Electronic Products & Technology


Digi-Key rides IoT wave on back of supplier innovation, user’s imagination

Given the prominence of the Internet of Things (IoT) within design circles these days, it isn’t any surprise that Digi-Key Corp. the biggest online and largest new technology distributor is vastly aware of its imminent rise within electronics distribution channels.

In a recent interview with EP&T, Randall Restle, director of applications engineering at Digi-Key outlined his perspectives on IoT and its impact on the supply chain.

“At Digi-Key, we believe the world will never be the same and we have drunk the same Kool-Aid as everyone else,” says Restle. “To me it is very important to have the parts our customers can use. Our traditional supplier base is not just offering components alone, as players like Panasonic, Murata, CSR, Texas Instruments, – use multiple components to create a wireless module. These devices provide the end-user with technologies such as WiFi , ZigBee, Bluetooth and Bluetooth low energy, Z-Wave, Sigma Designs. In the end, it is our job to ensure we stock the low level chips, but more importantly we have the modules to help people get things developed,” he enthused.

Restle says some customers may be surprised to find a catalog distributor such as Digi-Key do have qualified design engineers at their disposal.

“Part of Digi-Key’s legacy has always been to provide technical support. Company founder Ron Stordahl has a PhD in electrical engineering and he always answered any questions people had on a part Digi-Key was selling. That legacy continues today,” he says.

Digi-Key remains engaged in the rise of IoT by participating in international trade shows and conferences such as Embedded World (Nurnberg Germany on Feb 24-26, 2015), which will feature a heightened focus on IoT. Restle has submitted a paper to the event, which underscores the accessibility of IoT solutions, coupled with related proprietary devices. His paper tackles the issues and fact that there is currently not a good solution for making these IoT devices “self discoverable”.

The IoT explosion is backed by bold predictions, such as one from Freescale Semiconductor Inc. (Digi-Key supplier) which predicts the establishment of some 15-billion devices within six years via the advent of this technology.

“What we are seeing is a lot of component vendors (suppliers) are coming out with devices tailored towards this market and the attributes of those are very high power and high performance These components are ultimately tailored to leverage highly sosphisticated functionality available in IoT things,” says Restle.

Smash hit single-board computer development kits such as Arduino and BeagleBone Black are all sold by Digi-Key. These products have allowed people to “just work on their individual applications, and not worry about starting from scratch.”

Launched in the summer of 2011, Digi-Key introduced its eewiki website (http://www.eewiki.net) to the design community, providing customers with a venue to share knowledge and a place to learn. “We want to provide the type of design aids that allow our customers to get on their way – to focus on their application,” Restle says.

“Digi-Key’s technical marketing focus allows us to zero in on IoT, by featuring the products that are germane to this given space,” says Restle. “As the definition of IoT remains broad, the opportunities are limitless. There is no end to the imagination of this IoT stuff.”