A lot of technology companies are reaching for the cloud. To date, electronics distributors have been playing a supporting role, selling systems and components to customers that provide cloud connectivity and products. Arrow Electronics Inc. (NYSE: ARW) is now positioning itself solidly in the development space, providing components, tools, and connectivity solutions to end-users.
Arrow today is launching Arrow Cloud Connect, an online tool for developing and prototyping ARM Cortex-M based “Internet of Things” (M2M) applications. The free integrated development environment (IDE) is targeted at designers that want to add connectivity capabilities to their products, Arrow executives told EBN at its recent Vision Series embedded seminar and exposition in Boston.
Arrow and its supplier partners believe numerous devices can take advantage of cloud connectivity. “As more of our applications run in the cloud, we looked at these trends and recognized that embedded development, code generation, and compilation can be done in the cloud to offer our customers greater options and solutions,” Arrow’s director of supplier marketing Aiden Mitchell explains in a press release. Arrow Cloud Connect has a two-pronged value proposition for customers: ease of development and reduction of costs. The solution eliminates the need for purchasing an IDE and the expense of a hardware-based gateway to enable connectivity.
Arrow has already been involved in the development of smart parking meters that feed information to ticketing agents when users’ time has run out. Sensors within the pavement determine a car has parked; the meter feeds data to a machine that payment has been made. Instead of ticketing agents randomly visiting parking lots looking for scofflaws, efforts can be concentrated on meters where time has run out.
This type of M2M system can be costly to develop. Sending data to the cloud requires compatibility with wired and wireless networking standards such as WiFi, 802.11, Bluetooth, Ethernet, and others. Once the data is in the cloud, systems have to take the data, aggregate it, and make sense of it based on end-user needs. Yet another process sends that data back to the end-user. Each of these processes requires that data pass through a gateway, adding cost for the developer.
Arrow Cloud Connect enables users to write, compile, and program code to Freescale’s development platform for Kinetis L-series MCUs. Engineers can connect to the cloud through Digi International's software gateway. The iDigi Device Cloud makes it easier for engineers to develop an application using remote connected devices and remotely update firmware and troubleshoot problems during development.
As an electronics distributor, Arrow relies on selling components as a major source of revenue. By enabling engineers to develop applications using its suppliers’ products, Arrow can sell the core components used in the designs. Embedded systems also require supporting products in IP&E and accessories, which the distributor also provides. The channel is investing heavily in engineering to assist customers in their designs and position suppliers’ products in those designs. Many of Arrow’s semiconductor partners provide silicon based on ARM’s architecture.
Arrow Cloud Connect also provides a code library, a dashboard, and collaboration tools. Designers can use the solution in segments -- such as applications development only – or for full device deployment. Arrow estimates the market for M2M devices will exceed $50 billion by 2020.