2013: the Chinese year of open source?

Move over snake, the Chinese calendar may say 2013 is your year, but you’ve been usurped by… Arduino.

That’s right, 2013 is the year of open source hardware. This is especially true for open source RF hardware, with the Myriad RF from Lime Micro (obviously, I have to give that a plug) launching in March but also systems such as Fairwaves and Nuand launching this year too. I’ll write more on Nuand in another blog post.

And, of course, we have the big famous examples – Arduino and BeagleBone boards – which are gaining popularity.

But the use is rising in many sectors and, according to a new survey by the distributor Premier Farnell (aka Element 14), this rise isn’t just limited to hobbyists.

More than half of the professional engineers surveyed (ok, only 2 percentage points more than half, but it counts) say that they’re more likely to use open source hardware in 2013 vs previous years. And that number skyrockets to 81pc for hobbyists… albeit I would have expected even more hobbyists to adopt OS by now.

A copy of the report is coming my way and (provided there’s actual substance to it beyond what’s in the short press release – see below) I’ll be writing up the findings in a few more blog posts over the coming weeks.

For now, the release is below.

Professional engineers and hobbyists will increase reliance on open source hardware and software in 2013, according to element14 study
Study unveils high level of crossover between hobbyists and professional engineers in use of dev kits and open source hardware and software

The use of open source hardware and software will continue to grow among both professional engineers and the hobbyist community in 2013, according to the results of a new survey from element14.

Among the survey’s key findings:

More than half (56%) of professional engineers are more likely to use open source hardware such as Arduino and BeagleBone in 2013. Among hobbyists, that figure jumps to 82%.

52% of professional engineers and 81% of hobbyists report being more likely to use open source software in 2013.

More than half (54%) of hobbyists report using dev kits at least once per quarter for personal projects.

“The numbers paint a very clear picture that open source hardware is showing strong traction among professional engineers and hobbyists as well as educators and students,” said Andrea Koritala, global head of technology integration at Premier Farnell. “With a high level of crossover between professionals and hobbyists, this increase in adoption extends to the workplace. An engineer on the job is looking for access to many of the same tools and resources accessible to the hobbyist community.”

Professional engineers rated reference designs as the resource that weighs most heavily in the decision to select a dev kit. Among hobbyists, the most important factor was the availability of online tutorials, webinars and videos.

“This trend also speaks to the importance of ease of access and use, as a strong community can help bring ideas and designs to life,” Koritala said. “Engineers have historically been hesitant to fully embrace open source, but the sheer availability of open-source tools and resources has mitigated many of the risks associated with designing in open source for commercial use.”

The survey, conducted in April 2013, included responses from a mix of professional engineers, hobbyists and students. All respondents had purchased one or more dev kits or related products in the year prior to taking the survey.