SSD Member Alicia Gibbs hosted a discussion that included congressman Jared Polis on the future of open source hardware.
Ten local companies discussed how open source had made them more competitive, how open source will play into the future of the economy, and what the government can do to support the movement.
Polis seemed most surprised to learn that there are laws that aren’t open source – for example, a toymaker must purchase the rules concerning safety, costing thousands of dollars. This inhibition defeats the whole purpose of the laws, which is to make it easier to make toys safer.
Also surprising to most attendees was the fact that the measure of success of government grants to small companies depends on how many patents are issued on the technology. This leads to a perverse incentive where public money is used to lock up ideas rather than promote free and open ones.
Also, proprietary tools in education hinder students when the post-graduation companies they work for cannot afford (or use different) tools than they’ve learned.
More information at the Open Source Hardware Association.
Jared Polis looks at a factory automation robot used in testing products at Modular Robotics. The device is used in-house, and uses a lot of open source products. Since it is not for sale and does not compete with their products, there is no disincentive to give the updated design back to the community.
Talking and asking questions.