The People, Talks, and Swag of Open Hardware Summit

Friday was the 2016 Open Hardware Summit, a yearly gathering of people who believe in the power of open design. The use of the term “summit” rather than “conference” is telling. This gathering brings together a critical mass of people running hardware companies that adhere to the ideal of “open”, but this isn’t at the exclusion of anyone — all are welcome to attend. Hackaday has built the world’s largest repository of Open Hardware projects. We didn’t just want to be there — We sponsored, sent a team of people, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves in the process.

Join me after the break for a look at the talks, a walk through the swag bags, and a feel for what this wonderful day held.

Talks and Certification

openhardwarecertannThe big news at the conference is the unveiling of the Open Hardware Certification. [Brian Benchoff] wrote a very detailed explanation of the certification which you need to check out. But there are two big takeaways: you can certify your hardware which includes a unique identifier for people to look for to ensure they know what they are purchasing. If you have a product ready you should certify it before the end of October. That way you will be able to secure a very low number as far as unique identifiers go.

eric-pan-xfactory-talkSince this is an overview post I’m not going to go too in-depth about the talks. But here are a couple of highlights.

I really enjoyed hearing [Eric Pan], CEO of Seeed Studio, talk about x.factory which is operated by Chaihuo makerspace. This sounds like the industrial equivalent of a hackerspace. It’s a communal factory, which seeks to bring together talent from different factories all over Shenzhen.

[Eric’s] example is that your startup is great at making technology-enhanced furniture, except for lacking the expertise of building great furniture. Conversely, Shenzhen has many furniture manufacturers who make great furniture but lack the expertise to incorporate electronics and other technology. Bring these two together and you have the new-economy knowledge of the technologists, with the hard-earned manufacturing knowledge and distribution network of the furniture company. Collaborations across industries will be very interesting to watch.

microbit-talk[Steve Hodges] is on the Microsoft team who worked with the BBC to develop the micro:bit. I think it’s pretty awesome that the UK is striving to make sure a bare circuit board passes through the hands of every student as they pass through the school system. [Steve] demoed the board live — showing the software emulator and flashing a build to the board. It’s cool to see the block editor used to build the program, then switch over to look at (and alter) the JavaScript behind the visual abstraction.

[Steve] mentioned that they are working to make micro:bit available in Europe this year, and in North America as soon as next year.

Goodie Bags

It’s common to get a goodie bag at a conference. This one is notable as it contains some freebies I will definitely be holding onto. There were a ton of stickers which I use to wallpaper the back of my workbench area so these are always appreciated. Hackaday’s contribution was sweet (sorry, couldn’t resist): a sucker, Tindie and Hackaday stickers, and a few propaganda cards.

But check out the PCBs that came in the collector’s bag. I love having breakout boards on hand. CircuitMaker included an empty Arduino shield which has bus board, SMD adapter, and small-pitch through hole areas. I’m unlikely to use this with an Arduino but I will chop it up willy-nilly for needed projects. Sparkfun sent along four SOIC to DIP adapters, always handy to have. Digikey included their PCB ruler. This thing is pretty awesome, and although I’ve seen it at other conferences I haven’t scored one for myself. I laughed at the “For Reference Only” disclaimer in the upper right. Seeed Studio also included a PCB reference ruler.


The two that I really loved are dev boards. First is the Open Source Business Card Holder from Screaming Circuits and Sunstone. I’ll never use this as a business card holder but it has a PIC18F46K22 with an NXP MMA8552Q 3-axis accelerometer. The I2c/SPI bus is broken out, as are the ICSP pins. The GPIO pins aren’t broken out but there are two user buttons and 19 SMD LEDs. Unpopulate the resistors and there’s your broken out pins.

OSH Park made the second dev board possible, it’s [Piotr Esden-Tempski’s] 1Bitsy STM32F415 breakout board. It’s pretty awesome to see an ARM dev board included in everyone’s bag. I am certain to play around with this… I would imagine that a lot of the attendees will. If you got one of these in your bag and aren’t going to use it, make sure you take it (and the business card holder) along to the next hackerspace meeting as someone will be very happy to have these in hand.

This makes me think we need to run a contest challenging you to build around something you got as a freebie at a conference. We’re about to give away our own very awesome PCB-based item at the SuperConference.

More to Come

OSH Park hosted an epic Bring-a-Hack at their Portland headquarters the night before Open Hardware summit. There was also a really great happy hour when the talks wrapped at 5pm on Friday, an afterbar, and an after-afterbar. I got a look at really cool hardware during all of this and will be publishing more articles this week. Keep your eye on Hackaday for that.

6 thoughts on “The People, Talks, and Swag of Open Hardware Summit

      1. I had a really fun time in Portland. Good grief there are a lot of amazing places I wanted to eat at (or belly up to the bar). We walked about 6 blocks to the after-bar and must have passed a dozen restaurants that looked amazing.

        It was a really great turnout too… seems like there’s a huge hardware movement in the pacific Northwest. Next time I need to spend a few extra days and see if I can do a tour of all the interesting hardware companies brewing up awesome in Portland and Seattle area.

  1. This was a great event. Meeting all the interesting people in the field of Open-Hardware was very inspiring. Especially because the community is so widely spread all over the world. I wish it was a two day event, to have more time for conversations with everyone who put in all the effort to be there.

    Also, it is great to see 1Bitsy in the shwag bag. Without OSHPark we would not have been able to do this. I hope a lot of people will have fun with them. Curious who will find the easter egg we left in the flash of all 1Bitsy’s that were given away at the event.

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