Evolving IT Ecosystem seen at Maker Faire
Last week I went to New York in my role as representative to the Open Hardware Summit (www.openhardwaresummit.org) of which WIZnet is a co-sponsor. While there I dropped by the Maker Faire held at the Hall of Science in Queens New York. With support from the leading online and retail suppliers for electronic components such as Digikey and Radio Shack, the Maker Faire is the place to be for DIY (‘Do It Yourself’) and UCA (‘User-Created Application’) ‘Prosumers’. In contrast to a traditional ‘grown-up’ electronics exhibition, it seemed nearly every other booth was filled with youngsters showing off their homebrew gadgets.
The ‘roll your own’ approach has been fueled by the emergence of open-source easy to use platforms. By now many of you are familiar with one notable example, the Arduino SBC (‘Single-Board Computer’). Based on an Atmel 8-bit MCU, and little else in the way of ICs, the Arduino SBC itself will hardly excite the hardware experts. Rather Arduino’s popularity derives from two factors.
First is a focus on ease of use that eschews the needless complexity of industrial strength hardware and software technology. One need go no further than the 12-year old boy I saw demonstrating his Arduino-based home automation system to see the benefits. With Arduino, you don’t have to be a professional ‘engineer’ or ‘programmer’ to bring the power of technology to bear.
But the concept of a simple hardware solution isn’t new. What truly sets Arduino apart is an open-source design paradigm that in turn has fueled a grassroots movement, a ‘big tent’ ecosystem of enthusiasts, suppliers and add-ons (stack-on boards called ‘Arduino Shields’) sparking a global wildfire of collaboration and community. Even market dominant MCU suppliers like Microchip and Texas Instruments are paying attention, introducing their own flavors of ‘Arduino Compatible’ SBCs.
The IT industry is moving into the age of an ‘Internet of Things’ that brings the Internet into the mix with hardware and software. A new network-based computing and control paradigm has the ‘cloud’ at its center. To succeed in this new era, companies must recognize that the future is ‘trivergence’ between hardware, software and the Internet. Thus we find Microsoft at the Maker Faire touting their open-source ‘.NET Gadgeteer’ platform.
The Internet itself is the ultimate open-source platform. Combination of the Internet with open-source hardware and software is a matter of establishing simple and robust Internet connectivity. At WIZnet we are successfully working with partners such as Arduino and Microchip to establish our easy-to-use Internet offload technology as the ‘glue’ that brings together the pieces of the ‘trivergence’ puzzle.
Korean IT industry leaders such as Samsung Electronics are creating system semiconductors (MPU and MCU) and devices (smart phone, tablet) at the heart of the ‘Internet of Things’. The opportunity exists to establish an open hardware and software platform that, like Arduino, leverages the unique potential for success that only a grassroots collaborative ecosystem can offer.
YB Lee, CEO of WIZnet, firstname.lastname@example.org
(on Oct. 10, 2011)