One of the more appealing aspects of the IoT is the diversity of companies that are entering the market. Pascal Fernandez, vice president of distributor Avnet Inc.'s Velocity, EMEA, recently said companies outside of the electronics industry are developing products and applications that may find their way into the IoT.
Many companies already in electronics are doubling down. Electronics manufacturing services (EMS) provider Flex – no stranger to electronics hardware manufacturing – is expanding its stake in the IoT or what Flex calls the "Intelligence of Things." Flex has entered into an agreement to acquire Wink, a smart home platform that enables smart products to work together seamlessly, and connect and communicate globally.
Top-tier EMS providers such as Flex are investing in small and start-up businesses to expand beyond manufacturing services. Profit margins on manufacturing services have been hovering in the low single digits for years. By adding design, development, manufacturing, packaging and even logistics services to their offerings, companies such as Flex can increase their margin opportunities. EMS providers can also capitalize on their manufacturing prowess and purchasing economies of scale to drive costs out of a product’s BOM and production.
Flex has been a strategic partner to Wink, serving as its primary supplier of hardware and firmware, including the Wink HUB and Wink Relay, which include core IP developed within Flex. After the acquisition, Wink will remain a separate entity and corporation, with its own management structure for day-to-day activities and operations. Flex will look to leverage Wink's platform and provide current and future Flex customers with improved connectivity in a rapidly expanding open ecosystem.
"We have firmly established Flex as the sketch-to-scale solutions provider driving the Intelligence of Things globally," said Sumir Kapur, senior vice president, Consumer Technology Group at Flex. "With the acquisition of Wink, we will further enable the smart home experience. This will improve our ability to design and build devices with integrated connected intelligence for our customers, while providing optional access to a very powerful, intelligent, brand-agnostic and open cloud-based home automation platform."
Although the smart home is one of the main targets for the IoT, it is more likely that industrial applications, i.e., smart factories, will be the early drivers of IoT growth, according to market research firm McKinsey & Co.
"We are very excited and look forward to joining the Flex family," said Nathan Smith, chief technology officer and founder at Wink. "Flex has been a very supportive partner, and the ability to further collaborate and leverage their expertise and scale in this space will help us achieve our mission of making the smart home accessible to everyone."
The acquisition is expected to close this month and is subject to customary closing conditions. Upon completion of the acquisition, Flex will enhance its strategy of driving the Intelligence of Things™, and helping the world Live smarter™. Wink improves the functionality and usefulness of disparate devices in the home by allowing them to communicate with each other, while enhancing usability through a shared common interface in the Wink mobile app.