Free tools and online crowdsourcing platforms are helping bring about the democratisation of technology, easing and speeding the process of design and prototype development.
On the previous page, Juergen Lampert talked about IoT being enabled by a confluence of different technological and market factors including greater network connectivity and the emergence of low-power wireless products and technologies.
There is another important trend that is changing our industry and how distributors address their customer base: that of technology democratisation. That is to say, there is a raft of technologies, tools and resources that are enabling the ability for all to quickly design and develop electronics prototypes quickly and at relatively low cost – from the largest to the smallest of companies.
A key element again is the availability of low-cost development kits, in conjunction with the growing repository of open-source software and also hardware designs, together with growing resources provided online by silicon vendors and distributors to support engineers. RS is playing a major role in this technology democratisation with its DesignSpark ecosystem, which includes free-to-download PCB-design and 3D-modelling tools – and most recently DesignSpark Electrical – as well as providing significant support for engineers via its online design centres. Another important part of this story is fast and easy product prototyping, which is increasingly being realised by the availability of low-cost desktop 3D printers and prototyping machines.
The rise of online crowdfunding – via platforms such as Kickstarter – is also playing its part. In addition to traditional routes such as venture capital, crowdfunding can offer an alternative finance raising opportunity for start-ups and the emerging maker community. The development of the Parallella board from Adapteva is one notable success that has emerged from this route.
More than just a product
How a distributor addresses all these dynamics is another question. Naturally, its line card is fundamental to the distributor’s offering – but more than ever it has to go beyond this to address demands from many different types of customer including those new to electronics. RS indisputably qualifies in the former with one of the industry’s widest electronic product portfolios, including arguably the industry’s largest choice of easy-to-use development kits, in conjunction with its world-class logistics and eCommerce infrastructure to ensure a fast best-in-class delivery service to customers. But, increasingly, it also needs the resources and the flexibility to talk to a range of customers in a number of different scenarios – from the formal buying situation with procurement managers at large corporations to providing free design tools and support for maker communities. The challenge for the modern global distributor such as RS is to become the gateway of choice and to be there at the beginning of the journey into a world of possibilities in electronics innovation.
Juergen Lampert is Vice President, APAC with RS Components.