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Fast-track innovation with Design 2.0

Posted: 11 Dec 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Google? Design 2.0? engineering design? hackathon? crowdfunding?

An emerging trend in engineering design may be the answer for a number of those who feel a hitch impeding their progress with regard to design or innovation. Something I am calling Design 2.0 is bubbling up in the engineering community, injecting new energy into the profession. In many ways, it's the new Moore's Law.

Hackathons, accelerators, incubators and crowdfunding sources are some of its key elements. Its motivation is to enable anyone with a good idea to make more innovation happen faster.

It has a sort of parallel universe in the maker movement that's geared more for fun than for profit. Similar sets of tech-savvy geeks inhabit both worlds, dipping into a communal pool of tools such as open source software and low-cost boards: Arduino, Raspberry Pi, flavour of the month.

At a time when corporate design methodologies are exhibiting an advanced sclerosis of documented best practices, Design 2.0 is the Nike of a new generation, saying, "Just do it."

For example, I know a veteran microprocessor designer who left Intel not long ago, complaining that it takes a decade to get from a good idea to a shipping SoC. By contrast, Thomas Sohmers, a high school dropout, aims to create a chip next year that will beat the pants off anything in GigaFLOPS/W. He was inspired in part by Andreas Olofsson, who shipped multiple versions of his Epiphany chips in less than five years on less than $5 million.

The Web 2.0 crowd helped spawn Design 2.0. The first hackathon I ever attended was at a Facebook event, where I heard its motto, "Move fast and break things."

Hackathons make sense for folks such as Facebook and Google. They run vast server farms where you can plant a new software program and, with some luck and considerable tweaking, quickly wind up with a bumper crop of profitable web services.

Facebook applied this design philosophy to its data centre hardware with its Open Compute Project, disrupting the staid markets for servers and switches. The GoogleX lab did the same for hardware projects from smart glasses to driverless cars.

We've written stories on all these things, but there's much more to be told. It's early days for Design 2.0. You have many still-evolving stories we need to hear. In some ways, 2014 was the year of the hackathon. I'd like to hear about ones you attended or hosted. What worked, and what didn't? Accelerators/incubators are growing up like weeds from San Francisco to Shenzhen and Boston. Which one did you choose to work with, why, and what was your experience? What have you learned trying to crowdfund a project on Indiegogo or Kickstarter? What would you do differently?

I'm hoping to hear from the full spectrum of engineers, from twenty-somethings getting their first work experiences to veteran corporate R&D chiefs trying something new.

Design 2.0 is clearly happening. Tell us where it's taking you.

- Rick Merritt
??EE Times

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