Hardware Pioneers, a community of over 10,000 builders of IoT products, recently held its annual showcase in London, bringing together makers, entrepreneurs and startups together with some of the major technology providers in the electronics market. Electronic Specifier spoke to some of the key exhibitors.
The aim of the Hardware Pioneers IoT showcase is to bring together the most promising IoT and hardware startups in Europe with some of the key players in the electronics sector, ranging from components distributors to manufacturers.
“We focus on a number of domains such as automotive, high performance power supplies and industrial IoT and this is why we attended the Hardware Pioneers Showcase event - to showcase our products and expose a new concept in batteryless and wireless technologies,” said Bruno Damien, Marketing Director EMEA IoT at ON Semiconductor.
The advantages of batteryless and wireless devices can be found in their flexibility, ease of installation and reconfiguration without the hassle of any wires. There are also additional benefits in terms of maintenance, recycling and pollution control. This was the key focus of the event from ON Semiconductor.
In simple terms the growth of the IoT means an increasing trend of connected objects – which will reach the range of 20 billion by 2021. That will mean a lot of sensors, most of which will require an energy source.
Damien added: “If this energy is coming from a battery coin, with that number of devices it will be a nightmare in terms of management, pollution and maintenance. So if we can find a solution without a battery it’s a massive step forward. At the Hardware Pioneers Showcase we demonstrated that we are at an age where the technology of connectivity allows both batteryless and wireless combinations.”
At the event ON Semiconductor showcased its family of sensors such as smart passive sensors which are batteryless and focus on energy harvesting from a radio transmitter. The company also demonstrated batteryless memory technologies; an ON/OFF switch for fault detection, door opening, or hand braking operation, for example; alternative axis sensing; Bluetooth 5 technology - with Zigbee, Zigbee Green Power and sub Gigahertz.
Interview with Bruno Damien, ON Semiconductor
Soracom provides connectivity solutions for the IoT. Parag Mittal, Chief Commercial Officer, Soracom explained: “What we have focussed on is giving the innovators in the IoT space the power to start quickly and scale fast. When you’re building a business everyone is in the same boat in the early stages, whether you’re a startup or a large scale enterprise. So the challenge of being able to start quickly with the right confidence, security and application, and enabling people to focus on their business is one of the major challenges that a lot of companies face.”
Mittal went on to discuss the subject of democratisation within the IoT, highlighting that large enterprises fair better than the smaller startups, developers and innovators with less resources as they are often unable to get the right solutions, connectivity, coverage or products for their innovation. And because the volumes are not there they don’t have the power of purchasing.
However, for the large enterprises the problem is how to innovate as quickly as the smaller startups. He added: “I believe that if you can democratise the IoT in a way that everyone is coming to it on a level playing field, and growing together and supporting each other, it’ll be better for everyone.
“At Soracom, what we’ve been able to do is build services in such a way that larger enterprises are able to adopt and roll-out very quickly, and being able to provide the same speed, agility and security to the smaller developers and provide startups with the price points where they are able to market them very quickly and to commercialise them.”
Interview with Parag Mittal - Soracom
David Sandys, Director, Business Ecosystem Development at Digi-Key Electronics, introduced the company’s IoT portal - a location for design engineers to go to find the latest information on IoT. On the portal users can find an IoT product selector guide, and a video series that Digi-Key has created with Adafruit, an open source hardware company, that talks about all the stages, protocols and security elements of IoT design. “You’ll find all the latest and greatest IoT products and it’s an incredible source for people to go to one location and find everything they need for their next IoT-based designs,” Sandys added.
“We have 24/7, 365 support. So you can go to Digi-Key at any time of the day and you’ll have local support across the globe where you can go and speak to our design engineers, our tech support team, or your customer service representative – we will be there for you. You can find anything from videos to product training modules, to different types of applications notes - all based around IoT.”
