Small business, big mission
How Avnet and TE Connectivity brought Hanhaa’s product to life in just three years
Every month, $15 million of packages go missing. Solving this thorny global logistical issue is a lucrative Internet of Things (IoT) opportunity—one that businesses and entrepreneurs around the world are scrambling to address.
Time is of the essence in this competitive space, as the number of large-scale IoT projects doubled in the year 2017 alone. So, London-based IoT innovator Hanhaa turned to Avnet to get their smart parcel solution, ParceLive, to market quickly.
A richer picture of your shipments
Hanhaa CEO Azhar Hussain had a small business with a big mission: to enable businesses to monitor their global shipments at massive scale – meaning, tens of thousands of parcels – and make detailed information more easily accessible. Where was the parcel? Was it within the allowable temperature range? Had it gotten wet? Had it been tipped, dropped, or opened?
What’s more, Azhar wanted to offer his product as a service to make it more operationally feasible for a broad range of customers. “By offering ParceLive as a tracking service, our customers can stay focused on using their IoT data to improve their business without worrying about the up-front logistics and expense,” he said. “Customers won’t need to buy the trackers, or charge them, or test them, or ship them around the world. We look after all of that while providing near real-time data about their parcels.”
This startup founder’s promising vision hinged on one small, yet surprisingly complex, piece of technology: the parcel tracking device itself.
Tackling technology complexity
At first glance, the ParceLive device sounded straightforward: it was based on individual pieces of proven technology, from GPS and other sensors to the wireless communication equipment.
“It was when we started combining these different capabilities that things quickly become more complex—especially the antennas. A small tweak to one part of the design had a big impact elsewhere,” Azhar said. The product simply wasn’t meeting the requirements. So, he turned to Avnet for a solution.
How Avnet helped Hanhaa overcome its engineering and design challenges:
Challenge: The MCU architecture was not performing at the required levels
Solution: Migrate to ST Microelectronics for a significantly enhanced performance with full design support
Challenge: The battery life was too short for international tracking
Solution: Leverage VARTA's certified solution to increase battery life from 7 days to more than 20 days
Challenge: The existing chip antenna would not allow ParceLive to track with the granularity required for the product to reach its full potential in the market
Solution: Work with TE Connectivity's engineers to upgrade the chip antenna to an embedded antenna that could offer a far greater granularity of data and a tracking performance that was previously unattainable
As the team worked through Azhar’s ideas to refine the engineering, components and supply chain requirements, they were able to identify and quickly fix a number of issues with the MCU architecture and battery life. Still, it became clear that Hanhaa’s complex radio frequency (RF) requirements needed a specialist’s attention. Right away, the Avnet team knew which partner to call: TE Connectivity.
Paul Jones, Business Development Manager at Avnet Abacus, has worked with many startups at this same point in their product development process, when they’re beginning to grasp how complex and challenging it is to recognize and mitigate design risks. “In IoT especially, a small mistake early in the design process can cost vast amounts of time and money further down the line,” he said. “Armed with its network of highly specialized engineers and production equipment, TE was uniquely positioned to help Hanhaa avoid that scenario with their antennas. As Azhar told us, ‘TE helped us climb a wall before we even realized it was a wall.’”
A sounding board for ideas
TE’s engineers reviewed Hanhaa’s designs and highlighted issues that could affect the tracker’s performance or battery life, working in tandem with Avnet’s experts to balance both the requirements of the overall device and those of global markets. Together, the team helped Hanhaa overcome its antenna development hurdles and save significant time and money.
“TE helped us refine the designs and tune the performance so that the tracker delivered the level of accuracy we needed,” Azhar said. “Thanks to this close collaboration with Avnet and TE, ParceLive is able to offer capabilities like passive antenna arrays that enable GPS readings from inside a building, for example.”
Because they leveraged Avnet’s expertise to pull the most complex pieces of their path to market together, including TE Connectivity’s specialized antenna resources, Hanhaa was ready for its commercial launch in less than 3 years. That means it took Avnet less than 1,000 days to take their concept, prototype it, refine it and get the first 20,000 units manufactured—one fast path to market for a small business.
“Global product development is one of the most complex and resource-heavy endeavors you can take on—especially for IoT entrepreneurs,” Paul said. “We’re committed to helping startups succeed because nobody can do it alone. We’ll use our global ecosystem to help you move faster than your competitors while still checking all the boxes for the long-term.”
How Avnet guided Hanhaa’s ParceLive from concept to volume production
After nearly a year of planning ParceLive and a “Four Years from Now” Award at Mobile World Congress, Hanhaa Company Ltd is established. They engage Avnet to review all aspects of the design process, from product performance, cost and funding.
Hanhaa begins to implement Avnet’s recommendations:
- Migrate the MCU architecture to a new supplier that could offer significantly higher levels of product performance and design support
- Upgrade the battery to a blue chip supplier that could offer certification and a significantly extended battery life
- Work with TE Connectivity to upgrade the exiting chip antenna to an embedded antenna that could offer a far greater granularity of data and tracking performance
The first live ParceLive unit placed inside a parcel is tracked across London.
ParceLive proves itself to be a reusable parcel tracking service at a low cost and large scale. It’s first tracked internationally, proving the application’s ability to self-locate and send data from anywhere in the world, and return logistics through the postal network prove successful too.
With the Avnet team at their side, Hanhaa produces the first batch of a 20,000 unit production run of ParceLive trackers at the Jabil facility in Naples, Italy.
Avnet’s Newark element14 and Hanhaa enter into an exclusive sales and marketing deal for Symbisa. Hanhaa built this all-in-one connected device to enable quick and simple IoT device deployment and data monitoring. It carries sensors capable of detecting and collecting environmental information including GPS location, orientation, temperature, light and humidity. Using an Excel add-in, users can bring real-world data streams directly into any desktop or mobile device that runs Excel for Office 365.
Hanhaa begins tracking shipments within the Avnet supply chain out of its headquarters in Phoenix, Ariz.