According to the Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA), open hardware is defined as “[…] hardware whose design is made publicly available so that anyone can study, modify, distribute, make, and sell the design or hardware based on that design.” (See the Open Source Hardware (OSHW) Definition 1.0 here.) Open hardware is an alternative IP management strategy, which transfers the logic of open source development from software to physical products. It opens up new avenues for individuals, businesses and non-profits to co-create products and related services.
However, its distributed nature and the fact that, unlike software, hardware production requires physical handling, have made this emerging field virtually invisible for the public. Did you know that hundreds and thousands of projects for sharing and developing complex open hardware have been created around the world since the middle of the last decade?
Despite the fact that this is well known for practitioners in the field, only few isolated initiatives such as the following have purposely contributed to making examples of open source hardware more visible:
- The Certified Projects Directory of the OSHWA, see here
- List of open-source hardware projects on Wikipedia, see here
- Listed medical equipment projects by The Open Source Imaging Initiative (OSI²), see here
Apart from the first example with a strong focus on licensing aspects, these initiatives do not provide the required information for people to build, produce, use, modify, upgrade or disseminate the wide variety of existing open hardware projects. It remains unclear even for practitioners in the field what kind of documentation for products and components are out there or even how open they actually are.
In today’s world, knowledge is the key to success. However, when it comes to studying, modifying, distributing, making, and selling open hardware, people need to be able to easily find and promote technical documentation.
Sustainability and open hardware
Through the creation of a joint platform, this project is linking the sustainability concept with the principles of open development. Open source design (OSD) as an alternative to classical product development can support more sustainable production and consumption in industrialized countries.
By sustainable projects we refer those projects which pursue the three aspects of ecological, economic and social sustainability as equal goals and which aim to realign production and consumption towards sustainability in industrialised countries, as well as to combat poverty in the developing countries.