The end of the year is finally here: time for vMaker Meetup! This year’s meetup was held at Fablab Taipei in Taipei Expo Park. Our Smart Home columnist Yung-Chung Tsao told us all about the Arduino development board and how it has the ability to create an infinite range of IoT opportunities.
Origins of the maker movement
To understand the potential of Arduino, you first have to understand makers’ cross-disciplinary capabilities. Many of today’s successful products were actually the result of cross-disciplinary innovation: making smartphones required collaboration between design, communication, information, marketing, and other professions. Something much bigger such as IoT would also involve sensing technology, information, internet, number-crunching, and cloud computing.
Yung-Chung explained that during the industrial age, we were be able to manufacture things for ourselves, but that it was expensive so most people preferred not to do it. According to Chris Anderson in his book Makers: The New Industrial Revolution, it was the idea of open-source that made hardware and software so popular.
If you want to create, you need the right tools. Digital manufacturing tools were expensive when they were first developed—if you weren’t rich or didn’t have funding, there was nothing you could do. But now they are much more affordable for most people.
In the meantime, many online and offline maker communities formed, using source code to carry out all manner of tests and create products, helping each other, and eventually starting to manufacture products professionally on larger scales. If you’re looking for a maker partner, we’ve got it covered:
It’s not just the public. The government has built maker bases in each branch, as well as organizing courses and hands-on activities to explain what makers are doing and enable them to interact. Many educators are also getting into the maker movement and using their professional activities to promote it. Nowadays, everybody can create, and inventors can become entrepreneurs!
A magical creation board!
Now that we know about maker history, it’s time to talk about why Arduino was created. In the past, it was extremely difficult to find a cheap, useful microprocessor control unit, and Arduino was developed in response to this problem, making open-source hardware that people could use to make products in no time.
People love it for good reason: You can download and modify the source code design, and it also supports a range of interactive programming development tools. Arduino has a wide range of applications too. You can connect all kinds of electronic components—to sense infrared and ultrasound, or to build thermistors and photoresistors.
Because Arduino is so good, it has many users, which lots of products and resources too. You can find them on Github and many other websites. This magical board is an airbox, a smart light bulb, a smart outlet… you name it!
- Read Yung-Chung’s article on how to make a product from start to finish.
Small board, big opportunities
Since Arduino is completely open-source, with all information in the public domain, how does this create opportunities? Yung-Chung said people will always share because they are always changing and creating, so by the time we find resources online, the creators have already moved on to their next projects.
How exactly do we use open-source hardware and software to create opportunities? Yung-Chung came up with the following points:
- Use tools
- Use platforms
- Optimize your technology
Information technology is now universally accessible, with tools like the graphical user interface Scratch/S4A and the graphical software generator ArduBlock. These are great places to find resources.
Maker also need to learn to make use of all the physical and non-physical platforms, to network, and find people with whom to collaborate. You can talk to people on Facebook or blogs, or go to Github and build your own source code platform, then submit the files to websites. Promote yourself in a variety of different ways, and once you have a product you can start using crowdfunding websites or government resources to get it manufactured.
Last but not least, you have to keep optimizing your technology. Yung-Chung suggested buying cheaper materials on Taobao to finish your product quickly. If you don’t know what to do, you could try being a product or teaching aid agent. You could also work as a part-time technical adviser just to get your name out there. Many makers eventually convert their resources and become professional agents, which is not a bad move at all.