Dianne Kibbey

November 11, 2014

3 Min Read
What About Crowdsourcing New Components?

The tech industry is no stranger to crowdsourcing funding for new projects, and at element14 we're no strangers to crowdsourcing ideas for new projects through our many design competitions. But what about crowdsourcing new components? No other segment of the electronic components business is better poised to succeed with such an approach as the development kit market. Finished products are going to market faster than ever before thanks to the democratization of these ready-made, low-cost boards. This, in turn, has encouraged more manufacturers to develop them and more distributors to supply them -- changing the way engineers interact with both types of companies. Now, it's time to change the way engineers influence both supplier and manufacturer.

Putting price points aside, we have found that ease of use, support, convenience, and functionality all impact engineers' decisions to purchase new dev kits. Aside from those, the decision to buy can be influenced by a series of important board features and requirements -- physical interface, connectivity, processor data width, and speed, to name a few. As new applications and industries drive newer and different prototyping needs, the challenge for manufacturers to keep up with those demands will only intensify. This is why manufacturers should look to engineering communities to inspire new technologies and product lines. As dev kits continue to improve the design of new prototypes and bring more of them to life, the industry's demand for those kits will only grow. Putting the power of production into the hands of the engineer has the potential to get in front of that demand.

At the element14 Community, we are proud and excited to announce the launch the DreamBoard Project -- an interactive, three-step tool that allows users to create and brand their own virtual development kit. A range of technical options relating to board size, processor, memory, sensors, features, interface, and connectivity and core architecture allows customers to assemble their ideal dev board and configure it to their desired technical specifications. What's more, personalization features allow users to name their board, add a description, upload a logo, and choose the board's color.

All of this comes with a social component, making the DreamBoard Project a true crowdsourcing initiative. Completed designs can be saved and shared online, enabling users to show off their designs. We're also given a unique opportunity to find out what exactly constitutes the "perfect" board for our customers, what that board enables them to do and how engineers today are pushing the boundaries of dev kit design. And we don't intend to stop there. element14 will then look to combine the most popular components selected and create the ultimate DreamBoard to be available through our transactional websites.

The product lifecycle of the electronic components industry is changing. Manufacturers and distributors looking to actively drive innovation and idea-sharing must get input from everyone involved at every stage. That includes the design engineer and production. Crowdsourcing initiatives like the DreamBoard project can enable leaner, more responsive component manufacturing and stronger customer relationships. Most importantly, it can provide engineers with exactly the tools and resources they need to build the next great product or solution now.

Dianne Kibbey is global head of community at element14, a global electronics distributor and an online community of more than 260,000 design engineers and tech hobbyists.

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