keynote was a conversation between Limor Fried of Adafruit Industries and Phillip Torrone, the senior editor of MAKE magazine. In the conversation, they discussed a new movement called 'Open Source Hardware'.Today's
Definition of Open Source Hardware
Open Source Hardware involves releasing all of the information necessary, to allow individuals to acquire the individual components of a device and understand how to assemble them together into a functioning device. Also, many individuals end up then extending a device to incorporate entirely new and novel uses. Limor talked about multiple types of open source hardware - including releasing the following:
- mechanics in an open interface markup file under creative commons;
- circuit level design in an open format released under creative commons;
- firmware source code (more like traditional open source licenses);
- data sheets and parts lists including where to find the parts (it is increasingly becoming hard to find each of the individual parts);
- finally there is the firmware and APIs, again under a more traditional open source license.
Limor and Fried reviewed a number of examples, including:
- The LinkSys WRT54G Line of Routers - provided the ability to upgrade the $75 router's firmware to make it significantly more valuable;
- Roomba - Provided access to the Hardware API, so that you can integrate additional hardware into the robotics platform. This was so successful, that iRobot just released an Educational Bot which is the Roomba without the vacuum.
I found each of the above examples interesting, because they are 'for profit' companies leveraging 'Open Source Hardware' projects. Just like for profit businesses have leveraged Open Source Software.
Interestingly, Fried's own company Adafruit Industries actually provides kits with all of the components necessary to complete the electronics they develop and release, under creative commons with attribution license. According to Limor, this has actually become a profitable business; because people are interested in building these electronics, but they don't want to do the work to track down each component, and are willing to pay a premium to get all of the components from one source.
There was a lot of discussion today about the advent of "prosumers" in media and specifically web media. Today's presentation was very interesting to see how this same trend is being applied to another aspect of technology. I was actually tempted to call this post "Read/Write Electronics" :-)