Here, our recap of Web Summit Day 2, the vast tech conference that took place at Dublin, Ireland in early November. As in the first day, we chose to stayed focused on Machine stage, where world class speakers talked about projects into areas that catch our attention: maker culture, 3D printing, open hardware, DIY, crowdfunding, Internet of Things, and many others.
The long tail of making
Since its foundation in 2007, 3D printing company Shapeways is aimed to make 3D printing accessible for everyone. During his enthusiastic talk, Peter Weijmarshausen, CEO and co-founder of Shapeways, showed us the expanding possibilities of 3D printing, currently being possible to design and print, for instance, custom phone cases, model trains, jewellery, board games, etc. As he put it, “only your imagination is your limit”.
Shapeways provides services and tools to the members of its community to create and print their own objects, even for those without prior knowledge on 3D technologies. On the other hand, Shapeways is also a marketplace where makers and designers can get profit by selling their own designs.
Weijmarshausen also talked about the recent partnership agreement with Hasbro, Inc, to produce 3D printed models of characters of My Little Pony. That could open a path to further agreements with other licensed media companies as both, companies and their fans, benefit. It helps fans, because they can choose and decide about their most beloved licensed products; and it benefits companies as well, saving huge amounts of money in marketing and testing campaigns. Though “we still need something like Spotify for 3D printing”, he finished assuring that “in years to come, we are going to see the profound impact of these technologies”.
Legos for the iPad Generation
Since we witnessed their astonishing presentation at Sónar + Barcelona last June, we truly believe that the electronics manufacturer littleBits is one of the most innovative players of the Maker movement. littleBits is an open source library of modular electronics pre-assembled in small circuit boards that snap together with magnets. They empower makers and designers, allowing them to play and experiment with electronics even without being an expert. Education through electronics is also an important concern of littleBits as they provide a specific kit for educators and students.
At Web Summit, Canadian Ayah Bdeir, CEO and founder of the company, shared with us her fresh and visionary ideas on open hardware and maker movement. In that sense, a main aim of littleBits is to provide people with means for them to make things. Advocating for a democratization of hardware and engineering, she presented her company as an alternative to top-down and closed approaches of traditional hardware companies. Hardware needs iterations, it needs to be imperfect, she said. In that development scenario, the involvement of the community is decisive. She also proposed democratizing the Internet of Things by lowering the barriers to understanding and iterating, making it universal and raising the ceiling of complexity. As a result, we could make the Internet a modular block.
She closed her presentation saying that the next billion dollar idea is not going to come from Apple. It is going to come from designers, artists, entrepreneurs and everyday people.
Smart little things
After that, Ayah Bdeir joined to Zach Supalla of Spark and Moe Tanabian of Samsung to discuss the challenges raised by the exponential growth of the Internet of Things. The panel called “Connecting the dots” was moderated by Mischa Dohler from Kings College London.
All panelists agreed that there is still a long way to make the Internet of Things a land of opportunities. In that sense, Moe Tanabian, Head of Smart Things Innovations Lab at Samsung, said that “we are still in the early 90’s”, comparing the current trends in technology to connect IoT devices with the way computers were connected in that early stage of the Internet. He also addressed the privacy issue, sustaining that privacy is important but at this moment is overhyped, further considering that the value of the service overpasses the privacy issue.
“The world is waking up to the Internet of Things”, said Zach Supalla, CEO of open source and Internet-connected hardware Spark . Nevertheless, even when developing IoT hardware is getting easier, it is not that easy yet. During a hardware development process, it is necessary to overcome many barriers (or “reefs” as he said) before reaching a steady position to benefit from the fact that hardware is harder to copy than software. On the other hand, Ayah Bdeir of littleBits said that making a prototype is still difficult, as components dictate what a prototype can do. She also underlined the interest of her company in using electronics as a material.
Bypassing the traditional capital market
Danae Ringelmann, co-founder of San Francisco-based crowdfunding platform Indiegogo closed the second day at Machine Summit. The company was founded in 2008 to help everybody to get their projects funded. After 6 years, the platform has helped near 300,000 campaigns to raise millions of dollars.
She clarified that some companies using Indiegogo actually don’t need financial backing. Nevertheless, they use the platform to define the product and build a market. Other companies use it to attract market investors or become smarter and faster before launching. Meanwhile, startup companies needing funding can completely bypass the traditional capital market, being this also a way to democratize the access to capital. However, Ringelmann envisions a new role for traditional investors, becoming an amplifier instead of a gatekeeper.
She proudly presented some technology projects successfully crowdfunded, as the energy project Gravity Light, the first open digital cinema camera Axiom Beta, the wearable activity tracker Misfit Shine, or Miss Possible, a project for manufacturing dolls to inspire girls to go into STEM.
More and better ideas for projects, more meritocracy, less waste, lower market and execution risks will lead, she concluded, to a healthier financial ecosystem.
During Web Summit talks, we heard a lot about the Internet of Things implying a seamless working Internet where not only people but devices connect. Quite ironically, with WiFi being too slow and occasionally not working at all, tweeting speakers’ speeches about that “ubiquitous” Internet was a rather difficult task –therefore, it was not a fail of the Web Summit organization as you can read here. Actually, it is a recurrent issue we face covering events around Europe. But it make us wonder about the immediacy of this Internet of Things we are aspiring to.
Keep tuned for our Web Summit Day 3 recap.