New Policy Brief on Open Hardware for Science

The Wilson Center’s Science and Technology Innovation Program has released a new policy brief advocating for government policy support of open source hardware in science. The brief looks at recent developments in government policy surrounding open hardware, highlights the unique ability of open hardware to accelerate innovation and reduce costs, and addresses implementation challenges. Download the policy brief, and read the complimentary series of articles hosted by the Journal of Open Hardware.

Open Source Hardware (and Gateware) for 5G

OSHWA recently sent a response to the 5G Challenge Notice of Inquiry published by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in the US. The Notice of Inquiry focuses on the development of an open-source software stack for 5G wireless communication. In our response we highlighted the role that Field-Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) can play in the path from the radio receiver to the 5G software stack and conversely from the software stack to the radio transmitter. FPGAs can cope with very high data rates, for which pure software solutions can be suboptimal.

It is therefore important that FPGA designs are made part of the challenge, and also that these designs be open-source for the same reasons that it makes sense to open-source the software stack. FPGA design is typically done using Hardware Description Languages (HDLs). HDL code is fed to synthesis, place & route and bitstream generation tools. The bitstream file then configures the FPGA, so its logic gates and flip-flops implement the circuit specified in the design. HDL code is sometimes called “gateware” (a reference to the logic gates it targets) to distinguish it from software.

If researchers and developers are going to collaborate on common open-source gateware and software, they would ideally do so using an open hardware platform. This would democratize access, enlarging the talent pool which can contribute to the effort. It would also protect the development against vendor lock-in and save time and effort on porting to different imperfectly-compatible platforms.

Finally, this could be an opportunity to improve the Free and Open Source Software tools for gateware design. There are thriving communities of open-source software-defined radio and FPGA tool developers, and we believe including them in this challenge and having hardware and gateware in the picture will result in a better 5G for everyone.

New Report on the OSHW Community COVID-19 Response

The Wilson Center and NYU’s Engelberg Center have released a new report entitled Stitching Together a Solution: Lessons from the Open Source Hardware Response to COVID-19. The report examines how the open source hardware community came together to produce lifesaving medical equipment at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the role of government authorities in that process. It finds that although some parts of the government tried to facilitate the community, in most cases there was a mismatch between what the government expected and what the OSHW community was doing. Nevertheless, the OSHW community significantly augmented the availability of medical supplies through their grassroots response. The report also provides lessons learned and recommendations to help the community and government agencies better respond to future crises together.

Now Accepting Talk Proposals for OHS 2021

UPDATE: The deadline has been extended one week to 02-18.

As we get approach the 2021 Open Hardware Summit on April 9th, we are now soliciting talk proposals from interested speakers. This year’s summit is virtual and will be held online on Friday 2021-04-09, 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM EDT.

The Open Hardware Summit is for presenting, discussing, and learning about open hardware of all kinds. The summit examines open hardware applications, practices, and theory, ranging from environmental sensors to 3D printable medical devices to open hardware processors and beyond. We are interested in open hardware on its own as well as in relation to topics such as software, design, business, law, and education. Past talks have featured topics such as advances in space propulsion, humanitarian projects, right to repair legislation, open hardware in education, and open hardware marketing.

For our eleventh edition we are especially looking for speakers who can offer insights around the role of open hardware in the COVID-19 pandemic, open hardware medical devices, and related topics.

We invite talk proposals from individuals and groups. Find all the details over at the summit site. Submissions are due by Thursday 2021-02-11 at 11 PM EDT.

Announcing the 2021 Open Hardware Summit!

open hardware summit at home

The 2021 Open Hardware summit will be held online again, Friday April 9, 2021. Just like this year, the summit will be livestreamed, but ticket holders will have access to additional interactive portions of the summit like meet-and-greets, workshops, and sponsor booths.

Find details, including ticket and sponsorship information at 2021.oshwa.org. We look forward to seeing you (in the chat) then!

Welcome New Board Members 2020-2022

Welcome to the following 2020-2022 board members! Congrats to Michael Weinberg, Oluwatobi Oyinlola, Javier Serrano, Drew Fustini, and Shah Selbe. Thank you to all OSHWA members who voted, your vote is important – we had quorum! Here are the results:

How do we run our elections?

