Crowd-funding the hardware future

Written by Andy Stout

Form1The Form1 3D printer - a crowd-funded driver of the future

The way that software is developed and brought to market has changed radically over the past few years. Now new technology and funding methods mean that it could be hardware’s turn next.

We don't often link to articles on other websites - we prefer to write our own, but this fascinating article about the growth in hardware-based start-ups on Tech Radar is well worth a read: 'The rise of hardware startups: why crowd-sourced gear is the future.'

Essentially it says that three things are happening at the moment which may go on to change the face of consumer electronics forever.

First, component costs have shrunk, driven by competition, Moore’s Law, and the ability of retail giants to offer tech products as loss leaders, to the point where they are affordable to small-to-medium size enterprises. Second, crowd-funding websites such as Kickstarter have successfully enabled inventors and entrepreneurs to bypass traditional, often hidebound investment routes. And third the growth in 3D printing technology – itself a prime recipient of crowd-funded investment – has enabled the prototyping stage of the development cycle to become much easier.

Of course, the implications go far beyond the consumer electronics industry. The moving image industry has a long tradition of hosting innovative start-ups that go on to be impressively disruptive – RED, Avid...we won’t bore you with the long, long list — and it will be fascinating to see what happens when that heritage of innovation collides with the structural changes mentioned above. At the far edge of speculation you can even read all this as ushering in the ‘Makertopia’ of ordinary people first brewing and then hacking the technology they need to improve their lives in their garages.

At the moment the top-funded project on Kickstarter is the Pebble Smartphone, which has raised over $10M in funding, but it's fair to say that the video industry is as under-represented in the hardware section as the "please make another vampire TV series" is over represented.

However, it’s worth keeping tabs on the Hardware section in Kickstarter and other websites of that ilk – it’s all going to change rather spectacularly soon.

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