Arrow Executive: IoT Is 'The Next Evolution Of Opportunity' For The Channel

Jeth Harbinson, director of Internet of Things business development at Arrow Electronics, said he has seen the IoT market "explode" over the past 12 to 24 months – and that is translating into sales for the channel.

Today, 10 percent of Arrow's revenue comes from IoT, but in the next five years 60 percent of revenue will come from solution sales, Harbison said during a keynote at IoT Evolution Expo, being held this week in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. But more importantly, through IoT, Arrow has evolved to become more than a distributor – the company is now an engineering firm, with "hard assets that can deliver complete solutions to its customers."

"To us, the Internet of Things is the next evolution of opportunity with almost every industry out there," he said. "Everything today needs to be connected … because it’s the data and analytics coming off these products and services in the field that are becoming more valuable than the products themselves."

[Related: Arrow Snags $350M of Channel Business From Competitors, Lands Dell Enterprise Portfolio]

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Implementing IoT is not easy, said Harbinson – the technology is developing at a rapid pace, the market involves a large and complex ecosystem, and there are no pre-integrated solutions. However, solution providers can tap into the IoT market by pinpointing their own strengths and applying them to the market as a business solution.

"We got into this process realizing that our bread and butter at Arrow was hardware design and one-time hardware sales," he said. "We realized that working with our customers and getting involved with the data analytics was where the real value was. We started moving in that direction with our partners and our own IP technology. … We think we're one of the unique partners in the industry to provide these unique IoT solutions."

The Centennial, Colo.-based distributor is focusing on key vertical markets for its IoT solutions, including industrial, retail, life sciences, transportation and agriculture. However, across these verticals, the company has common business solution targets for IoT customers, including operating more efficiently, enhancing the customer experience, and adding new revenue streams, said Harbinson.

Most recently, Arrow has been working with Bella Ag, a dairy farmer in northern Colorado, to help the company monitor its cattle through a sensor device that goes into the chamber of a cow's stomach – enabling the farm to grow from a few hundred cattle to a few thousand. IoT, however, requires multiple partnerships to deliver the best solution, he said.

"There's not one vendor that offers everything – this is where Arrow can help," he said. "IoT is not easy, but through its partnerships this is Arrow's opportunity to get involved and engaged."

The company is also building out its own IoT business in addition to partnerships. For instance, Arrow is on a hiring spree, said Harbinson, employing database engineers, application engineers and IoT solution architects – jobs that are tied to projects involving IoT.

"Working with system integrators, our partners, we're trying to help our customers navigate this crazy network of infrastructure that's available today in the Internet of Things," he said.