All OSHWA board candidates have to self-nominate to be eligible for election. Self-nomination demonstrates that the candidate has a personal commitment to serving on the OSHWA board. The candidates outline their motivation and qualifications so voters can make informed decisions.

OSHWA board members are elected for two year terms. Terms are staggered so that only a portion of the OSHWA board terms expire in any given year in order to maintain continuity within the board. Elections are held each year for the portion of the board seats that are open in that year. This year, that was five board seats.

We announce the start of the board nomination process on the front of the OSHWA website and on the OSHWA twitter account (@ohsummit). These platforms reach beyond just existing OSHWA members to the broader OSHW community.  

In addition to the general announcement, we directly reach out to potential candidates with diverse backgrounds, suggesting they nominate themselves.

Once the nominations are closed, OSHWA members vote to elect new board members. Voting is limited to OSHWA members as per the rules that govern OSHWA’s non-profit incorporation.  We use online voting for board elections. Our bylaws require that at least 10% of our membership vote in order to have quorum to validate the election. 

Thank you again to all of the nominees, OSHWA members, and the larger open source hardware community for its support and engagement with this year’s board nominations and elections!

Announcing the Open Source Hardware Certification API

Today we are excited to announce the launch of a read/write API for our Open Source Hardware Certification program. This API will make it easier to apply for certification directly from where you already document your hardware, as well as empower research, visualizations, and explorations of currently certified hardware.

OSHWA’s Open Source Hardware Certification program has long been an easy way for creators and users alike to identify hardware that complies with the community definition of open source hardware.  Since its creation in 2016, this free program has certified hardware from over 45 countries on every continent except Antarctica.  Whenever you see the certification logo on hardware:

You know that it complies with the definition and that the documentation can be found using its unique identifier (UID).

What’s New?

The new API supports both read and write access to the certification process.  

Write access means that you can submit certification applications directly instead of using the application form.  If you already have all of the application information in a system, there is no need to retype them into a webform.

We hope that this will make it easier for entities that certify large amounts of hardware to build the certification process directly into their standard workflow.  We are also working with popular platforms to integrate a ‘certify’ button directly into their systems.  

Read access gives you access to information about hardware that has already been certified.  This will make it easier to explore the data for research, create compelling visualizations of certified hardware, and build customized lenses to understand what is happening in open source hardware.  

What Happens Now?

The first thing you can do is get a key and start exploring the API itself.  The team at Objectively has created detailed documentation, code snippets, and sandboxes that make it easy to test out all of the features.  

In the longer term, we hope that the community will build better ways to both submit applications for certification and present information about certified hardware.  OSHWA expects to maintain our application form and certification list for the foreseeable future.  That being said, we are also happy to share (and possibly cede) the stage to better ways to get information into and out of the system as they come along.  

For now, let us know what you do with the API!  You can tweet to us @OHSummit or send us an email at certification@oshwa.org.

2020 Open Source Hardware Weather Report

Today OSHWA, in collaboration with the Engelberg Center on Innovation Law & Policy at NYU Law, is thrilled to release the 2020 Open Source Hardware Weather Report.  The report is a snapshot of the open source hardware community as it exists in 2020, ten years after the first Open Hardware Summit.  It helps existing members of the open source hardware community take stock of where it is, and new members of the community understand the state of affairs today.

The open source hardware community has grown tremendously in the past decade.  That growth is a testament to the viability of the idea of open source hardware.  It can also create challenges when the community wants to talk to itself – let alone create welcoming pathways for new community members.  

The 2020 report allows the open source hardware world to collectively identify what is working, share insights, and rally around shared challenges.  It distills lessons learned and describes the collective understanding of the state of open source hardware.  The report provides guidelines for how open source hardware can be a viable approach to hardware development, as well as identifies situations where open source hardware may not be the strongest approach.  It also examines challenges that remain unresolved in 2020, along with opportunities for open source hardware in the future.

