DESIGN West: Open Source Hardware Searching For Business Model

Peter Clarke | EE Times | April 24, 2013

SAN JOSE, Calif. – There's no doubt that engineers like the idea of open-source hardware. There are an increasing number of open-source hardware board designs – Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Beagleboard and many others – that enable hobbyist projects and the reuse of board designs in commercial products. And many engineers are putting a lot of time into enabling these movements via collaborative work online and through the creation of vibrant online communities.

What is less clear is whether such movements will scale into the commercial world. There is a lack of clear business model and dependence, in some cases, on the donation of engineers' time by commercial organizations. That was one of the conclusions from a panel discussion moderated by EE Times editor-in-chief Alex Wolfe.

Over its short life the Raspberry Pi low-cost single-board computer, based on an ARM11-based system-chip from Broadcom, has been a phenomenal success in terms of shipments. But what remains unclear is how widely the board is fulfilling its original brief of teaching young people how to program or is being adopted as a building block in commercial embedded equipment designs.