Leveraging Arrow Engineering Services at Scale

Honeywell redesigned pick, pack and ship alongside Arrow engineers to significantly cut productivity time and eliminate costly errors.

Matching the right engineer with the right project is far from a perfect science, but when it happens the positive results are undeniable. That is what transpired when Honeywell partnered with Arrow Electronics to develop hardware and platform software for its new voice-enabled mobile devices, the Vocollect A700x series.

The voice team from Honeywell had limited product development experience with Qualcomm processors, so the engineering teams from Arrow stepped in. Their expertise helped Honeywell achieve their product development goals and meet their aggressive product launch goals.

The Honeywell story: Mature product meets new technology

One application that finds itself facing new possibilities is the automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) market. AIDC is the catch-all term for automatically identifying objects, and collecting and encoding information about them for direct entry into computer-based management systems, such as those for efficient and accurate management of workforce, warehouse space and inventory.

AIDC benefits have long been delivered using methods ranging from barcode scanning, radio frequency identification (RFID), smart cards and optical character recognition (OCR) to biometrics, including iris and facial recognition, and voice recognition.

Honeywell has long had a lineup of products to address most of these methods and key among the company’s technologies is the Vocollect voice-recognition product line, which involves workers wearing a headset connected to a unit that recognizes spoken words, which, in turn, is connected to a warehouse management system (WMS).

Honeywell prides itself on delivering a voice-directed workflow allowing hands-free and eyes-free operation and has been developing such systems for over 20 years—since the time when hardware and software technologies could only deliver speaker-dependent solutions.

While speaker-trained systems recognize accents, dialects and work-specific vocabulary to offer high accuracy, speaker dependence also means relatively long system training times during which individual voices must record a preset vocabulary.

With the recent availability of advanced software techniques, machine learning, new sensors and powerful processors, such as those offered by Qualcomm, Honeywell saw an opportunity to use the latest technology to refresh its Vocollect voice product lineup and gain a competitive edge. And that is exactly what the company did with an update to their A700 series mobile devices. The new A700x series offers additional features atypical of previous voice products, including:

  • •  A new Speaker Independent Recognition Engine that reduces new operator onboarding time

  • •  Advanced predictive maintenance and troubleshooting with Honeywell Sentience 2.0 Cloud

  • •  Use of sensors to detect temperature, height, and drops and falls to increase worker safety and storage environment control

  • •  Intelligent analytics for evaluating operator performance metrics in real-time

  • •  A Linux operating system to help future-proof firmware upgrades

Industry-wide challenge

Honeywell is not alone in requiring outside assistance. All companies with integrated technology are facing a new reality typified by short times to market, specialized engineering requirements, cost pressures and a talent shortage.

Time to market has decreased due to competitive pressures and rapidly evolving technologies. Even manufacturing is no longer immune to this reality. New 3D-printing technologies and capacity-sharing platforms for manufacturing are merely symptoms of an on-demand economy that is further shortening times to market.

This is complicated further by the ability to bring previously disparate features onto a single product, as in Honeywell’s case. Each new feature often requires niche engineering skills to stand out from the competition. From image and video-processing skills, audio engineering, test and measurement background, to experience in using specific processors or even developing IT systems, companies are hard-pressed to find a huge variety of talents for developing a single, multi-functional connected device.

The cost of engaging large, multi-faceted engineering teams is prohibitive, especially when the next design requirement is not well-defined and the length of a design cycle is increasingly short.

A helping hand

Packing so many new features and technologies into a product is not an easy task, but Honeywell’s voice team rose to the challenge. Finding that the project required new expertise in embedded hardware and software design, including handling a new processor from Qualcomm in which the team had limited product development experience, they turned to the engineering team from Arrow.


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