How Information Technology Is Making DIY Innovation Possible

How Information Technology Is Making DIY Innovation Possible

May 23

For generations, large, financially stacked corporations have been viewed as the major drivers of technological innovation. Dell with its fleet of personal computers. Microsoft with its vast library of software applications. Apple with its rapidly growing collection of super smart iDevices. You’ll still find the big names lingering somewhere along the cusp of the cutting edge, but advancements in information technology have made it so developing new innovation isn’t limited to corporately funded R&D teams.

Power of the Crowd

Crowdsourcing allows entrepreneurs, startups, and cash-strapped small businesses to take their idea to groups of people who are interested enough to bring it to life through funding and other means. With the aid of platforms like Kickstarter, the services of engaged community members may be called upon to collect data, upload content to a website or even develop new products and technology. Sometimes these participants are compensated with earth money for their contributions. Other times, they are merely rewarded with a pat on the back and the personal satisfaction that accompanies a job well done.

Although competitors have emerged, mainstream success has made Kickstarter the face of the crowdsourcing phenomenon. Started in 2009, the site served as the funding platform for a number of well known projects, including the Pebble smartwatch. Pebble Technologies initially set out to raise $100,000 for its Android-powered digital watch that integrates with the user’s mobile phone via Bluetooth. In the end, Pebble raised well over $10 million, making it the highest funded project on Kickstarter.

Ouya is another Android-based system born from the Kickstarter platform. This upcoming video game console, which is expected to have an optimized version of Jelly Bean onboard, will treat players to an exclusive app, gaming and streaming content experience specifically made for the system. What’s really interesting about this project is that it openly allows root access, meaning you can change system settings, update the system and add new functionality without voiding your warranty. The Ouya project raised $8.5 million, the second highest amount in Kickstarter history.

Straight to the Source

Having access to the core of Ouya raises some interesting points about open source technology, which as the aforementioned projects highlight, is very closely related to crowdsourcing these days. Although Google typically works with hardware makers when incorporating the system into new devices, the source code for Android is available under a license that allows it to be freely used, modified and distributed. Like Linux, the platform on which it’s based, Android paints the perfect picture of what open source is all about.

The mobility and flexibility of Android grows in demand as devices continue to evolve from the PC. These projects generally see contributions from multiple people, each with their own unique role to play in the grand scheme — some doing work at the kernel level, others developing entirely new distributions. All work toward moving the project along and continually improving it with updates. For many contributors, the most rewarding incentive for those efforts is convenient access to powerful applications and playing an integral role in the community. In the ideal scenario, it’s a win-win for all parties involved.

The open source trend is becoming a huge factor beyond the virtual walls of the development realm. According to a survey of more than 800 respondents, it’s rapidly breaking down adoption barriers, helping solve monumental challenges in the enterprise environment, and growing across multiple sectors. The Future of Open Source Survey cited that 35 percent of respondents believe its biggest impact over the next two to three years will be made in government. Healthcare and media were also listed as sectors primed to benefit from the use of open source technology.

Embrace the DYI Movement

From blogging plugins and CMS modules to the funding of filming and product development projects, open source software and crowdsourcing are sturdy cornerstones of the DYI revolution that is empowering would-be innovators to bypass traditional roadblocks and play active roles in bringing their creative concepts to life. Not the first time we’ve seen something amazing from the DIY crowd. Over the years, authors, musicians, photographers, and others have taken control of their own destiny from brainstorming to packaging and shipping. However, the ever expanding scale of information technology allows self sufficient innovation such as this to open the doors to endless possibilities unlike those served up past times.