This article is brought to you by the folks at Ingram Micro’s Business Intelligence Group
An overarching trend we have been observing over the past few years is people are sharing knowledge and innovation across borders at a more rapid rate due to the Internet. Fundamentally, if you want to look up how to fix your lawn mower or washing machine, chances are, someone has posted a video on Youtube.com. In addition, if you feel like taking a refresher course in algebra or chemistry since your child needs help, there is also the Khan Academy which led by Salman Khan. Within the knowledge sharing concept, a key trend that has been taking shape is the do-it-yourself (DIY) or maker movement which is being led by technologies such as the Arduino and Raspberry microcontroller’s (MCU), 3D printers and a private citizen’s willingness to share designs and innovations in public forums. For those that don’t know, a microcontroller is a small computer without the monitor, keyboard and other devices but has a processor, memory and programmable input and output. Often, these are used in non-PC devices such as automobiles, CE appliances and more that are programmed for myriad tasks. A 3D printer reads a 3D software design and prints it out in hard plastic.
In a nutshell, Arduino and Raspberry Pi boards allow people with very crude programming skills to create projects such as robots that can sense and avoid when a wall is coming, an Etch-a-Sketch clock, plants that notify you via e-mail when they need to be watered, etc. In essence, the microcontrollers are allowing people to fuse the digital world with the physical world. On the 3D printer side, an individual can essentially create something via 3D modeling or scanning software to capture and print an object into a physical one. To add more color, Microsoft and others are segueing more 3D capabilities into their gaming platforms and other software applications as consumers want to digitize and manipulate objects. In essence, we will see a thrust of more people scanning and printing their digital environments whether it’s a pencil, a piece of jewelry, a flower and more in the future.
Fundamentally, many believe this is creating a new renaissance in the technology world allowing artists, programmers and hobbyists to unify ideas and innovate. In addition, for countries such as the United States that want to accelerate the rate of innovation, many schools have incorporated STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs that allow students to get exposed to the aforementioned technologies which ultimately exposes them into more technical fields. For example, Century High School in Santa Ana California has one such program and has a 3D printer lab where students can create their own designs and print them out. In our opinion, we believe the maker movement trend is in the early stages and will create a halo-effect of new technologies in the future.