Open source is cool. It all started from software products in the late 90s when people like Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux Kernel, and Tim O’Reilly fought some important battles for the concept of open source software (OSS). That changed everything. Nowadays, Linux and its mobile brother, Android are at the core of millions of products, thus effectively opening the path for all the recent innovations.
Moreover, the “everything open, everything free” approach has led to several changes in the way people developed software. Users became integrated in the development of the product since they had access to the source code of the project. The number of releases increased and the software itself became more modularized thus allowing parallel development of different components.
Recently, open source hardware (OSH) products are becoming increasingly popular and makers around the world are able to tinker with various projects and sometimes even disrupt industries. The main reason behind the current growth of the open source community is related to the introduction of cheap and easy to configure microprocessors like Arduino. These small processors can be used in all sorts of applications. Other factors like the general enthusiasm towards crowdfunding and the development of 3d printers had also a big influence on the growth of the OSH phenomenon, but we’ll de discussing about that later.
So why is OSH so important and why is the phenomenon so rapidly growing?
1.It builds on the collective knowledge
OSH is building upon a huge body of knowledge. From idea generation to implementation, you can benefit from collaboration with individuals around the world. Need an idea for a new project? Think an existing product could use some improvement? Or, you simply cannot solve a technical problem? Most likely, you will find your answers inside the OSH community.
2.It promotes cheap products
OSH products are developed through collaboration, so the development cost can be negligible. The prices incurred are mostly related to manufacturing. Traditionally, you would have been able to manufacture and assemble only big quantities of Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs), and a price penalty was imposed for smaller batches. However, with Swie, you can order as little as 10 boards without paying any additional fee.
3.It accelerates the product development
While OSS and OSH share the same core concepts, there is one big difference between these two, or at least there was until a couple of days ago. The OSS product is entirely digital and this means that you can access, test and modify it instantly. Traditionally, with OSH, things were a bit different, in the way that you could download the documentation from various platforms and then manufacture the actual physical electronic board. With Swie, you can find the projects that interest you, edit them and have them manufactured and shipped in as little as 5 days. It’s still not instantly, but we are working on that.
4.It helps you improve your skills
With the OSH, electronics has become fun and easy to learn. Whether you are a young kid or a seasoned engineer you can benefit from the shared knowledge. Instead of maintaining the secrecy about a product, you can now disclose the details to the public, get feedback fast and improve both your product and your skill set.