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Open Hardware, Technology

Helping make Open Hardware a going con-CERN

Large Hadron Collider ATLAS at CERN

CERN: Helping Open Hardware: Image by CERN

The founder of MakerBot Bre Pettis, gave an insightful interview to TechCrunch TV last week – talking about the Hardware start-up scene.

Pettis’ contention is that tools like Arduino and his own 3D printing technology now make it easier than ever before to launch a hardware start-up

He describes how the open hardware scene resembles the start of the internet start-up scene of the 90s. A lot of new vibrant companies, packed with fresh ideas and thinking have formed a new community – sharing best practice, helping each other through challenges.

It’s a good interview, the footage and transcript of which can be seen here.

What will also facilitate the growth of open hardware is the emergence of new markets for products.

CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider, as well as searching for the Higgs Boson and the cause of the Big Bang might also play a role in helping the growth of Open Hardware.

Last week CERN launched the Open Hardware Licence (OHL). It has been designed to help form a legal framework to facilitate knowledge exchange across the electronic design community.

The licence is designed to “govern the use, copying, modification and distribution of hardware design documentation, and the manufacture and distribution of products.

“Hardware design documentation includes schematic diagrams, designs, circuit or circuit-board layouts, mechanical drawings, flow charts and descriptive texts, as well as other explanatory material.”

The CERN OHL provides a framework for knowledge exchange that reconciles open design principles with traceability with a clear policy for the management of intellectual property.

According to the press release issued by CERN, Javier Serrano, an engineer at CERN’s Beams Department, the move towards the licence was: “largely motivated by well-intentioned envy of our colleagues who develop Linux device-drivers”

“They are part of a very large community of designers who share their knowledge and time in order to come up with the best possible operating system. We felt that there was no intrinsic reason why hardware development should be any different.”

Serrano believes that by openly sharing the designs “CERN expects to improve the quality of designs through peer review and to guarantee their users – including commercial companies – the freedom to study, modify and manufacture them, leading to better hardware and less duplication of efforts.”

It’s another exciting development. Endeavours like this and like the initiative at Willow Garage will encourage the development of hardware businesses.  You only have to look at the creation of app stores for Android and Apple to see the potential similar market places could have on hardware.

CERN has already played a major role in the creation of one hi-tech boom with its role in  the formation of the web, it could yet play a major role in establishing a market for another.

Read the CERN Press Release in full. It also has links to some of the projects already underway.

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