Design Con 2015

Big backers of open-source hardware

-October 10, 2013

I always knew educators, academics, hobbyists and makers would push open-source hardware and software. Big companies and professional engineers would stay away until it was mature, robust, didn't waste much time, and added lots of value. That day has arrived.

I recently talked with some folks at Newark Element14 and they believe open-source hardware has hit the mainstream. Proof of that belief is that they are backing open-source and pushing it forward. Why would big companies put their weight behind open-source? To make money, of course. Open-source costs less to build and to buy, but it's taking over the market and thanks to the low-cost and engagement of the community, the markets are growing. Smart companies want to be part of the inevitable future, even if the profit margins are lower and especially if volumes are growing.

Newark put together a survey of 4,000 professional engineers and over 4,000 students and hobbyists. The result: 56% of the professional engineers said they were more likely to use open-source hardware this year than in the past. Of course, over 80% the students and hobbyists were looking to open-source hardware.

The numbers were very similar for open-source software:


Wilson Lee, Newark element14's director of product marketing, addresses the transition by saying, "This trend speaks to the importance of ease of access and use, as a strong community can help bring ideas and designs to life. Engineers have historically been hesitant to fully embrace open source, but the sheer availability of open-source tools and resources has mitigated many of the risks associated with designing in open source for commercial use."

Surveys are nice, but more importantly Newark is acting too. They're building a community called The KNOde, which includes comparisons of products, forums, tutorials, and reference designs. Yes, they are trying to sell open-source hardware on every page, but because they seem to carry just about every popular type of open-source offering, it's more about helping users find what is most useful than anything else.

Here are some topics pages I found particularly interesting:

I'll definitely add this to my catalog of places to look for reference designs and getting started. Also, because Newark is now carrying so many open-source products they are a good place to compare one against another.

Whether you decide to buy open-source or not is your choice. Whether you decide to buy from Newark is also your choice. However, when big players offer open-source hardware for sale and build resources that support open-source, that is great news for the open-source community.

Open-source hardware is going mainstream. Are you using open-source products in your business?

Also see:

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