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4 Ideas from Connected Solid meetup

May is maker month in the San Francisco Bay Area with Maker Faire, MakerCon and Solid coming up. All events I’ll be covering for you on MakingSociety, focusing on open hardware entrepreneurship.

Last night was what I could call the kick-off of the season with a first event combining the crowds of SF Hardware meetup, Sensored meetup and SF Internet of Things meetup. This Connected meetup was organized by Solid, the new O’Reilly conference dedicated to the intersection of hardware and software, and coworking space Parisoma.

San Francisco really is a hub for hardware startups, driven by crowdfunding campaigns and a true sense of community inherited from the maker movement. Even if the hardware renaissance happens also well across the Bay, from Shenzen to Europe, SF local ecosystem is structured and alive.

Panel gathered Rachel Kalmar, data scientist at Misfit Wearables, Dan Saffer, interaction designer at Smart Design and Mike Kuniavsky, from PARC.

Mike Kuniavsky (PARC), Rachel Kalmar (Misfit), Dan Saffer (Smart Design) and Jon Bruner (Solid)

Mike Kuniavsky (PARC), Rachel Kalmar (Misfit), Dan Saffer (Smart Design) and Jon Bruner (Solid) talking about hardware startups

Ok, so what did these hardware peeps had to tell us last night?

Hardware is a tradeoff

Hardware is hard. But that’s also why it’s fun.

Hardware is always a tradeoff, between flexibility and optimisation, data and UX. For example, you can’t put an Arduino in a final product because it won’t be optimised for battery life. Your hardware product can’t be both a developper device, full of sensors and ways to get data, and a consumer device with a great UX. Current connected wearables don’t have accelerometers because of memory issues, users would have to charge them every hour.

There is a “new” hardware

Hardware is getting more object-oriented. And even if embedded sensors have been around for a long time, they are now very different because of the social platforms that come with them.

Many old industries using hardware devices with embedded sensors are now simply dangerous (such as hospital devices exposed recently in Wired). Too old, too unsecure.

Crowdfunding can lead to market saturation

Kickstarter can be dangerous for the development of hardware: “It looks like super tractions but you are saturating the market”. Don’t rely on crowdfunding for pre-sale, hardware usually cost much more than that.

Use crowdfunding to test the market, find your niche and iterate better.

3 hardware problems to solve

Current big hardware problems to solve are: battery life, data privacy rules and interoperability.

The case of wearables is a good example as the market is full of small companies competing to become the one and only platform. Datas are not shared between platforms, not owned by users and companies haven’t agreed nor committed to any set of rules regarding data privacy. Wearables are also still figuring out how to be useful and how to fit better in our life.

Increased battery life would mean more sensors and data and an overall better and more fluid experience for the user. Data privacy would allow for more usage and more crowdsourced analysis of all these raw data. Interoperability would bring users in the center of the wearable experience and allow for data analysis standardization.

See you around,

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