Like any weather report, this document is a snapshot of a moment in time.  It was originally  intended to flow from an in-person workshop held in connection with the tenth anniversary Open Hardware Summit at the Engelberg Center. When the Summit went virtual, that workshop transformed into a series of interviews with a cross section of the open source hardware community.

Common themes, concerns, and challenges emerged during those discussions.  The report provides an opportunity to summarize, distill, and universalize those insights.  It makes it easier for the community to understand what is working in most places, and what challenges still demand our collective attention.

While this report is distilled from community input, it will also benefit from additional thoughts, concerns, and observations.  That is why, in addition to the ‘stable release’ version captured in the PDF, we have also uploaded it to a github wiki.  That is where we invite comments from the community, both on the substance of the report and on the form of the report itself. Let us know if a snapshot report is useful to you, and what we can do to make it more useful in the future.

Finally, thank you to everyone who took the time to contribute to this report.  Some – but certainly not all – of them are listed in the acknowledgement section of the report.  We also welcome outreach from other members of the community who did not participate this year, especially if they might be interested in participating in a future report.

OSHW Community Survey 2020

In 2020 we conducted the third OSHW Community Survey (see 2012 and 2013), which collected 441 responses. All questions were optional, so you may notice response counts do not always add up to 441. In particular, a number of individuals didn’t feel comfortable with the demographic questions. We ask these questions as part of our efforts to promote diversity in the community, but these too were optional and anonymous.

A few highlights from this year’s survey compared to the 2013 survey:

  • The portion of people coming to open source hardware from open source software increased from 14.6% to 23.9%
  • In 2013, 42.8% of respondents indicated they have worked on or contributed to an open hardware project. This jumped to 85.6% in 2020.
  • While 2013 showed a plurality of people using blogs to publish design files, this year’s survey shows public repositories as the most popular option. The increase in people with open source software experience and improvement in repository collaboration offerings may be contributing factors.
  • This year’s survey shows a large increase in attendees for the 2020 Open Hardware Summit. This is likely due to 2020 being the first virtual summit. Although it was moved online due to unfortunate circumstances, the virtual platform offered the upside of greatly expanding the audience.
  • A small gain in the community’s gender diversity was seen, with those identifying as either female or other making up 18% of respondents, compared to 7% in 2013.

Interested in more granular results for any of these questions? Reach out to us at info@oshwa.org.

How did you first get involved with open source hardware?

Have you ever used open source hardware products?

How do you use open source hardware products?

For the open source hardware products that you use, how important were each of the following criteria in your decision to use and open source hardware product?

For situations in which you’d like to use an open source hardware product but currently use a proprietary one instead, how important are each of the following factors in preventing you from using an open source product?

Have you ever used others’ open source hardware designs to…

Have you ever worked on or contributed to an open source hardware project or design?

What year did you first begin working on or contributing to open-source hardware projects or designs?

On average, how many hours per week do you spend working on or contributing to open-source hardware projects or designs?

Why do you work on or contribute to hardware projects and/or designs?

For hardware projects or designs which you decided to open-source, how important were each of the following criteria in the decision?

Have you ever…?

Tell us more about how you publish and document your open source hardware. Have you…?

What licenses have you used to release hardware files?

Do you use the Open Gear Logo on your hardware?

If you use the Open Gear Logo on your hardware, why do you use it?

Do you know about the OSHWA open source hardware certification program?

Have you ever used the open source hardware certification program?

Why did you use the open source hardware certification program?

Why haven’t you used the open source hardware certification program?

Does any of your income come from open-source hardware?

How much of your income does your work on open-source hardware represent?

In 2019 what was your total personal income resulting from work on open source hardware?

Does your open source hardware related income come from…

Did you attend the Open Hardware Summit in…

Demographic Questions

Regarding your work with hardware, do you consider yourself a…

Are you a member of a hackerspace/makerspace?

How old are you?

Do you identify as:

Do you consider yourself to be:

What is the highest level of school you have completed or the highest degree you have received?

What’s your primary work status?

The Open Hardware community is made up of many creative individuals coming from diverse backgrounds. Which fields would you consider your areas of experience?