ChronoDot RTC is now Open Source
Over the past few years, a lot of small electronics hardware businesses have been starting up. Many of the more successful businesses and projects have adopted "open-source" philosophy into some or all of their products. Open-source concepts have been in existence for a long time...it's human nature to share information and explain how we made something. At the same time, there is what appears to be a conflicting desire to keep processes secret in fear of duplication.
The two concepts aren't actually contradictory. When you make and sell something while sharing the recipe, you are dealing in your ability to produce and innovate. A baker can give away a bread recipe while remaining confident in their skill to make the best bread, or come up with even better bread. The idea of keeping this recipe information secret is not a conflict...it marks the point where you are now dealing in intellectual property rather than production skill and innovation. Many companies don't have the ability or desire to build up production skill or innovate fast enough to compete in a market that is working with the same information...so they restrict the information.
However, electronics development has become almost as accessible as software development was years ago, when open-source software was introduced as a formalized concept. Common hardware can run cheap or free design tools, parts are widely available, small to medium scale production services and tools have fallen to accessible pricing. The barriers to entry have been drastically reduced. Electronics hardware startups are finding that skill improvement and innovation is nearly as easy in the hardware realm as it is in the software realm. And for these small startups, open design and community interaction are more valuable than a risk of competition in what is still a niche market.
A method of formalizing open hardware development and design distribution has become necessary. Toward that end, the OSHW Definition is currently being developed by the community and will form the basis for Open Hardware licenses that will aid distribution of hardware design information.
At macetech LLC, we've been discussing the above concepts for a long time. We still have some concerns about possible risks of making designs available for large scale production by competitors, but there is the reciprocal that any potential competitor also risks the same thing since the design is open. We're not sure if we're dealing in production skill and innovation, or dealing in intellectual property. There is a difference between agreeing with a philosophy, and as a business contemplating something that could harm a fragile bottom line.
We're willing to give it a try, though. So our first open-source product is a pretty simple design, the ChronoDot RTC breakout board based on the Maxim D3231 temperature compensated realtime clock chip. Design files for Eagle are included on the product page, or at this link: http://macetech.com/oshw/ChronoDotDesignFiles.zip
It will be interesting to see how this works out. We look forward to interacting with the electronics design community, maybe they'll come up with an even better ChronoDot 2.0!
Submitted by Garrett on Mon, 09/20/2010 - 00:59.