution industry. The number one reason – 6.4 billion “things” will be connected worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from 2015, and reaching 20.8 billion by 2020, according to the latest research from Gartner Inc. In 2016 alone, 5.5 million new things will be connected every day.
Secondly, Gartner expects the IoT to support total services spending of $235 billion in 2016, up 22 percent from 2015. While professional services will dominate where businesses contract with external providers to design, install and operate IoT systems, connectivity services through communications service providers and consumer services will grow at a faster pace, said Gartner.
"Aside from connected cars, consumer uses will continue to account for the greatest number of connected things, while enterprise will account for the largest spending," said Jim Tully, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, in a press release.
All of these new applications and services translate into new revenue streams for distributors. But it also provides their customers with new solutions that are designed to help speed their time to market and get products faster.
Distributors can leverage both existing and new technologies to deliver new solutions to customers that provide the visibility and connectivity they need for these new networks. Many of these solutions, including development platforms, starter kits, and development boards, can speed up the design process and ultimately customer buying cycles.
One such solution is the DragonBoard 410c development board (based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor) built by Arrow Electronics, which now runs on the Microsoft Azure IoT Suite. Microsoft Azure Certified for IoT tests and verifies that connected devices work with the Azure IoT Suite and can quickly connect to the cloud, said Arrow.
“Arrow is actively guiding IoT innovation forward for our customers, and this certification will help our customers save time and effort,” said Jeff Reed, chief technology officer for Arrow’s Systems Integration business, in a press release. “The DragonBoard 410c by Arrow Electronics is already driving innovation in embedded computing products—I can’t wait to see the exciting new IoT products that developers and makers will create now that the dev board is certified compatible with Microsoft Azure IoT Suite.”
Distributors like Arrow, Avnet, Digi-Key and Mouser also can serve as one-stop shops for buyers looking for IoT components and modules. Purchasers can source connectivity components (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc.), processors, power devices, RFID/NFC components, and a range of sensors that are packed into these IoT systems to measure a multitude of functions.
The microcontroller market, alone, for IoT applications, including connected cars, wearable electronics, and building automation, is expected to reach $2.8 billion in 2019, up from $1.7 billion in 2014, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 11 percent, according to IHS. The total MCU market is expected to grow only four percent through 2019.
In addition, these IoT systems will likely generate a host of services for these “things” that will drive the development of innovative solutions that can be delivered by the distribution channel.
"The age of IoT is well underway,” said Natarajan Chandrasekaran, CEO and MD of Tata Consultancy Service, in a press release. “The question is, whether businesses are ready to realize the full potential of this technology. Our latest global trend study found that leaders in using IoT technologies are using it to completely reimagine their businesses by changing every aspect of them from business models and products to business processes and workplaces,” "Now is the time for every leader in every industry to reimagine the possibilities for their businesses in a world of smart, connected 'things.'"
In the enterprise, Gartner segments connected things into two classes - generic or cross-industry devices that are used in multiple industries (such as connected light bulbs, HVAC and building management systems), and vertical-specific devices, such as tracking devices in container ships, that are found in particular industries.
Distributors serve all of these markets, and can help simplify the buying process by providing a range of IoT components, modules, and development platforms on top of additional value-added services, including vertical solutions and technical support.