We’ve all heard the buzz around the so called “internet of things.” But what exactly does that term mean? It certainly sounds cool and cutting edge, but what evidence is there to support claims that this will usher in a hardware revolution?
The seeds were planted for this new concept by the fairly recent trend of drastically decreased cost of prototyping physical products. Mechanical engineer Joe and designer Katie no longer need to raise $400K to build their souped-up coffee maker, “The Supreme Latte 2.0.” All they need is to believe that if they invest the time, execute on their skill sets, they’ll be able to push their concept forward, without incurring major debt. That increased belief stems from two core entrepreneurial trends progressing on the internet.
One of them is crowdfunding. Thanks to sites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Rockethub, it is easier than ever for startups to raise money for new product development. Pebble’s success raising over 6 million dollars on Kickstarter for its Pebble Watch – without shelling out any equity – is a testament to the power of this fundraising tool for entrepreneurs.
The second major trend driving this concept is the increasing feasibility to implement and prototype – sorry for the big word – mechatronics. Mechatronics is any type of physical device that in some way, shape or form, uses digital interfaces to control the movement of physical devices. Think robots, coffee makers, cars, and open source thermostats (e.g., Nest.com). A few years ago, you needed a custom computer to implement mechatronics. You’d need to be a powerful manufacturer of computer chips, with an extremely savvy software division, to customize a micro computer for whatever device you were going to sell (e.g., Nintendo.)
How quickly things have changed! The microcontroller was born, the most notable being the Arduino board, and it gets easier by the day to program one of these things (i.e., easier for an engineer, or tecchie; you are not going to pick up one of these things and master it without a programming/engineering background). It required the confluence of three major trends to allow for such disruptive technology: the vision, the funding opportunities, and the extremely cheap technology to prototype and implement sophisticated products in a “DIY” manner (you can buy an Arduino for 14 bucks).
Intel and General Electric are two major U.S. companies at the forefront of the “internet of things” movement. With the support of such powerhouse corporations that are drivers of innovation, (Intel is promoting this concept by partnering with select universities; GE has open sourced many of its patents in partnership with Quirky to drive consumer product innovation including Internet of Things), the maker movement has the potential to incite an industrial revolution of epic proportions. Moreover, new collaboration tools will drastically enhance the ability of these makers to connect and spark new, serendipitous opportunities on the web. The dynamic of online team building platforms will lead these makers to creating wonderful new products even quicker. After all, the maker movement is not about programming a new design of Nike sneakers into your home 3d printer and mass producing them –it’s much bigger. It signifies the dawn of a new era of human thought and collaboration, and to solve problems faster then we have ever imagined.
- See more at: http://collaborizm.com/blog/#sthash.hrFSZ3pC.dpuf