Tag Archives: DIY Maker Movement

A look back at World Maker Faire 2014

And just like that, another weekend of making has come to an end but not without its ‘Faire’ share of memories. On September 20th and 21st, World Maker Faire 2014 attracted some 85,000 Makers, modders, hackers, hobbyists and veteran engineers from 45 states and 36 countries to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Inside a jam-packed booth (#EP24), attendees had the chance to meet, mingle and make a wide range of projects — many of which were powered by Atmel microcontrollers.

From announcing the new Arduino Wi-Fi Shield 101 and moderating a Maker panel to hosting a number of hands-on demos and meeting AVR Man himself, it was an incredible two days!

Here’s a look back at the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth in pictures…

Next, the Atmel team is headed for Maker Faire Rome – The European Edition on October 3-5, 2014. Will we be seeing you in Italy?

On the road from Makers to consumers

It’s time to break with conventional thinking. For decades, the measure of success for semiconductors has been OEM design wins. Most consumers haven’t known, or cared, about what is inside their electronic gadgets, as long as they work. That may be about to change, because a new intermediary is finding its voice – and being heard in high places.

Intel and Apple, in different ways, began challenging the norm by pursuing consumer branding and developing pull-through demand for their parts as drivers of the overall experience. Coupling what people “feel” about their devices with the technology powering them creates an almost unbreakable bond, akin to a religious response. Reaching billions of people has required billions of dollars and high profile advertising campaigns – out of the question for most embedded semiconductor companies.

A new road is being carved across the landscape, paved not with gigantic chips packing billions of transistors delivering a cascade of social chatter and streaming entertainment content. This road is built with ideas carried on small boards and open source software, and a sense of wonder about how the world works, and what we can do to shape it.

Somewhere on that road right now is a big truck, captured in pixels at a stop in June 2014 that may go down as a turning point in the annals of semiconductor evolution.

Overstated? The truck tour is a tried-and-true mechanism for reaching industrial OEMs, taking hands-on demonstrations to cities far from the sources of silicon and software innovation. If we were only talking about embedded design and the industrial IoT, it’d be business as usual, and this would be just another truck with a fancy paint job and a couple of FAEs inside.

But, it’s not. The industrial IoT is wonderful and welcome, however by and of itself it won’t generate the billions of units needed to drive a recovery and restart growth in semiconductors and the economy at-large. That will only come from reaching and capturing consumers with IoT technology, in a big way.

And that, so far, has proven difficult. After all, even industry experts are feverishly debating the name IoT, questioning what applications really fall under the moniker, or what exactly it means. Much like “smart grid” and “mHealth” before it, the term IoT means something in the developer community, but not so much to consumers who don’t yet see a connection between the Internet and how they use everyday things.

A recent SOASTA survey suggests 73% of the US has never heard of the IoT, at least until an interviewer explains it to them. (I’m curious why that number always seems to be 73% no matter the topic, but let’s just say 3 out of 4 – I believe it.) When hearing oral arguments in the Aereo case earlier this year, several US Supreme Court justices issued queries indicating a limited grasp of technology. (Cut to Keyrock: “I’m just a caveman … your modern ways frighten and confuse me.”)

This isn’t a lack of intelligence on their part; it’s a lack of generating the needed visibility on our part. These are the people we all must reach if we have a hope to succeed. Who is going to reach them? Makers, armed with our tools and their ideas. Atmel and other tech firms reaching Washington and the first-ever White House Maker Faire, side by side with people like the star of Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Maker Show, was a milestone in delivering the message to the masses. This goes way beyond the T and E in STEM; remember, the social transformation was driven by youth, and young makers are going to drive the uptake of the consumer IoT.

Why? Well, frankly speaking, they don’t think like engineers – they think like actual, real-life users. I made the comment recently that we need to be careful, the people we are trying to reach can drive smartphones, not (name of other popular maker module redacted … sorry, Arduino didn’t rhyme.) Don’t be distracted by a 17-foot tall mechatronic giraffe with lava lamps for ears and a penchant for partying, or by the Obama crack about we don’t spell “fair” with an ‘e’ in this country. These are people designing things they, and people like them, want to use. More importantly, they will provide the translation of what the new technology can do, renarrating the story from the language of semiconductor companies to the wants of the average consumer.

Makers are the people we need to win with. That idea isn’t lost on Chrysler, who has co-opted the maker movement as their idea in 2014 commercials. Makers care about what is inside, and they are choosing Atmel in droves – in part because Atmel has redirected technological and social media energy into nurturing them, away from just talking to the button-down, risk-adverse, safety-is-job-one industrial community. Intel and other chip suppliers are feverishly trying to catch the wave with makers, moving away from the “e2e” stance that only takes us so far in this next phase.

It’s not for the faint of heart, or the impatient. The industrial IoT is safe, somewhat predictable ground for experienced firms, whereas the consumer IoT still borders on bubble in many minds. The maker movement is now what the university programs were back when to semiconductor firms, taken to the next level and reaching an even wider audience. Design wins with makers now likely won’t show up in the volume shipments column right away – but, they will show up as consumers get the IoT over time.

This post has been republished with permission from SemiWiki.com, where Don Dingee is a featured blogger. It first appeared there on June 19, 2014.

Reza Kazerounian talks IoT and MCUs (Part 2)

EEWeb recently conducted an interview with Reza Kazerounian, Senior VP and GM of the Microcontroller Business Unit at Atmel. In part one of our synopsis, we reviewed how Kazerounian defined the Internet of Things, detailed the company’s comprehensive IoT portfolio and discussed Atmel’s relationship with the rapidly growing DIY Maker Movement.

Kazerounian went on to confirm that Atmel is currently working with a number of customers to market various IoT applications.


