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As the world keeps changing, so does technology. And right now, computer-on-modules (COM) is king. Learn how Avnet Embedded, a provider of embedded computing, display, and software solutions, helps its large partner network overcome challenges like the global pandemic and supply chain shortages with scalable Intel® processor-based COMs to succeed in this brave new world.
Alex Wood: My name is Alex Wood, and I’m the Marketing Director for Avnet Embedded Worldwide.
The last 2 1/2 years have been an interesting challenge for a lot of our customers and our partners. We’ve found a lot of our partners have shifted from designing things themselves and taking on risk when it comes to product design, to looking for something that’s more modular and off the shelf.
In the early days of the pandemic, we had lots of customers call us and say, “We need to scale down production because we’re not sure if we’re going to still be selling products. We’re not sure if we can keep our factories open.” And we were able to say, “Yeah, okay, we can scale down production.”
And then other industries, like medical industries, suddenly wanted to scale up production. So it was a huge challenge for us, but it was great for the customers to be able to work with us in order to solve those sort of supply chain challenges.
Obviously, we still have those sort of challenges today, and that’s where our modules come in really useful because customers can work with those. They have something that’s off the shelf that’s usable. They don’t have to invest too much into design and problem solving if they know that they’ve got something that pretty much works out of the box.
Computer modules fit into these trends in terms of supply chain challenges where customers used to use chip down as a design. They used to buy all the components and put them on themselves. Or work with partners where they would create their own specific design and then send it to be manufactured elsewhere.
Modules fit in perfectly because they are compact but very versatile at the same time. So instead of designing something onto one circuit board and having it manufactured elsewhere where it’s custom, customers can use a module-based approach with a carrier board and a compute module without compromising too much in terms of space or customization.
And one of the things that makes us special is that we can actually customize, we can take these designs and change the shape of them.
So using the same basic circuit diagram, the same layout to change the shape of the board to fit into a customer project, which we do as well.
So a modular approach is becoming more and more popular with customers today, and it’s one that post-pandemic and with supply chain issues ongoing is on the rise.
x86 and Intel-based modules remain hugely popular with our customers at the moment. I think a lot of developers will start with an Intel-based platform when developing.
It’s super easy to develop using Windows, for example. It’s super easy to get that working. Even Ubuntu, you can get running on an x86 system without too much of a challenge. It means the systems are really versatile, but then we have all of the higher-end processing power as well, so you can do things like video processing, video AI, visual recognition. Those sorts of smart challenges are very easy to work with in x86 architecture. And a lot of our customers rely on that processing power and don’t want to move away from that.
So at embedded world this year, we are showing some exciting demos that we’ve built using Intel architecture, using our Intel modules. We talk about them a little bit here. We have things like smart building control. We are demonstrating an agricultural equipment demo that we have on the booth where we’re using Intel-based architecture for control systems for agriculture.
(On screen: Avnet’s booth at embedded world displaying computer modules and control system software for its agriculture and EV charing demos).
We were also seeing huge success with things like EV charging, so electric vehicle charging. And we have a demo for that on the booth as well that we built ourselves using one of our Intel modules and the Intel carrier boards to create a comprehensive IoT-based EV charging station, which a lot of our… The EV charging industry’s growing and growing, and they’re coming to us and saying that they want prebuilt compute solution. They start off by trying to design it themselves and then end up switching to a module, and our x86, our latest Intel modules are really powerful for that.
Working with Intel is fantastic for these sorts of applications because the boards, the processes are so much more powerful but also getting more and more energy-efficient and also very compact. Things like size challenges, energy challenges, and robustness are critical factors for all of our customers, and we’re trying to get that across with our demos here today.
As you might expect, there are more and more off-the-shelf embedded solutions available, and we’re actually trying to provide more of our solutions off-the-shelf so that customers can buy them and use them as quickly as possible. So we’re actually investing time and money, making it easier for businesses to develop using our modules with minimum customization. But, inevitably, once customers realize that they can move a port around or change the carrier board shape, that’s when they come to us for little bits of customization.
So customers will start with an off-the-shelf solution, even if it’s someone else’s solution, not ours, and they will realize that we can then offer basic customization and come to us to provide those sorts of services.
We design and manufacture all of these in-house here in Germany, actually, which means that... Our design team is upstairs, and the production line is downstairs, which customers really value. We can make some simple design changes based on what the customer needs without having too much of an impact on the unit price, and that means that we can bake something into the customer’s product and even then bake that into a bigger system that we are building for the customer.
So some of the examples that we have on the booth here, we started off with a compute where the customer came to us and said they built this prototype using an off-the-shelf module, but it needed to be more compact, and it needed to be more efficient, and it needed a screen in a chassis as well. And we built all of that for the customer so they get a relatively... They get all of our expertise and all of our design capabilities without too much of an impact on the actual module price at the end of the day.
If you want to find out more about us, then our website is the best place to go. You can go to embedded.avnet.com or avnet.com/embedded. Both of those work. You can explore our site. You can look at all of the Intel-based modules that we have. You can read some of the stories from our customers and the solutions.
Reach out to us, and we can connect you up with our team.
The preceding transcript is provided to ensure accessibility and is intended to accurately capture an informal conversation. The transcript may contain improper uses of trademarked terms and as such should not be used for any other purposes. For more information, please see the Intel® trademark information.