What is Open Hardware?


Open hardware is a category of devices, often very small and inexpensive, that are licensed so that users are able to use, copy, and adapt them however they want. The hardware design, along with any driving software, are typically all released as an open-source package. Although open hardware is not as well known as open software, there are several promising open hardware projects (e.g., Arduino, FreeRunner), in which users share information about how to build their own boards with the possibility of adapting or modifying them to specific user needs. The wide availability of small, low cost sensors such as accelerometers; gps; pressure, temperature, and humidity sensors; cameras in a variety of spectrums; and even more, makes open hardware a very promising and inexpensive way to both innovate and teach concepts with real-world applications.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to academic and research libraries?

  • Lowering costs. In particular, I am thinking of the low-cost storage arrays pioneered by Backblaze for which they published the design. Many libraries are going to need tens, scores, or even hundreds of TB in the near future to store digital assets, and doing so on campus or via commercial partners is going to become increasingly burdensome to our budgets. Storage is not a complex service, however, so open hardware paths could alter the economics significantly. - askeyd askeyd Apr 20, 2015 I agree here that lowering costs is an opportunity. We're thinking of building our makerspace with open hardware 3d printers. The nice thing is that you sort of bake in a certain level of technical expertise internally when you use open hardware because you have to just get the darn things built and working. - jdupuis jdupuis Apr 26, 2015
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(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Open-Source Software
    An established technology that all libraries should be using widely is open source software. As students increasingly use open source software for low cost projects in the curriculum, it seems that all academic libraries will eventually need to be able to support students’ use at the very least. Also, many academic libraries are leveraging open source software for their own innovative projects and services, and their success could stand as a model to others with similar ambitions. - janice.welburn janice.welburn Apr 20, 2015 [Editor's Note: Added here from RQ2.]
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(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on academic and research libraries?

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(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • Measure the Future has a strong focus on open hardware. "Measure the Future is going to make that happen by using simple and inexpensive sensors that can collect data about building usage that is now invisible." - erik.stattin erik.stattin Apr 19, 2015