Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Open Source Hardware (OSHW) Draft Definition Version 0.3 Released

According to Wikipedia “Open source hardware is hardware that is designed and offered in the same manner as free and open source software (FOSS). Open source hardware is part of the open source culture and applies the open source concept to hardware. The term usually means that information about the hardware is open to all. This would include the hardware design, as well as a FOSS approach to the software that drives the hardware.

According to another source, “Open Source Hardware (OSHW) is a term for tangible artifacts -- machines, devices, or other physical things -- whose design has been released to the public in such a way that anyone can make, modify, distribute, and use those things”.

This definition is intended to help provide guidelines for the development and evaluation of licenses for Open Source Hardware. According to this definition the distribution terms of OSHW must have the prerequisites like Documentation, Necessary Software, Derived Works, Free redistribution, Attribution, No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups, No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor, Distribution of License, License Must Not Be Specific to a Product, License Must Not Restrict Other Hardware or Software and License Must Be Technology-Neutral.

The OSHW culture also prevents arbitrary governmental dealings of hardware as everything is public and nothing is hidden. At present, many nations are banning certain hardware on the basis that they may carry malware or backdoors and thereby are security threats. When hardware is based upon open source foundation, these governments already would have the “source code” and any such decision would in itself be unreasonable.

As per the recent news, open-source hardware companies like Adafruit, Arduino, Chumby, and others have come together to set standards for their nascent industry. This is not only in the interest of end users but these companies as well. Open source is a big industry in itself and merebly because something is based upon open source does not mean that companies cannot derive commercial gain from it.

Further, open source culture also provides an opportunity to improve the end product as many contributors can provide their inputs for the same. In case of a closed source product, this is the biggest limitation and the commercial company has to engage its own technicians to do the job.