2.4 Cases selection

Recalling the first section of the chapter, the starting point for the multiple case studies is the involvement of Arduino in the users’ business. The sample scouting was a rather long step, during which many sources where examined. Before starting the selection, a guideline was set up to support the identification of the right partner according to a short check list. This process was also carried out after the interview as a double check, to verify the correctness on the Web and that no misinterpretations were made.

On the whole, the goal was to seek for users who become entrepreneurs in the OSH environment, by involving to some extent Arduino in their businesses.

These are individuals who clearly show from information available to the public those characteristics, which thanks to online tools and community perform innovation activities through Arduino in an open environment for various reasons.

The partners were found in different ways. In the first step, the selection was inspired by three seminars hosted at Università Bocconi by Massimo Banzi, so these cases were used as a starting point. Moreover, they were also the first new ventures that Arduino tracked.

In the second step, external sources were involved, which gave a great added value to the whole analysis. First of all, Arduino playground was carefully analyzed. In this section of Arduino’s website, users post their projects, therefore it was possible to identify also the users who commercialized their ideas. Moreover, platforms and magazines like Instructables, Make Magazine and Wired were involved in the process. Furthermore, some methodologies used by companies in order to identify idea’s evaluation were applied (section 1.1). These included: collaborative filtering (seeking for information in Arduino online communities); broadcasting (posting a short announcement in two important OSH platforms: Instructables and The Internet of Things).  Finally, thanks to the same logic of pyramiding, it was possible to receive indirect recommendations to contact a certain user.

It is important to notice that the selection of cases and informants were not always separated, as for the purpose of the analysis the information needed about the company is strongly related with the person who builds it. The amount of information gained was different in each case as the organisational structure of the different cases and availability of the informants had to be taken into consideration. Nevertheless in all cases the basic information needed for the research was acquired.

The conclusions coming from the previous section show that the Arduino microcontroller is based around learning and sharing knowledge of the tool used. Rather than keeping it secret, it builds upon the creativity of an entire group of people rather than the small team from which it is originated.

Arduino is licensed with a share-alike creative commons license, which means that users are encouraged to share designs, reuse, and remix these designs to adapt the Arduino for their work that they can also sell to end-users. In that sense, Arduino fosters users to become entrepreneurs.

After a thorough screening among the most innovative and unique projects, some are selected and the innovators contacted for an interview. Selection was based considering the user’s starting point, the innovativeness of the products, the impact they made on the OSH ecosystem, the popularity among online communities, and the “intensity” to which the user became an entrepreneur.

The companies build by Arduino users from where this research is focusing on are listed by alphabetic order in table 3.  Appendix 2 shows the other cases that were selected, but not analysed given that user entrepreneurs declined the invitation or they were not reachable.

Moreover, a more exhaustive sheet for each company is included in the Appendix 3.

Table 3 Study sample

Case

Description

Starting Point

Adafruit

Limor Fried and Phillip Torrone[1]

It provides users in short of time or skills a wide range of tutorials, kits and small projects that meet the need of electronics beginner

The founder (Fried) just came up with some new projects, which received interest from users

Ardustat

Dan Steingart

It is a substitutes expensive gears with cheaper two electrode system, primarily characterizing by capacity and power delivery of small batteries, to harvesting devices such as photovoltaic and thermoelectric.

He was a researcher at Berkley who needed massive prototype to be done. During his activity, accidentally came up with this idea; he did not want to sell it, users contacted him.

Botanicalls

Rob Faludi[2]

It is a system that monitors house plants and phone/twitter plants owners when they need to be watered

School project, made by four students, they run a small company

Bug Labs

Peter Semmelhack

and

Maurizio Arienzo[3]

It is a new kind of technology company, enabling a new generation of engineers to build any type of device they want, without having to solder, learn solid state electronics, or go to countries like China. It is “LEGO” computers, plug and play, modular system for building devices. VC funded

The founder (Semmelhack)was frustrated by lack of system for non-welder people like him (hobbyist with software background)

Chumby

Bunnie Huang

It is an OS computer. Web connected, licensing to third partier. It is VC funded, and it employs a particular form of license, given that not everything is “open”