“These customers range from smart metering, to industrial, consumer applications similar to Nest, [as well as] medical and white goods. Many of these customers have been working with Atmel for years and are in production with our technologies today,” he explained.

“With the dawn of the Internet of Things, these products are being categorized under a broader market—the IoT. An example includes connected thermostats in the home and building automation sector, [which] have [actually] been around for a while.”

However, says Kazerounian, it was not until recently that such devices were considered mainstream.

“It took mass adoption of smart tablets, smartphones and other smart consumer devices to enable more of these ‘connected’ devices to be easily accessible to the Internet and available at a cost-effective price point,” he added.

Indeed, “separate” technologies for IoT have been around for some time, but the requirements to seamlessly run numerous technologies simultaneously took longer to achieve.

“For example, connecting your smartphone at home to control your lighting is becoming a reality today. Another important factor for the IoT is wireless connectivity. These connectivity solutions operate on a number of different standards including Wi-Fi, ZigBee, Bluetooth, and others,” Reza continued.


“For IoT applications, it’s important to adopt the right wireless standard based on the application and consumer requirements. For example, if you want a device that is connected to a wireless network at home and can traffic the data with a high data rate, Wi-Fi is the most viable type of technology. For wearable devices, you would need a wireless connection with the lowest power consumption available since many of today’s wearable devices run on batteries.”

Kazerounian also noted that the IoT landscape is populated by applications with embedded processing and connectivity requirements that offer companies such as Atmel an advantage.

“[Indeed, we] made a recent investment in our connectivity portfolio over a year ago [by] acquiring Ozmo Devices, a Wi-Fi connectivity company. Adding to our broad wireless product portfolio, this strategic acquisition helped us enhance our Wi-Fi connectivity solutions, an important part of our strategy for targeting the IoT market,” he said.


“Atmel also has a broad portfolio of touch technologies, from capacitive touch buttons, sliders and wheels to touchscreens. As sensors and sensing nodes become an important part of the IoT ecosystem, our embedded processing solutions can combine input from multiple sensors to provide real-time direction, orientation and inclination data to bring visibly superior performance to gaming, navigation, augmented reality and more.”

Reza concluded his interview with EE Web by emphasizing that Atmel views microcontrollers (MCUs) as an essential building block for every PC, consumer device, industrial machine, home connectivity device and automobile. To be sure, MCUs are playing an increasingly critical role in the lucrative space.

“As the semiconductor industry has transitioned from PCs to mobile, IoT will now rise to become the predominant market,” Kazerounian explained. 

”This transition will favor ultra-low power and integration of microcontrollers, wireless connectivity, security, touch technologies and sensor management products. Atmel is uniquely positioned and fully committed to maintaining our leadership position in the microcontroller industry – and to do so requires winning in the IoT.”

Interested in learning more? You can check out Atmel’s AVR MCU portfolio here and our ARM lineup here.

Note: This is part two of a two-part series. Part one can be read here.

Analyzing the Maker Movement

Wharton economist Jeremy Rifkin characterizes the rapidly evolving DIY Maker Movement “as significant as the shift from agriculture to the early industrial era.” As Colin Strong of GfK Technology UK notes in a recent Research-Live article, the Maker Movement is essentially a grassroots call for a return of the means of production to the hands of the individual.

Indeed, evangelists such as Chris Anderson, author of Makers: The New Industrial Revolution, claim it has the potential to massively change our approach to manufacturing, via the same disruptive forces responsible for transforming many other industries.

“The Movement is in its early stages, perhaps similar to the early computing movement of the 1970s, where a legion of enthusiastic amateurs are pushing the boundaries of what is possible,” Strong writes in a recent blog post.

“There are now amazingly sophisticated tools available for self-production, such as 3D printers, laser cutters and 3D scanners, which are completely redefining what someone can create in their own backroom or garage. And indeed there is huge growth in ‘maker spaces’ – shared production facilities further reducing the barriers to entry for your very own manufacturing company.”

According to Strong, market research could potentially be supporting the growth in Maker companies, such as Atmel-powered Arduinos or DIY Drones, by identifying the types of niches they could profitably fill.

“[However], there is also scope for market research to provide guidance for companies on the opportunities for creating the infrastructure for this movement. If the Maker Movement continues to gain traction we may well see the trend being reflected in a wider desire for individuals to put together their own proposition; to piece together something that suits their individual needs,” he opines.

“To some extent, mass customization is a reflection of this. Perhaps brands will increasingly disaggregate their propositions so that consumers can put them together in the way they want, in their own time. [That is why] brands need to explore these opportunities – identifying the [downsides] and opportunities of providing services in this way.”

Specifically, says Strong, the Maker Movement represents a fundamentally different relationship with consumers – perhaps one where there is the possibility for a much deeper and ongoing connection.

“So rather than trying to predict a long way in advance what the options are, it becomes a matter of ‘measure and react’. By measuring the ‘zeitgeist’ for Makers, the market research industry can surely provide valuable support,” Strong continues. “There is [also] an opportunity for market research companies to work with brands to spot ‘bottom-up’ innovation opportunities. By helping to spot the trends and opportunities on open-source sites, market researchers can help link brands and Makers in a way that is mutually beneficial.”

Last, but certainly not least, Strong says market researchers can use the very same tools that Makers employ to develop and test prototypes.

“At GfK, for example, we’ve used 3D modelling software to engage with consumers, working up detailed designs on screen in small focus groups,” he notes. “The on-screen, high quality images can be amended in real time to reflect the views of the group and then, importantly, the design can be directly outputted to a 3D printer. Whilst it lacks the look and feel of a professionally produced prototype, it significantly reduces the time period between ideation and creation.”