Embed on the fast track
If you think your component distributor is just a place to order parts, you'd better think again, especially if you're looking to embed computers into your next product.
As an example of a new way of operating to get customers' products to market faster, Avnet Applied Computing (AAC), part of global components and computer products distributor Avnet, recently opened its first Technology Showroom on the East Coast. Like a sister facility at the company's Phoenix headquarters, the showroom not only demonstrates the latest developments from leading manufacturers (such as Intel, IBM, Microsoft, Motorola, and Sharp), but also the capability of AAC not just to supply computer products but to integrate them into vertical market applications. Examples would be a single-board computer, software, and displays embedded into a piece of medical equipment, a process monitor and control station, or even an ATM or gasoline pump.
On a recent tour of the showroom, Michael Romero, AAC director of technical marketing told me that because AAC is an Alpha tester for many suppliers, its engineers are familiar with new processors, software, displays, etc. since they had a hand in developing them. Thus customer design engineers can be spared much of the pain of integrating such components into their applications. "Rooms in the showroom, for memory, servers, and sensors, are linked so the customer can not only look at solutions but test them over any network topology," he noted.
The facilities are not just showcases of the latest and greatest developments but controlled-environment working laboratories. Customers can see how products such as flat-panel displays, storage, and single-board computers can play together in real-world applications. AAC is looking to open other such facilities in Europe as well as the U.S. Once a customer's idea is proven, AAC facilities are available to build proof-of-concept versions of the design.
If engineers cannot conveniently get to a showroom, "The Avnet FasTrac secure technology web portal is available when trips to our lab facilities simply aren't feasible," added AAC President Ed Kamins. The portal allows users to access collaborative design engineering data and is geared to minimize search time for data needed in the design process. Tools available at FasTrac include the ability to make part inquiries, enter a bill-of-materials for a quote, access end-of-life information, and receive expert help. AAC also posts design specs on its website as to what its engineers found were the best solutions for various applications. To find out more, go to www.aac.avnet.com.
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