If you are not open you are out. It used to be value adding, but now it’s a necessity.
D. Cuartielles, one of the founders of Arduino, 2012
Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform, based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It should be easy enough to use for anyone that is interested in creating interactive objects or environments with its users being designers, artists, students and hobbyists, among others (www.arduino.cc). Arduino’s functions are best described in the words of its founders;
“Arduino can sense the environment by receiving input from a variety of sensors and can affect its surroundings by controlling lights, motors, and other actuators. The microcontroller on the board is programmed using the Arduino programming language (based on Wiring) and the Arduino development environment (based on Processing). Arduino projects can stand-alone or they can communicate with software running on a computer (e.g. Flash, Processing, MaxMSP).”
Examples of how Arduino can be used:
- An alert on your phone when there’s a physical mail in your mailbox
- Your own heart rate monitor for cycling that logs to a memory card
- Switching on or off lights and appliances throughout the home
Arduino provides a platform for its users on their website www.arduino.cc. Among other activities, it serves as a forum where discussion on the use of Arduino takes place and where participants can share their findings and ideas. The platform has approximately 18 million hits each month (www.arduinothedocumentary.org). Arduino received an Honorary Mention in the Digital Communities section of the 2006 Arts Electronica Prix (www.wikipedia.org).
The team consists of five founding members: Massimo Banzi, David Cuartielles, Tom Igoe, Gianluca Martino, and David Mellis. This team is versatile in its core competencies having teachers, designers, engineers and artists onboard.
The process of going open
The project began in Italy in the year of 2005 with the aim of making “a device for controlling student-built interaction design projects less expensive than other prototyping systems available at the time“ (www.wikipedia.org). The prototyping systems available at that time were expensive and the team noticed this in particularly when teaching large classes where microcontrollers were needed for projects but only few were available due to costs. The team then set up to create a cheap and user friendly microcontroller. When the first version of the Arduino board was set up, available for people to play around with, it became clear that the target group was much wider then they had originally estimated. There was a target group of people that was not technologically specialized but came from other fields of interests, such as architects, graphic designers and so forth. “So for people that had no idea about programming [...] our goal was to make it as easy as possible” (Interview with D. Cuartielles, 2012)
How Arduino works
Arduino provides its community with a well administrated and informative platform. People can access information on every aspect of the product; introduction to its functions, a description of its environment and troubleshooting. Furthermore the platform provides people with information about local distributors and where the source code and software can be downloaded.
The platform also provides a blog with frequent updates to keep people interested and informed about Arduino and events or functions around it, with anyone allowed to comment. Additionally there is a link to a “playground” where people can access manuals, see instructions on setup and configuration, code library and tutorials, electronic techniques and project ideas.
Finally, the platform provides people with a forum where questions and comments can be posted which is then replied to both by the community and by the administration team at Arduino. This is a highly active forum, with thousands of posts and topics (www.arduino.cc).
Arduino is a small company run primarily by its original founders who are located around the world and work and communicate mainly through the Internet. Arduino has no headquarters or physical facilities. Arduino works according to open design principles and uses Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license for their hardware and GPL license for their software. However, as Arduino has trademarked their logo and brand, those who wish to produce under their name must pay a licensing fee to Arduino. The microcontrollers can be purchased preassembled or built by hand by the user and the software is downloaded for free. Due to Arduino’s first mover’s advantage and customer recognition of the brand this has proved lucrative with customers associating the brand with quality. As of now, Arduino has three manufacturers using the logo and over a 100 distributors. This business model has accumulated revenue of $1 million plus in the year of 2011 with over 150,000 units sold (Adafruit Industries, 2012).
The value proposition to the end-user is the simplicity and price of Arduino:
“Our approach was, if you can’t afford it, build it by yourself.”
(Interview with D. Cuartielles, 2012)
Now people with no prior electronics’ knowledge can play around with electronics projects and expand their design to include fun gadgets. This is particularly popular with designers. In regards to price, Arduino is set at $30 dollars compared to other similar products that cost around $100. The value proposition for participants is that they become a part of a community that shares the same enthusiasm and interest in electronics, which allows them to bounce off ideas, receive recognition for their work and become inspired by others. Arduino uses a reward system for their forum. Participants that are highly active move up along a point scale which gives them a certain status within the community – “people care about the credit” (Interview with D. Cuartielles, 2012). A very important factor of the business model, according to the founders is support. Participants want this support in the form of service for all aspects of the products.
The community is mostly composed of a niche market segment of electronics experts and enthusiasts. Arduino has gained immensely from using the community to further develop the product. This has led to rapid and cheap product development and a huge crowd of free developers. By providing the participants with support in the form of feedback and platform maintenance the response has gone above and beyond anything expected. The user feedback from the forums helps Arduino constantly develop the product in addition to providing access to expertise knowledge. This helps the Arduino founders to become affluent in the society of open source hardware – often being asked to oversee workshops, speak at conferences and consult on projects. Another great benefit has been the publicity they have received:
“You know Arduino hasn’t spent a dollar on advertisements in 7 years, not a single dollar. But companies using Arduino spend hundreds of dollars advertising us, because it is for their own benefit.”
(Interview with D. Cuartielles, 2012)
Bloggers and web magazines all over the world continue to publish stories on Arduino.
- Why open design: To develop a cheap and user friendly circuit board.
- Value proposition for end-user: The simplicity and price of the product.
- Value proposition for participation: Being a part of community that shares the same enthusiasm, sharing knowledge, get inspired by others. Tecognition through a point scale reward system.
- Platform and size of community: Arduino, 18 million hits per month.
- Community composition: Mostly composed of a niche market segment of electronics experts and enthusiasts.
- Revenue streams: Licensing.