Resurgence of the Do It Yourself (DIY) community has driven a range of open networking platforms, giving aspiring technologists cheap and easy access to embedded development. Outside of hobbyist toys and educational devices, however, “hacker” boards are increasing performance and I/O flexibility, and have become viable options for professional product development.
The “maker” movements of the past few years quickly gained traction in the education and hobbyist markets, as organizations began producing open hardware boards with a “less-is-more” architecture at a price to match. DIY boards like the Arduino, BeagleBoard, and Raspberry Pi provide “known state” programming platforms that allow easy exploring for novice developers, and enough flexibility for advanced hackers to create some pretty remarkable things – which they have solutions.
Now, Kickstarter projects like Ninja Blocks are shipping Internet of Things (IoT) devices based on the BeagleBone (see this article’s lead-in photo), and startup GEEKROO is developing a Mini-ITX carrier board that will turn the Raspberry Pi into the equivalent of a PC. Outside of the low barrier to market entry presented by these low-cost development platforms, maker boards are being implemented in commercial products because their wide I/O expansion capabilities make them applicable for virtually any application, from robotics and industrial control to automotive and home automationsystems. As organizations keep enhancing these board architectures, and more hardware vendors enter the DIY market, the viability of maker platforms for professional product development will continue to increase.