Group of five enthusiastic users interesting in widget players and hardware design

Dangerous Prototypes

Ian Lesnet

It is an OS reverse engineering tool, new to OSH started as a community project on Hack-a-day

Hobbyist, he never intent to sell the projects. Later, users showed interest and he was contacted by a company

DIY Drones

Chris Anderson

DIY Drones is an Arduino-based autopilots for unmanned aerial vehicles. It allows people to make drones at 10% of commercial cost; however the goal is to reach 1%

Dissatisfaction by the use of Lego Mindstorm in projects made by Anderson for his kids. However, community recognizes the business opportunity

GardenBot

Andrew Frueh

GardenBot is a garden monitoring system. This means that thanks to the sensors put in the garden, GardenBot will show charts about conditions  in order to take care of it

Hobbyist, he never planned to sell it; he was contacted by users and recently also from a company

 

Garduino

Luke Iseman

Garduino is a computer that runs gardens. In particular it waters plants when they are thirsty, similar to GardenBot.

 He is the only user with business background, involved also in other interaction projects. E.g. how to monitor chickens in the yard.

Laser Harp

Stephen Hobley

Laser Harp is a musical instrument made of light. The performer can create music by placing their hands in the beams. Not only does “breaking” the beam produce notes, but sliding the hand along the beam will also change the sound

Hobbyist, he never intent to sell it. Later, users showed interest and they contacted him. He is planning to become bigger perhaps though an external production

Libelium

David Bordonada

Libelium leverages on Cooking Hacks websites, which tries to spread the electronics to everyone by making it affordable, easy learning, fun and supported by a big Community

They made the SquidBee, a device based on Arduino, thus they decide to be open putting everything online. Cooking Hacks is one of the product line they manage

Maker Shed

Dan Woods

“Launched originally as a source for back issues of MAKE Magazine, the Maker Shed expanded rapidly to meet the demand for ‘projects in a box,’ otherwise known as kits”

Thanks to the projects posted on Make, they recognize the opportunity to open a web shop, highly requested from users

MakerBot

Bre Pettis

It is a free desktop 3D printer capable of printing plastic objects. Since many parts of it are made from plastic and the printer can print those parts, it is a self-replicating machine, from which it is possible to print useful stuff

NYC Resistor was the starting point of the project: the sharing knowledge with other geeks was fundamental

SparkFun

 

Nathan Seidle

The company set out to make finding the parts and information that geeks need easier, more intuitive, and affordable so everyone can create awesome projects. 19 million dollar revenues in 2010: by far the biggest OSH player. Seidle built the company before the introduction of Arduino, nevertheless its current success were possible thanks to it

Same of Arduino: too hard/costly for him to find components. While working on a class project, Nathan realized how difficult it was for the individual to get the parts necessary to make an electronics prototype come to life

The Blind Theatre

Stahl Stenslie

The project turns the body into the stage of a sensorial theatre. The play contributes to the critical understanding of the body’s importance in our visually dominated culture.

Several interaction designers are involved in these projects. Fundamental the role of the Counsellor of Norway for funding the activity

Word Clock

Doug Jackson

It is a clock that tells the time using English words. He the project on Instructables.com, and won the Arduino challenge. Since then, he has been helping many people all over the world construct their own

Hobbyist, he participated in the context and the public exposition allow him to support other users to do it

Although the study is based on sixteen cases study, which should be a very robust number for one of the first exploratory research in OSH, the Arduino projects under investigations are only a small part (but still the more important, see section 2.5) of the ones currently available: OSH projects in general increase at an exponential rate, and the expectations for the future are increasingly positive (see figure below).

Figure 8 Increase of OSH projects over the years

Source: OSHW annual -Torrone, MAKE magazine

The figures presented by the bar chart above enhance even more the goal of this research, so it acquire stronger importance to understand this projects given the lack of research in academia.


[1] He is Make Senior Editor, working along with Limor Fried, who is the Adafruit founder

[2] He is one of the four founders

[3] He joined the project in a latter moment, and he had a central role in translate the ideas into a successful open business

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