Powering the democratization of engineering

Eric Weddington, open-source community manager at Atmel, recently told EDN there has been a significant increase in the number of companies using Atmel-powered Arduinos and open-source hardware for prototyping as well as product development.

“Democratization of engineering: We’re already seeing that happen. Arduino has made it so easy to get involved in a complex subject, embedded engineering, which in the past has been the purview of engineers who have a wide range of skills, both hardware and software, in dealing with conflicting restraints and requirements, especially in deeply embedded systems,” Weddington explained.

“It has been a kind of very exclusive party of people who can work in embedded systems. But with open-source hardware and Arduino, and open-source software, it has become so easy to use that all of these people who have never had a chance to do [embedded engineering] before can be brought in. It opens up a lot of creativity. People come up with all sorts of uses for the Arduino.”

According to Weddington, the democratization of engineering substantially expands the pool of creative and marketable ideas. However, he also emphasized one needed to distinguish between the types of ideas that can be brought to market without formal engineering and those which require a more professional background.

“Blinking a light is always mentioned in embedded systems as the ‘hello world’ application. It’s easy to do something like that. But you really need the professional engineering background if you are going to develop something like a medical device or avionics on a plane. [Still], I don’t see the democratization of hardware taking away from the traditional professional engineering group at all; I just see it as adding to it,” he added.

“Power to the people: the democratization of engineering,” by Suzanne Deffree can be read in its entirety here on EDN.

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