AI Development Centers Foster Collaboration

Developers are highly focused on making the best products they can, and when they do, the next challenge begins: making sure they interoperate with other systems. Some companies have created testbeds to help developers and system integrators optimize their IIoT solutions and showcase them to potential customers.


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Image credit: Arrow (via Twitter)

In an interconnected world, it’s not enough to have the best device or software solution. A company’s offering has to interoperate with other devices and systems to be useful, and the number of potential players can be overwhelming, especially in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) environment.

To help developers and integrators test their products with others, some companies have created labs that simulate real-world network environments. These centers allow developers to tweak and optimize their solutions and work with partners to improve capabilities. They also allow potential customers to see how the system works prior to deployment.


Arrow operates the Arrow Solutions Lab where developers can evaluate their solutions in a multi-vendor environment. The lab offers multi-vendor edge devices, cloud connectivity, data storage, and data security and helps companies integrate their offerings and check performance. Arrow also teamed with the Colorado Smart City Alliance to create the Open Lab, which promotes innovation and alliances across IoT and IIoT. A similar Open Lab in Hong Kong is temporarily closed due to pandemic restrictions.

Designing for interoperability can be challenging, especially in the emerging IIoT sector. “Not one company owns the entire stack of technology because it’s too new,” says Jamal Shareef, chief executive officer of Zotera, which makes an IIoT solution for water pumping stations. “Even the monolithic companies believe they can do it end-to-end, but the reality is that this is the industrial internet. Even those companies [need to operate] in a collaborative environment.”

Labs like these encourage teamwork. Zotera partnered with Arrow, Intel®, and Cisco Systems at the Colorado Open Lab. As Zotera pursued its proof of concept, the company received advice from Cisco about how to best use its routers, Shareef says.

With so many stakeholders involved, it helps to have a central point of contact. “Arrow has been very instrumental in helping to keep all parties engaged,” Shareef says. “We have a relationship with Cisco and a relationship with Intel. It was Arrow who helped us to orchestrate this entire dance. They actually brought Microsoft to the table as well.”

Zotera’s now-functional Radius solution is deployed in the Open Lab, where customers can see it in action, Shareef says. “The Colorado Smart City Alliance Open Lab allows the opportunity for customers to see the technology that they would see in a production environment working together. Maybe they have some questions about how things work, and how cost effective they are. In Open Lab, the customer gets a preview of what is possible,” he says.

Plays Well with Others

Indra and Minsait have taken a different approach. The company created “Plaiground” to help Spanish companies develop and test artificial intelligence solutions. The Plaiground endeavor allows solution integrators to brainstorm and collaborate with other Plaiground members, which include manufacturers, startups, universities, and individuals. The idea behind Plaiground is to share resources—product ideas, methodologies, and even fabrication—to build AI-based solutions in an efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable manner.

Indra is investing in AI in other ways, too. The company partnered with the international academic institution IMF Smart Education to create the International School of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data. Designed for undergraduate and graduate students in Spain and Latin America, the objective is to prepare students to work in the IT and digital transformation sectors. With classes offered online or in-person, students are taught by professionals from Indra and Minsait.

Learn more at Arrow and its IoT solutions


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