On Thursday night last week a crowd gathered at the TWG offices for the first #nerdlearn of 2013, the event where good developers can drink beer and learn from each other. They were hungry for knowledge and for pizza, and we gladly obliged on both counts with a few beers thrown in for good measure.
At #nerdlearn we like to look into the future and unpack the industry trends we see coming down the pipes – this instalment was no exception. Our topic, hardware hacking for software devs, was chosen to appeal to our audience of natural tinkerers. We wanted to hear from the experts on how to get started, what the current state the industry is, and where it will take us in the future.
A snap poll of our audience by our awesome moderator Dessy revealed that our at least a third owned Arduino, Raspberry Pi or other hardware that they wished they were doing more with. And about half raised their hands when asked if they were thinking of buying a kit but needed a push to get started. That push came in the shape of our four incredible panelist. Pearl Chen (Karma Laboratory), Mike Woodsworth (Upverter), Rob Platek (Jobdeals) and Shaun Rossi (Fidalia Networks).
Pearl runs regular electronics workshops (sign up here!), so she was full of useful tips on how to get started. Her demos were really inspiring – including a “zombie tag” sweater that used LilyPad Arduino: A microcontroller board designed for wearables and e- textiles. When the wearer gets tagged, a circuit is completed and LEDs on the back of the sweater flash wildly. She also showed us this little guy – an Arduino robot controlled by her phone. Adorable.
Mike is the co-founder at Upverter, a startup that builds software designed for people building hardware. His insights into hardware startups were invaluable, talking about how hardware startups are becoming easier because of cheaper prototyping, increased production speed, the ubiquity of smartphones and design tools like Upverter. He also shared some interesting perspectives on open source as it relates to hardware, telling us that the best way to win is if hardware adopts an open source philosophy much like software. If you’re ready to design some hardware yourself, hop on over to Upverter and sign up for a free open source account.
Rob showed us a demo that used his iPad to control the temperature of different buildings around the city. He talked in detail about the potential for hardware to control your home – initially through wifi, but poised to become more ubiquitous once the Internet is available everywhere. Rob runs a Meetup group for the Internet of Things in Toronto. The next IOToronto meetup is on February 19th at Hotel Ocho and you can sign up here. The meetup talks ‘hardware startups, urban infrastructure, arduino, wireless sensors, smart grid, open hardware, quantified self, open data, environmental monitoring and more. Anything that puts a networked computer where none has gone before.’ Perfect, right?!
Shaun builds his business, Fidalia Networks, by day, and hobby hardware projects by night. He was a great source of inspiration for real things we could be building ourselves. For him, hardware hacking presents a truly fun way to solve some of life’s real problems. His examples included an automated home entry system. When someone rings his doorbell, he can see via a camera who is at the door, and then choose whether or not to remotely activate the lock and let them in. He also built an RFID coffee cup that texts the owner when their coffee is ready. His ideas really got us thinking about cool ways we could use hardware hacks in the TWG offices. We had a blast and left feeling very inspired, and we think our audience did too! Several people mentioned after the panel that they had very little experience with hardware but were now inspired to get into it:
Thank you so much to everyone that came out! We’ll be back soon with another #nerdlearn and in the meantime, here are some more pics from the event. Thank you so much to Ivonne from Women & & Tech for bringing her camera and sharing her photos with us.