Tag Archives: hardware renaissance

Hardware renaissance sparked by the IoT

Analysts at ABI Research estimate the number of developers involved in Internet of Things (IoT) activities will reach 1.7 million globally by the end of 2014 – with the broader IoT ecosystem forecast to surpass three million developers in 2019.

“Currently, the IoT activity is largely polarized between hobbyists and makers at one end, and enterprise-level developers at the other end,” ABI principal analyst Aapo Markkanen explained.

Image Credit: Wilgengebroed on Flickr (via Wikipedia)

“But owing to a combination of various enablers, we can also see a growing number of startups taking the commercial plunge and starting to productize the concepts they’ve prototyped earlier with [development boards such as the] Arduino. That productization, however, can be an extremely difficult feat to pull off, requiring very diverse skillsets.”

According to Markkanen, the core enablers for productization comprise purpose-built cloud platforms and development kits, which are making the IoT accessible to developers who may differ greatly in terms of their resources and commitment.

“There are also several other, more indirect enablers that will be critical for the IoT’s evolution,” he said.

 “These include sensors and sensor engines, affordable 3D printers, as well as crowdfunding platforms. Collectively, all these building blocks could eventually translate into a perfect storm of hardware innovation.”

ABI Research practice director Dan Shey expressed similar sentiments.

“After all the talk about hardware being irreversibly commoditized and software ‘eating the world’ we may be actually soon witnessing a countertrend in the technology industry, driven by the consumer IoT,” he added.

“Consumers will shun away from anything that is not inspiringly designed and robustly produced, so any consumer-facing IoT play needs to deliver on both of those fronts if it’s to have any traction. In this sense, the IoT could represent the beginning of a hardware renaissance.”

DIY Makers inspire Silicon Valley

Writing for Reuters, Noel Randewich notes that Silicon Valley was originally made famous by hard-scrabble hackers and modders building radios, microchips and other devices.

“Now, a proliferation of high-tech but affordable manufacturing tools and new sources of funding are empowering a [new] generation of handy entrepreneurs, [while] laying the foundation for a hardware renaissance,” he explains.

Designers work at computer stations at TechShop in the South of Market neighborhood in San Francisco, California April 24, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/ROBERT GALBRAITH

“[The] Maker movement [is] sweeping northern California and, in a smaller way, Europe and other countries. Renewed interest in tinkering with objects – versus apps or software – is attracting more money from investors and fostering a growing number of workshops, where aspiring inventors can get their hands on computerized milling machines and other high-end tools.”

Ann Miura-Ko, a self-professed tinkerer and partner at Floodgate, tells Reuters she believes nostalgia for the Valley days of yore plays a key role in the Maker boom.

“Just the same way you have kids who have been coding for 10 years at the age of 16, you’re going to see kids who have been making stuff for 10 years at the age of 16. If you see that, you’ll know we’re ready for the Mark Zuckerberg of hardware.”

As Randewich points out, the growing wave of do-it-yourselfers may very well hold the key to manufacturing innovation.

“Hardware is catching up to the open-source revolution, with common standards and a culture that encourages the sharing of designs and building blocks that save inventors the time and expense of reinventing the wheel,” he writes.

“Take the palm-sized [Atmel-powered] Arduino, ubiquitous in the Maker Movement. The roughly $20 item was developed for students, offering low price and relatively easy programming. Arduino lets do-it-yourselfers snap together and program interchangeable components such as GPS chips and motor controllers to run everything from robots to cocktail mixers.”

Meanwhile, Christine Furstoss of General Electric says products of the do-it-yourself movement – improved 3D printing, laser cutters, water jets and other tools – will help the United States safeguard and extend its lead in advanced manufacturing.

“We’re proud of our manufacturing heritage, but we don’t invent everything… The spirit and tools of the Maker Movement are something we want to engage with,” she concludes.

The full text of “Do-it-yourselfers Inspire Hardware Renaissance in Silicon Valley” by Noel Randewich is available on Reuters here.