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Lenovo Takes a Big IoT Leap, Introduces New End-to-End Solutions

Lenovo makes a big push into edge computing and IoT, showcasing several new smart technologies across a wide range of categories at their Accelerate partner conference. By Matt Whitlock

Lenovo is going all-in into edge computing and IoT, showcasing several new smart technologies across a wide range of categories at their Accelerate partner conference. Lenovo broadly expanded its ThinkIoT portfolio to include several new products to fill in the gaps, customer-validated solutions to solve real-world needs, and new partnerships that aim to accelerate a customer’s digital transformation.

ThinkCentre M90n Nano and M90n Nano IT

On the hardware front, Lenovo introduced the all new ThinkCentre M90n Nano and M90n Nano IT. It’s an ultra-slim compute device sporting Intel Mobile processors, DDR4 memory, PCIe SSD storage, and modern I/O. While the M90n will find itself it in good company with the vast assortment of small form factor PCs available, the IoT variant will get more attention.

 

It measures in at a compact 7.04 x 3.46 x 1.35 inches and is offered with an array of accessories that allows it to be securely mounted on a wall, under the desk or behind a monitor. Built with IoT in mind, it can, for example, be powered through a USB Type-C monitor via a single cable, reducing dependency on external connectors and dongles. It’s also MIL-SPEC tested for durability, has a broader thermal range (0-50 °C) thanks to a fan-less design that ensures efficient heat dissipation for consistent performance, and is designed for higher vibration and thermal environments like manufacturing.

“As a secure IoT Gateway, the ThinkCentre Nano IoT is designed to provide processing and security for the IoT devices you have in your environment that demand real-time responsiveness at the edge,” says Lenovo. “The Nano IoT increases responsiveness and reliability by enabling the rapid relay of information between connected IoT peripherals, sensors and devices, even in harsher commercial environments. You can drive further expansion of additional legacy ports and peripherals with the expansion I/O Box to build out to your edge device needs.”  

New Sensors and Solutions

If you’re wondering if Lenovo has anything new in sensors to plug into its fancy new ultra slim IoT computer, wonder no more. There’s an array of new sensors, including high-powered smart cameras, motion-enabled lighting, a machine vision cashier, and facial recognition devices. All of those can be deployed in one of several customer-validated solutions Lenovo is offering.

One of them is their warehouse automation solution, where a warehouse associate is aided by a high-performance camera sensor that can identify whether packages are put on the right pallet within 200 milliseconds of picking up a box via a QR code on the sticker.

Other solutions are aimed at retail businesses, like the automated computer vision cashier prototype, currently being tested as a pilot program at Lenovo’s Beijing campus. Brick-and-mortar store owners wanting to bust up long queues and avoid pricing errors can turn to object recognition technology at self-checkout. With an integrated camera, processor, and sensors, it allows shoppers to scan all their items at once, eliminating the need to detect individual barcodes. Plus, it weighs the purchases to provide feedback to suppliers, as well as allows for a virtual wallet payment gateway.

ThinkSystem SE350 Edge Server

All this new data being generated needs to be processed, but Lenovo says most data collected outside of the traditional data center at the edge goes unused and is lost. To combat that, Lenovo has created the ThinkSystem SE350 Edge Server which is a purpose-built edge system uniquely designed to work everywhere data exists, bringing compute power directly to the source.

It’s designed to handle harsh environments with dust, humidity, and extreme temperatures that are often present in remote locations. It provides multiple connectivity options, including Wi-FI and cellular network support. And it’s designed to protect data by disabling the encryption key if someone tries to move a system or take off the covers.

Lenovo and Microsoft Collaborate

Broad scale solutions that collect data, process it, and derive actual business intelligence require new partnerships and collaborations between hardware and software makers. At Accelerate, Lenovo displayed ThinkIoT offerings powered by Microsoft Azure that it says will accelerate customers’ digital transformations, with Azure SQL Database Edge and solutions for verticals such as retail and manufacturing.  

“More than ever, customers want to connect the physical world to the digital world and to implement IoT and AI solutions to enable business transformations. Working with trusted partners who can provide infrastructure and services that simplify IoT is critical,” said Sam George, director of Azure Internet of Things for Microsoft. “Our new IoT partnership with Lenovo brings together Microsoft Azure platform and Lenovo’s ThinkIoT solutions portfolio of hardware, software and services to dramatically accelerate time to value for our joint customers.”

Customers deploying Microsoft Azure solutions for IoT, AI, and data management can now leverage the full spectrum of Lenovo offerings including the ECP300 edge gateway and IOT510C Smart Camera, ThinkCentre Nano IoT and ThinkSystem SE350 edge server.

New hardware, solutions, and partnerships combined, Lenovo's IoT push is already a lot to take in, but it’s looking like this may just be the beginning.

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