It is the Era of Makers
I recently had the pleasure of attending Maker Fair in Rome. The number of pavillions, which only totaled three last year, grew to as many as 23 this year. Separate pavillions, ranging from 3D Printing, Human Body & Health, Fashion & Wearable, Home Automation, Energy & Water, to City & Mobility & Security, displayed almost 1,000 creations developed by DIY makers. It was quite a surprise, not only the scale, but also the variety of content such as drone contest. How did the fair evolve so fast in just one year? Especially, in Italy of all places, which is not known to be a manufacturing powerhouse.
The reason I had participated in Maker Fair in Rome, rather than in London or Paris, is because WIZnet’s Internet processor is embedded in Arduino’s Ethernet Shield and Leonardo Platform. Italy is where Arduino, the origin of the open source hardware platform, was created.
In the era of Internet of Things startups is beginning in earnest. In just China last year, 3.65 million startups were created; that’s 10,000 startups every day. It’s not an exaggeration to say this is a Big Bang of sorts. Gartner predicted that by 2017, half of IoT solutions will originate in startups that are less than three years old.
Last June, U.S. President Obama held a Maker Fair at the White House. He focused on the importance of STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. He thoroughly emphasized that schools should have makerspaces to educate STEM. As a result, makerspaces are emerging spontaneously all over the country. With the advancement of 3D printers, the U.S. is dreaming of revitalizing the manufacturing industry, which has long been dependent on outsourcing to Asia.
WIZnet has sponsored and participated in Korea’s Maker Fair for the past three years. Yet only about 100 creations were displayed at the fair held at Gwacheon National Science Museum last month. What are we missing? What do we need in order to kickstart an IoT startup revolution in Korea? First and foremost, we need to create a community ecosystem based on the open source platform. Leveraging open innovation communities is essential for developing new products, of better quality, at a lower cost, and faster.
Gartner predicts that, by 2017, more than half of consumer goods manufacturers will receive 75% of their consumer innovation and R&D capabilities from crowdsourced solutions; the essence of open source hardware lies in content.
The content of the IoT device platform are various application software libraries. Open innovation communities should be able to share libraries that are compatible with Arduino, the de facto standard, and support ARM mbed, and also provide web-based development environments.
By 2020, only five years from now, as many as 50 billion IoT devices are expected to connect to the Internet. IoT devices should be interfaced with servers and services alike, especially local service providers in each country. Local companies can then benefit as server and device manufacturers. As a result of this synergy, the domestic market will effectively take shape.
However, at the moment, emerging countries and also even developed countries are struggling to thoroughly establish their own IoT industry ecosystem. The reason why India, a software powerhouse, is trying to raise hardware manufacturing can be found here. We all should thoroughly prepare for the era of makers.
YB Lee, CEO of WIZnet, firstname.lastname@example.org
This column contributed to ‘ET Times’ in Korea on Dec. 9, 2015