Interview with David Sandys, Digi-Key Electronics
Speaking at the event Robert Webber, Field Applications Engineer, from connector specialist Harwin, commented: “There is a lot of creativity and innovation coming from the startup community and the ideas for new products and solutions are really inspiring. The Hardware Pioneers showcase gives us a great opportunity to get to know the entrepreneurs and engineers who will be a huge part of the future of IoT.”
The biggest growth that Harwin are currently seeing is within the Industrial IoT (IIoT) sector - specifically improving efficiency in manufacturing through the use of connected devices. This is brought about by using more sensors, collecting data, analysing it and using it in real time. Using different types of sensors is enabling factory automation which leads to efficiency gains and lowers cost of production for manufacturers.
At the showcase Harwin exhibited just three products from its extensive portfolio - EMC shielding clips and cans; the Sycamore contacts range and the company’s Archer Kontrol range which is well suited for modern industrial IoT.
Disccusing Harwin’s offering to the startup community Webber concluded: “Harwin works closely with its distributors to support startups who have low quantity orders. We also offer a free sample service for prototyping and evaluation which is also ideal. In addition, our cable assembly manufacture has a low MRQ (minimum order quantity) policy so we can support small scale production and prototype cables, so customers don’t have to purchase the associated tooling.”
Interview with Robert Webber, Harwin
As Glen Wallis, Senior Application Engineer, Würth Elektronik explained, the main focus at the event for the electronic and electromechanical components manufacturer was its REDEXPERT components selection simulation tool.
“The primary purpose of REDEXPERT is that design engineers struggle to simulate AC losses in power inductors as the current models and methods are slightly out of date with current technology. However, we have the world’s most accurate state-of-the-art loss calculation model. Thus, it enables the engineers to perform a very quick simulation and component selection. They can then qualify the components onto the PCB with a very good correlation with the simulation model.
“It enables the design engineers to input certain parameters such as impedances that they are looking for, frequency ranges that they are experiencing interferences with, and the simulation tool can go away and select the most appropriate component, and the end user can reduce the complexity of component selection.
“We typically target small to medium sized businesses. The benefits are that we have a free sampling service. We offer both sample and production quantities within 24 to 48 hours and we have a 98.5% on-time stock delivery.”
Interview with Glen Wallis, Würth Elektronik
Mark Patrick, Technical Marketing Manager, Mouser Electronics, was introduced to Hardware Pioneers around two years ago, and has quick to praise its achievements. “The community they have developed has pulled together the startup eco-system and they’ve recognised the importance of networking amongst the startup peers and the people in technology who can help them.
“Mouser’s market strategy is all about the newest products and designs, so when we think about innovation, startups really need to understand what the latest technology is in order to be able to create the latest and future products. Our goal is to work hand-in-hand with the world’s leading suppliers of technology, the semiconductor companies, and enable access to those products for people who are part of communities like Hardware Pioneers.”
Interview with Mark Patrick, Mouser
“This was our first time at this event and we see a lot of common ground between customer expectations in the UK and what we offer, and we have made a number of contacts for potential further collaboration.” Bruno Damien - ON Semiconductor
“The UK is a fantastic place for startups to flourish and Hardware Pioneers are doing wonderfully well in aiding that. I’ve visited many communities, events and meetups but the type of audience you find at Hardware Pioneers is really well suited to IoT – it’s a must attend event.” Parag Mittal -Soracom
“Hardware Pioneers offers a great opportunity for Digi-Key to come and meet all of the latest and greatest innovators from the UK. We’re excited to be part of this community and to support it, and we’re also excited that they are reaching out to other communities across Europe .” David Sandys - Digi-Key Electronics
“Hardware Pioneers has been something of a revelation for the UK market. The fact that it appeals to a very wide audience within the startup community means that we have very good exposure for the Würth Elektronik brand and our components to a new customer base that we wouldn’t necessarily have access to.” Glen Wallis - Würth Elektronik
“Looking around the event you begin to understand very quickly how vibrant the startup scene is around London. And Hardware Pioneers are doing a lot to forward the UK as an innovation centre.” Mark Patrick - Mouser