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The realities of IoT production

Makers – the next generation entrepreneurs, individual engineers and tinkerers – tend to be an inspired bunch, driven by creative curiosity to invent or hack the next big thing. They can move ideas relatively easily from the proverbial napkin design to a working prototype. But I’ve found that their passion can often get stalled when their creative ideas meet the hard realities of volume production.

This friction is particularly prevalent with Internet of Things (IoT) innovations. Moving from an inspired IoT idea within the comfort of their small start-up environment to manufacturing a commercially viable product is an enormous leap for which they’re simply not prepared. There are many potential pitfalls when you’re new to product manufacturing.

photo of young man developing product prototype

That’s why I get excited when a maker or startup taps Avnet to bring the next next big thing to the IoT market. We can help even the smallest of startups with integration and assembly by enabling them with access to our global network of integration centers where industry experts build, assemble and test IoT systems either directly or for a contract manufacturer. We allow makers and startups to focus on what they do best: innovating.

This kind of professional integration support is critical for the maker and startup community because moving from a prototype to commercial product often requires dramatic transformation in size, style and functionality. Hardware may enable design, but creativity is usually in the software. It is not uncommon for innovators to start with tools like a Raspberry Pi board to develop proof of concepts sufficient enough to attract financing or investors. Converting that idea into a mass-producible product that people will buy is a whole other matter. Supply chain, manufacturing and testing expertise is required to spec the right components, shrink the size and design out unnecessary functionality.

Take, for example, the small Norwegian startup called Futurehome, whose founders during their university years turned a Maker hobby into a successful full-time business venture by taking advantage of Avnet’s Premier Farnell integration centers1. Their inspiration was to create a simple smart home solution that everyone can use and customize without needing to be a tech genius. Three years later, Futurehome employs more than 15 people, has built a state-of-the-art product, and has teamed up with investors and partners like Avnet to deliver one of the most user friendly smart home systems on the market.

Our team was able to help them move their vision to market through all areas of product development including schematics, prototyping, compliance testing and certification, electronic manufacturing, mechanical enclosure and consumer packaging.

The biggest advantage was expertise and mentoring from a single source. This is critical. Trying to stitch together a complex ecosystem of component suppliers, contract manufacturers and distributors is an intimidating challenge that can often take Makers off their creative game.

Instead, we support through every phase of the product lifecycle, from the design and supply to build and deliver. It’s a seamless experience.

A single source partner is even more important when Makers need to take the products globally. Avnet has a global footprint with numerous integration centers in key regions that can convert materials into products and solutions for any given market. We know the business and regulatory landscape of just about every international market in which makers and startups may want to build and sell their products. And we’ve been doing it in large volumes for years. In fact, Avnet currently integrates more than 407,000 technology systems annually.

The Maker movement is democratizing innovation. We are helping deliver on the next big thing in IoT that’s spawning in a Makerspace workshop. We’ll do that by mentoring, supporting and giving them all the resources they need to move swiftly from idea and product concept to volume production.

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By Mike Buseman, senior vice president and chief global logistics and operations officer at Avnet, Inc. (NYSE: AVT), a leader in technology distribution. The company designs, supplies, makes and delivers solutions that enable customers to get their products to market anywhere in the world.

1As part of Avnet’s acquisition of Premier Farnell

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