Technological innovation is not limited to software and apps, and we are currently experiencing a massive wave of innovation in hardware. We’re seeing open source hardware platforms, cheaper hardware appearing in an increasing variety of forms, and novel uses of existing technology. Examples of this include wearable devices, drones, 3D printed items, and new uses for smartphones. And, the hardware industry is more open to innovation than ever before. Here are a few reasons why manufacturing hardware is now easier than ever.
Crowdfunding makes it possible for those with a great idea to raise the money required to build their prototypes or turn a prototype into a mass-produced item. The crowdfunding sites connect you with a large pool of potential investors, some of whom turn into de facto beta testers of your new prototype. If they like the product, they’ll become word of mouth marketers and share the product on social media, too. This means that hardware development is no longer restricted to tech startups. If there is enough interest, the inventor can use contract manufacturers to make small lots or even massive quantities based on demand.
Contract manufacturing means you no longer have to build a factory to build your product. It also allows you to take advantage of existing economies of scale for items that cannot be 3-D printed. These firms don’t require to you have a large minimum order to create your first mass produced batch. Advances in technology like 3D printing and CNC machines allow them to create affordable, working prototypes in a matter of days. Sending files via the internet to the cheapest contract manufacturer means they may be able to make a prototype and ship it back within a week. Faster prototyping allows tech startups to come up with a good product before they hit the market.
One side benefit of contract manufacturing is that it reduces the capital expenditures required to make hardware. It also reduces the supply chain and manufacturing pressures. Only make what you need when you need it. And, if there are no sales, you haven’t wasted money making your first batch. Innovators can simply return to the drawing board and come up with something else.
The Revolution in Hardware
We’re in the midst of a hardware revolution. We’re seeing the rapid development of interconnected devices, whether it is making existing equipment smarter or new devices that perform better than their predecessors.
Open source hardware and software allows for the re-use of existing, trusted intellectual property. This means that far more people are willing to use the product knowing that it is compatible. Then, you can focus on the true, innovative uses of it instead of making sure the connectors are in the right spots. And, being able to use a Raspberry Pi as the brains of your system means you don’t have to waste time reinventing what already exists.
The Shifting Focus of Investors
Investors are starting to appreciate the importance of hardware instead of searching for the next big app. This has led to companies that focus on finding novel hardware solutions, supporting the product development process, and connecting hardware startups with electronics manufacturers. They’ve come to realize that hardware startups are more disruptive to the industry but may have the next big product in their hands.
Forget creating the next big app, because hardware is cool again. Shifts in technology and the market are making it easier than ever for anyone to develop and produce new hardware for the general market and niche applications.