2017 Top Embedded Innovator: Kristen Russell, Global President, Arrow Intelligent Systems


Kristen Russell, former Secretary of Technology and CIO of the State of Colorado and leader of the U.S. Digital Government Strategy for Deloitte, has been instrumental in bringing Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to the public sector, improving everything from infrastructure to employee collaboration and citizen experience. Now, she brings that expertise to Arrow, guiding clients through all the steps of implementing an IoT solution so they can improve efficiency and gain valuable insight from their data. One of Embedded Computing Design’s 2017 Top Embedded Innovators, Russell shares her perspective on moving the public and private sectors into the future.

The IoT has introduced the possibility of constant iteration and evolution for embedded systems and components, which is a departure from traditional set-and-forget deployment strategies that can last for 10 years or more. How has the IoT impacted thinking in the embedded systems supply chain, and what does it mean for the procurement and maintenance of electronic components?

RUSSELL: It’s an exciting time to be working on the forefront of IoT innovation, and we are seeing near-constant iteration and evolution in embedded products and systems. It’s no surprise, really – businesses and entire industries are facing tremendous pressure to capture actionable insights from all their data to gain a competitive advantage, and the end-to-end IoT solutions they are implementing to gather and analyze their data are becoming increasingly more complex. When you add in challenges like power consumption, global supply chain logistics, hardware and software interoperability, and security, it quickly becomes clear that embedded IoT solutions aren’t for the novice or the faint of heart.

That’s why it’s important to have a partner who can help to guide you through the development, procurement, implementation, and maintenance of your embedded products and IoT systems—from sensor to sunset; someone with the expertise to handle all your embedded and connected challenges, changes, complexity, and headaches while letting you focus on your core competencies; and someone with the expertise to help you iterate and optimize your products, intelligent systems, and data to achieve the right results.

That expert support extends all the way to supply chain management, providing an almost Supply Chain-as-a-Service (SCaaS)-type of model where companies can add, adjust, and iterate global supply chain services on an as-needed basis. These advancements are revolutionizing the industry and creating elegant new procurement and service solutions for technology providers like Arrow, and for our end-customers and suppliers alike.

The fact of the matter is that our world is becoming faster and more efficient, and I’m excited about where we’re headed. As IoT technologies and solutions continue to mature, it’s possible to envision “perfect efficiency” in supply chain solutions.

The IoT stands to provide huge socioeconomic benefits for national, state, and local governments, although the traditional deployment timelines for both embedded technology and government infrastructure are exceedingly long. Given your tenure as Secretary of Technology and CIO for the State of Colorado, how are civic organizations/municipalities leveraging IoT today (if at all), and what can/must be done to accelerate the adoption of IoT in these settings to provide maximum societal benefit?

RUSSELL: National, state, and local governments have a multitude of end-users, each with different needs and requirements. IoT has the potential to completely transform how citizens interact and communicate with government.

Early “smart city” efforts like intelligent traffic signals and automated, solar parking meters are only the tip of the iceberg. IoT will completely revolutionize how citizens and government interact with each other, creating government processes that are, to quote my former boss and the Governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, far more “efficient, effective, and elegant.”

The interest from state and local government is already there. However, it’s going to take the right investment from both the public- and private-sectors to create the smart communities of tomorrow. For example, we need more education and assistance at the federal, state, and local levels to help accelerate the investment and implementation of smart technologies, and that’s a place where the private sector can step in and help. Arrow is engaged in several grassroots smart-cities initiatives, including here in Denver, where our global headquarters is located. We’re teaming with elected officials, community stakeholders, and other technology companies to help advise and build infrastructure and foundational elements aimed at maximizing the benefits and impact of IoT implementations.

What advice can you offer technology industry and its professionals operating in today’s ever-turbulent economic climate? What’s needed for a sustainable 21st century technology company, and technology industry?

RUSSELL: At Arrow, we’ve managed to stay successful by working five years out, which is the tangible future of new ideas, new technologies and new products that will make our lives not just different, but better. That forward-looking approach allows us to focus on innovative strategies that will make a real difference — instead of spinning our wheels on incremental tactics and technologies that become obsolete all too soon.

The amount of disruption occurring in today’s economic climate is unprecedented and won’t abate in the foreseeable future. We all have seen certain seemingly impenetrable, titan companies fall due to new market entrants that are using technology to innovate and provide better, faster, and cheaper goods and services. This disruption is forcing all companies, large and small, across all industries to rethink how they are using technology and data coming from embedded IoT systems to further understand customer preferences to reduce risk, decrease cost and increase revenue.

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