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Avnet, led by its Technology Solutions team, is collaborating with IBM to establish a Watson internet-of-things (IoT) Joint Lab at IBM’s new global Watson IoT Center in Munich, Germany. The lab will showcase the capabilities and use-case solutions of Avnet and its IoT partners.

“The IoT market opportunity is a huge one,” said Mark Martin, Avnet’s vice president, IBM global supplier executive. “A lot of the applications and use cases are just now being developed, and that provides a high-value market opportunity for IBM and Avnet’s high-value channel.”

Avnet is in a unique position, he said, adding that “It is a hub for a large part of IBM’s ecosystem globally and has a history of delivering high-value solutions and outcomes to their downstream customers. The idea of being part of IBM’s innovation center and having a half-dozen of our own people side by side—and hopefully more as the opportunity grows—is to accelerate that innovation and connection with IBM and our ecosystem.

“It’s really being close to the action in developing new innovations jointly with IBM as Avnet Technology Solutions and Avnet Electronics Marketing­—leveraging our ecosystem and use cases—are getting involved in these projects or identifying new projects early,” Martin said.

Developing Marketable and Replicable IoT Solutions

A key driver behind the collaboration is to accelerate the development of marketable and replicable IoT solutions. Customers will work with Avnet and IBM IoT experts, as well as channel partners, to create prototypes and solutions leveraging Watson IoT and cognitive computing. Hands-on learning in the lab is an added benefit.

Avnet recognized the growth in the IoT space and began to grow an ecosystem and build collaboration between partners and manufacturers to support this coming wave of opportunity, said Chris Henry, director of IoT analytics, at SIS, a technology and managed IT solutions provider.

“This opportunity—with some of the best and brightest minds within IBM, Avnet and the broader ecosystem, and the consolidation of all that skill and technology at one location—is going to be a phenomenal contributor to what we’re trying to do as an organization ourselves,” Henry added. “We have a couple of significant IoT wins under our belt already, but those came as a result of an effective ecosystem. I think this will accelerate that ecosystem opportunity.”

As part of the collaboration, Avnet and IBM are building IoT offerings with the IBM Watson IoT and IBM Bluemix platforms. This includes IoT starter kits from Avnet’s Electronics Marketing and Premier Farnell businesses. Premier Farnell will develop proof-of-concept electronic boards embedded with IBM’s Watson IoT and Bluemix services at the device level, according to Avnet.

Clients get access to more than 150 IBM Bluemix cloud services, including the IBM Watson IoT platform, DevOps, mobile, and analytics services through the Avnet Cloud Marketplace. They also get access to technical training on the Bluemix and Watson IoT platforms through Avnet’s training and education services.

Companies that participate in the IoT space believe that collaboration and coordination will be critical in the IoT industry. Avnet management believes it can serve as the glue or connector bringing together all the pieces of the IoT puzzle.

For channel partners, it will require a mindset change. “Our partners need to look at themselves more as integrators rather than as resellers of traditional data center products,” Martin said. “We can help in an ecosystem management role and help our partners in that transformation effort. But the partner has to want to make those changes.”