BANGALORE: While it took Google over a year to build its augmented-reality goggles, Google Glass, Kochi-based Arvind Sanjeev says he was able to replicate it in less than a month for just Rs 4,500, thanks to open-source hardware.
Instead of commercializing the product and with the intention of contributing to the community, Sanjeev posted a blog explaining how his 'Smart Cap' can be built by anyone using open-source hardware such as a Rasberry Pi computer, an Arduino board and Android software.
Open-source hardware platforms such as these and RepRap 3D printers are enabling students, engineers and entrepreneurs to start building hardware products with little to no knowledge of electronics.
"Before I got introduced to Arduino in college, I had no idea how a calculator works or how I could build one," confessed Sanjeev, 23, who couldn't learn anything about building computer hardware at his engineering college and decided to make all his projects available for anyone to replicate. He's developed a platform that he says can take over your car.
"With the help of open-source hardware, I have been able to build a platform wherein you could control the entire car, including its ignition through just a mobile app." Sanjeev has already applied for a patent for the platform and expects to sell it for Rs 9,000 apiece.
Mumbai-based Shreekant Farasbee, who has built a medical device to track glucose levels of diabetes patients, also used the Arduino computer board to create his prototype and is planning to contribute back to the open-source hardware community by making his Diabeto open source.
"Open-source hardware lets you cut down on your prototyping and design time significantly and the vast community support helps you at every stage," said Farasbee, whose device has received interest from global pharmaceutical companies.
Looking at the growing demand for its boards in India, Arduino opened its first India office in Bangalore last year. "We are seeing explosive growth for our business in India. We are talking to local companies here to start manufacturing our boards in India within the next couple of months," said Priya Kuber, managing director of Arduino in Bangalore. With local production, Kuber expects the prices to go down to Rs 900 from Rs 1,200.
Using RepRap, another open-source hardware toolkit, many Indian startups have already been able to build 3D printers, which are being sold commercially. "We used RepRap and Arduino as a platform to build our own 3D printer," said Nikhil Velpanur, co-founder of Bangalore-based Brahma3.
"It is only a matter of time that open-source hardware will become a part of school and college curricula," said S Sadagopan, professor at IIIT (International Institute of Information Technology), Bangalore. "The cost of IP ( intellectual property) makes hardware expensive. Open-source hardware eliminates that cost, making electronic hardware very accessible."
The move has already begun. The Kerala government has already decided to hand out out 10,000 Rasberry Pi computers to school students.
Some entrepreneurs are building their own open-source hardware to promote hardware product creation in India. Meerut-based Electrobricks is one such example. The company sells the basic kit for Rs 2,000, which kids and enthusiasts can use to create various hardware products