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How Makers are changing the world—and why I’m so excited about it

How Makers are changing the world—and why I’m so excited about it
by Sander Arts on 01-21-2016 at 12:00 pm

 I’ve spent my entire career in the tech space, being exposed to some of the world’s biggest and most innovative companies. But these days, the thing that excites me a most is how Makers are using technology to make the world a better place.

Consider this: The recent Hackaday prize challenged Makers to build something that matters in the world. All of the prize-winning projects—and in fact, 80 percent of the finalist designs—were powered by Atmel-based Arduino boards. Examples include ALS patient Patrick Joyce and his 2015 winning Hackaday team who created an eye-controlled wheelchair system that offers life-changing mobility and independence for people without the use of their hands. Then there’s the team of graduate students who expanded the open source concept to bionics, giving amputees access to affordable, customizable, 3D-printed prosthetic hands. And the vineyard owner who took on the California drought with a sensor-driven water conservation system that saved 430,000 gallons of water in its first year.

It’s clear that now anyone can change the world using technology, and that presents tremendously exciting opportunities.

We help our customers make meaningful contributions with technologies that have literally turned product design into child’s play. This is part of an industry evolution that Atmel helped drive by making investments into integrated hardware, reference applications and software libraries, and high-quality, production-ready development tools. An example that’s familiar to many Makers is Arduino, which is powered by an Atmel microcontroller and is a launchpad for many Maker projects. Just search for ‘Arduino’ on Kickstarter or Indiegogo and you’ll find hundreds of projects. Some of the most-funded campaigns—from 3D printers and drones to household humanoid robots and smart home solutions—feature Atmel technology.

But as important as easy-to-use development platforms are, we believe that silicon vendors need to do more than just help Makers prototype. At Atmel, we recognized the need not only to make design easier, but also to make the transition from prototype to production easier. The Arduino environment is intuitive and easy to use for prototyping, but it has limitations that make it unsuitable for taking a project all the way to production. To solve that, Atmel provides free software development tools that let Makers import an Arduino project directly into our Studio debugging environment, which natively supports Arduino libraries. And we offer a full suite of microcontrollers at varying cost and performance levels, as well as components for connectivity, security, and touch interfaces, to take prototypes to final products. That kind of ecosystem compatibility just isn’t available anywhere else.

The next challenge for Makers is to bridge the chasm from makerspace to marketplace, and we’re there to help as well.

While Arduino simplifies design, crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo and outlets such as Hackaday and Instructables make it easier to bring those concepts directly to the investors who will fund their development and to the consumers who will pay for the finished product. But as Makerspace becomes more crowded, it’s becoming more challenging for individual Makers to get attention and differentiate their products from the slew of innovation on these sites.

That’s why we support Maker Faires around the world, and why we bring tech tours for training and supply chain assistance to local Makers. We also support Makers using our extensive social networking influence to highlight their projects in the marketplace. That kind of support is available nowhere else.

Atmel is ranked as the number one social semiconductor company by Publitek, with a social media influence that is the highest in the industry. The Atmel blog has millions of views and shares—more than all other 39 semiconductor companies combined (Publitek research, 2015)—and our Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and YouTube pages add millions more impressions. We have 55,000+ Twitter followers today, and that number is growing by ~25 percent per quarter. These impressive numbers make a significant difference to our customers and their ability to reach their prospective markets—as you can read in their own words here.

It’s this sort of validation that makes me so excited. The ultimate power is with the Makers who are changing the world. And really, this is what technology has always been about. While Makers see a way they can make the world a better place, we have the amazing opportunity to provide technologies, connections, and a full range of support that lets us become a champion for people who are solving world problems. We say that we are ‘enabling unlimited possibilities,’ and we truly do that. Next week, at Emtech Asia, I will speak on this topic. I am very excited to represent this company and the Makers that truly change the world.

This week, this story also hit the media. Have a look if you’re interested: http://www.newelectronics.co.uk/electronics-blogs/from-makerspace-to-marketplace-unlimited-possibilities-to-change-the-world/113289/

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