Electronics distributors have carved out a niche for themselves in the explosive Internet of Things (IoT) market. Most IoT products use technologies familiar to designers -- wireless components, sensors and interconnect, passive and electromechanical (IP&E) devices. Distributors are increasingly offering soup-to-nuts IoT solutions for customers, including security technologies and services.
IoT and sensor technology experienced remarkable double-digit growth in 2018, yet security for IoT continues to be the greatest challenge for electronic product developers to overcome, according to new research from Avnet (Nasdaq: AVT), a leading global technology solutions provider.
For this latest Product Developer Index, the company surveyed 1,190 members of the 1.3 million strong Hackster.io and element14 engineering communities to understand where they are focusing their development efforts, what the challenges are, and what has changed over the past year.
According to 61 percent of respondents, IoT and sensors are the most important technologies for products they’re designing today. IoT products saw the most significant growth in importance, up 14 percent from last year, followed closely by drones and robotics projects, which were up 8 percent. More than a quarter of developers (26 percent) also note that IoT is the most improved technology of 2018, followed closely by artificial intelligence (AI) at 25 percent.
Many of the businesses jumping into the IoT market are small, entrepreneurial and do not have an established supply chain. Moreover, few have the infrastructure to provide post-production support and security services.
“Developers have more access to resources and communities like ours, and this is helping accelerate the pace of bringing new products to market,” said Dayna Badhorn, vice president of emerging business, Avnet. “IoT and sensors are leading the way in importance and impacting the design process. But survey respondents also noted these are the most underrated technologies when it comes to innovation, signaling that IoT and sensors will have an even greater impact as developers engage partners to help them take their ideas from prototype to production.”
Despite the robust growth of innovation last year, developers are facing greater challenges in certain areas, the research revealed. According to respondents, the most difficult elements of product development are identifying the best technology to use in their designs (26 percent), as well as obtaining product certification (22 percent). The most challenging aspect of bringing products to market is obtaining financing for development (34 percent).
Developers believe that security remains the biggest technological hurdle in IoT deployment (81 percent). Time is the greatest hindrance, respondents say overwhelmingly. They also say that cost is the biggest challenge in moving from design to manufacturing.
However, developers saw some improvements over the past year. When asked what phase of product development has become easier, 58 percent pointed to developing and testing prototypes, which is up 17 percent from the year prior. Developers also found improvements in the process of identifying the best source for technologies (up 9 percent) and scaling production (up 16 percent).
Partner Support Abounds
The survey also revealed interesting trends toward finding new partnerships and collaborations for development. More than a third (37 percent) of developers have sought a partner to help them bring a product to market. When looking for that potential partner, several qualities stand out. Developers said that they lean toward those who have a strong track record in their industry (49 percent), can offer strong technical support (43 percent), or are a result of a personal relationship or recommendation (39 percent).
An overwhelming majority of developers (76 percent) prefer having the flexibility to select and choose vendors based on market needs and expertise.
“These trends suggest that having one partner who can offer critical design, development and manufacturing capabilities can be invaluable to the go-to-market strategy,” Badhorn added. “At this time of rapid innovation, developers seek the best of both worlds -- a comprehensive ecosystem that allows for the flexibility and options developers desire, with the streamlined support and cost benefit of a single partner.”