In Search of End-to-End IoT Solutions – Victoria Kickham

Victoria Kickham is a freelance writer specializing in manufacturing, distribution and supply chain issues

Electronic components buyers face a laundry list of challenges in the push to bring Internet of Things (IoT) projects to market faster, not the least of which is finding a supplier that combines the needed technical expertise with a broad enough line card to meet growing requirements. Suppliers are taking different routes to meet this demand, including forming innovative partnerships and looking for merger and acquisition opportunities. One of the newest industry examples combines both strategies in an effort to give large and small customers an end-to-end solution for IoT projects.

Earlier this fall, global electronic components distributor Avnet Inc. announced its acquisition of Dragon Innovation, a manufacturing solutions company that helps customers manufacture products at scale. The deal gives Dragon Innovation access to deep resources to grow its business—which employs 10 people in the United States and another 21 in China—while allowing Avnet to extend its design and supply chain activities to include the next step in the process: developing a manufacturing plan and putting that plan into action.

This is an especially important piece of the puzzle for start-ups, which comprise a large and growing portion of the IoT market and often have little to no experience in the production side of the business. Recognizing that need, Avnet partnered with Dragon earlier this year to develop Hardware Studio, a Kickstarter program that helps makers and other start-ups with design, supply, and manufacturing resources after they have met their crowdfunding goals. Hardware Studio was scheduled to launch in September and is aimed at connecting customers to design services and solutions, Avnet’s broad line card, and Dragon’s consulting services, which includes online tools designed to simplify the product development process. Folding Dragon into the Avnet family was a natural extension of the partnership.

“As we started to work with Dragon, we discovered there was a great synergy with Avnet,” explains Dayna Badhorn, Avnet’s vice president of emerging business. “We focus on supply and design chain, and Dragon offers something in the next step of the journey.”

That “next step” may help Avnet deeper penetrate a whole new set of customers the firm gained via its acquisitions of Premier Farnell (and its element14 engineering community) and last year. The deals expanded Avnet’s reach to more than two million customers and a community of 750,000 entrepreneurs, makers, and engineers, according to Avnet.

Larger, established customers can also take advantage of Dragon’s services for smaller scale, prototyping solutions, according to Dragon’s founder and CEO, Scott N. Miller.

“Big companies are waking up and realizing they need to start innovating,” explains Miller, adding that some are venturing into new territory when developing hardware solutions and others are looking to test on a smaller scale the addition of IoT capability to existing products.

As a result, access to Avnet’s customer base is a big win, Miller says.

“These are typically much larger customers [for us], but if our thesis is right, we can figure out which ones we can add value to,” he adds.

Dragon brings experience in both industrial and consumer electronics markets, including emerging IoT segments such as home automation, wearables, robotics, and automotive. And perhaps most importantly, it brings those and other capabilities to work under one roof, Badhorn explains.

“Today I think you can go into a variety of places to do what we do and what Dragon does,” she says. “We hope that by adding capabilities it gives [customers] one place to work with on a daily basis.

“I think it’s a really exciting time in the industry. We’re excited to engage with customers [at all levels].  If we can help our customers get to market faster and get to revenue faster, it’s a win-win for everybody.”