October 18, 2013

5 Reasons Why Makers Matter In the Internet of Things

Chris Rezendes, Founder and President, INEX Advisors.

Makers may be hobbyists ‘first’, but INEX thinks they will be capitalists that last.

First, let me start by saying that I am an inconsistent and marginal hobbyist.  Every year I roll out grand veggie and herb garden designs, new plans for this hedge or that bed, and a three-phase plan for pruning, pulling and replanting trees. And … we harvest 1.5 summer squash, our cilantro is overrun by spearmint, and that beast white pine still has not been tamed.

But I am hooked on the partnership with nature that is gardening.  And someday, I would like to do more with it.

My children like to make things too.  Correction, they have to make things.  From custom lemonade concoctions to profit and loss tables for their lemonade stands, they are making.  All day.  All night.  For school.  For friends.  For themselves.

They are even designing and building home-made juggernaut suits similar to the ones worn by their avatars in certain first-person combat games.

The reality of their hot, sweaty, itchy, limited vision, immobilizing personal armor, made from sports equipment, packaging material, dustpans, saucepan lids and duct tape they say is 1,000 times better than ‘the game’.  The one they made is real.

And I suppose that is the point.  Real is better.  Better than virtual, augmented and hyper-reality (nod to one of the most challenging authors I have ever known, Italian Semiotician Umberto Eco).

And in the Maker Movement, so many things are made real … so many ideas, so many plans, so many dreams.  It is for this reason above all others that the Maker Movement will not be a fad, it will not be rooted in or defined by 3D printing alone, will not fade at the outer edges of ‘hobbies’.  Makers are making meaning – and increasingly, they are thinking about making money too.

You see, here is something that I learned at Maker Faire in Manhattan last month:  Makers are ‘AND’ people.  The future belongs to ‘AND’ people.  The future will belong, in part, to Makers.

Let me drop down a level and offer five views into why I think this is, and perhaps a little bit on how …

1. Employment and economic trends.  Increasingly, the sources of jobs in the US, EU and BRICS is shifting away from the largest public and private institutions into the smaller.  Government and Fortune 5,000 job creation demand has been declining, and is predicted to continue to do so, at least in the United States.

2. Commercial intentionsMAKERMedia does amazing work contributing to both the vision for and enablement of the Maker Community.  One such contribution is their census and survey of Makers.  The last one that we had a peek at revealed that while only 10% of makers got into making with commercial intentions, more than 40% state that one of their primary motivations going forward was to show, share and sell their work.

3. Education trends.  It does not take an EdD or a yogi to know and accept that many of our most powerful lessons are learned through experience.  By doing.  Making.  I suppose it will be this way forever – or at least as long as we value the human, organic, carbon brain above all others.  At the Maker Faire in Manhattan, MakerMedia gathered a handful of the most innovative practitioners in primary, secondary and post-secondary education in the United States to talk about their experiences making with students.  The terms used to summarize the experience of teachers and students – and community members – making together sounded exactly like the terms used by some of the most forward looking and best performing organizations in the world when they describe how they do well:  collaboration, connection, common goals, commitment, creativity … and more.  It sounded familiar to people who study effective organizations.

4. Abundance of hardware/ firmware tools and enabling technologies … to complement all the software hackers and developers have been enjoying for the past decade.  It may be trite, but it is tried and true also, Moore’s Law, Shannon’s Law, and other ‘laws’ are simultaneously enhancing the power of the technical tools available to makers, hackers, programmers and developers, while at the same time, radically and persistently lower their cost to acquire, deploy and maintain.  And it is not only open-source technologies … it is Arduino, Beaglebone, Electric Imp, Libelium, Raspberry Pi and others.  But perhaps more than that, is the culture of sharing and collaboration within the Maker Movement that enables so many to create so much with so little, relatively speaking. And this community is backed by a strong collection of open-source enablers and managers, including AdaFruit Industries, Open Materials and others

5. The companies investing in Makers.  In case you have not been paying close attention, there is a pretty powerful collection of technology companies investing in, indeed forming the foundation of, the tools that enable the maker movement to make money along with all that meaning.  Their global reach, massive marketing machines, and creative market/ channel/ ecosystem development programs, are resonating with the values of Makers.  First ARM and a number of their ecosystem partners ATMEL, Freescale, NXP, Qualcomm and STMicro … and recently, INTEL.

And one more for good measure:  The very nature of the Internet of Things.  If the Internet of Things is the instrumentation of the physical world – the things that matter in people’s lives – and the physical world is everywhere, leadership in the Internet of Things will come from anywhere.

And anyone with the right tools, intentions, partners.

What is your experience with makers?

And Makers, drop us a line. Maybe we can help.


Christopher Rezendes is president of INEX Advisors, an Internet of Things focused technology intelligence and advisory firm based in New Bedford, MA. Rezendes’ has 22 years of experience analyzing, advising or operating mission critical technology businesses. The firm, INEX Advisors, focuses on helping clients define, select and execute on their most promising growth and investment opportunities in Machine to Machine/Internet of Things/connected devices markets. Follow INEX on Twitter @INEXAdvisorsLLC or on LinkedIN.

October 18, 2013