Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Software is key: Interview with Avnet IoT director Alastair Worth

Steve Rogerson
March 6, 2019

Software is bringing the IoT together, whether for connectivity, security or as the foundation for complete systems, according to Alastair Worth (pictured), Avnet’s director of IoT, speaking at last week’s Embedded World in Nuremberg.
“Without the software, you have a lot of strange paperweights,” said Worth. “With software, you join the bits together. It starts with an operating system for the boards and box computers and sensors.”
Avnet relies on Microsoft for its core operating system and cloud platform.
“You then have security,” he said. “This is the number one concern for industrial customers looking to implement IoT.”
Avnet uses security software from McAfee.
“Security starts at the edge,” said Worth, “and McAfee has some good offerings for that. They also have some cloud security products that let them maintain security and they link the OT and IT environments. Companies want to bridge these two together and they want to make sure they don’t transmit viruses between OT and IT.”
He compared creating an IoT implementation as like making a house with its customers’ IP being the building blocks under which is the software foundation.
“It is there though you can’t see it,” he said, “but you need it to build a stable house. We have a number of software offerings for this such as Nebulus IoT and IoT Connect. These are the foundations. What they do is allow our customers to use preconfigured building blocks for their everyday jobs such as software updates in field devices, implementing rules engines and many others.”
He said Avnet was gluing things together with a framework than helped them get to market faster.
“They can save time and money by reusing the IP building blocks that are out there,” he said.
Avnet has been working with Microsoft for about twenty years and Worth said it had built a strong knowledge base of how to use Microsoft in an industrial environment.
“We have lots of skill there,” he said.
Avnet regards itself a global communications service provider and Worth said it could offer any aspect of Azure in any region required.
“Azure is amazing,” he said, “but companies need to know what to do with it so they need experts to help them. We have a team of people that have the skill set for architecture and design to build any IoT product or service in Azure to scale and with cost efficiency.”
Avnet can also offer commercial help to change a proof of concept into a real product.
“Everyone has proofs of concept,” he said. “The technology exists, the concept has already been proven but you need to drive the commercial value to make it worthwhile. We have a team that helps people with that commercial proof of value.”
He said people could get tied up in proofs of concept for years just redesigning the wheel.
“What we try to do is steer them to a real product,” Worth said. “You have to look at what proof of value means rather than proof of concept.”
About eighteen months ago, he said, everyone got a bit bored with the term IoT because there was so much hype around it.
“Since then, the hype has dropped down and the adoption rate has increased,” he said. “People are doing it now. When someone wants to do it, we have the skill sets to help them do it. Two years ago it was PowerPoint, now it is all real. We have real devices. The projects are becoming real. The speed of adoption is going to increase.”
But he said that meant the commercial pressure people were under was not getting any less. This he said was good as is led to efficiency and versatility.
“The rate of adoption is going to increase significantly in the next year and a half,” he said.