Taking an Open-Source Approach to Hardware

The palm-sized Arduino serves as an electronic brain running everything from high schoolers’ robots to high-end art installations. But perhaps the oddest thing about the device is the business model behind it.

Plans for the Arduino, a simple microcontroller board, are available online, and anybody may legally use them to build and sell knockoffs.

The Arduino represents an early entrant in the emerging open-source hardware movement, which like Linux and other open-source software projects is driven by the belief that allowing duplication is a better way to spur innovation than keeping designs under lock and key. Its success suggests that the open-source model could provide a new way for manufacturers to develop and improve upon products.

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