Avnet Pioneers Digital Platform for Technology Distribution 

by RaeAnne Marsh

“Ask Avnet” is the first digital platform for technology distribution, affording access to the engineering knowledge base across the vast ecosystem of leading global technology distributor Avnet, including Hackster.io and element14. After five months of closed beta testing, Avnet recently moved the tool to open beta, rolling it out first to all avnet.com users in the Americas.

The new tool leverages artificial intelligence and cloud computing technologies. Explains Nishant Nishant, Avnet’s head of digital strategy, “Advancements in these technologies have provided the ability to scale more rapidly and address complex customer user cases that, until recently, wouldn’t have been possible.” Focusing on one of the most used features on avnet.com, the project started with components, specifically for product search — to find alternatives and filter related questions. Cognitive services enable Ask Avnet to constantly learn as it encounters different conversations. Additionally, Ask Avnet can intelligently interpret customer needs, and, if it cannot address them itself, it seamlessly connects the customer to an Avnet customer service or technical support expert.

Ask Avnet is built on the foundation of Microsoft’s Language Understanding Intelligent Service (LUIS), using machine learning that can receive user input in natural language and extract meaning from it. “Once we train LUIS, for example, in terms of what to listen for in a particular question, it will recognize similar utterances from users and ‘self learn,’” Nishant explains. “It also identifies the questions that it is relatively unsure of and asks follow-up questions to users while giving a confidence score for internal tracking. This continuous learning process helps LUIS to improve on its intelligence over a period of time.”

[See also “‘Ask Avnet’ and ‘Engineer on Demand’” in this issue of In Business Magazine.]

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