Your perspective on open platforms and technologies

Carlos Camargo cicamargoba at
Wed Jun 2 19:59:09 EDT 2010

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Carlos Camargo <cicamargoba at>
Date: Tue, Jun 1, 2010 at 8:23 AM
Subject: Re: Your perspective on open platforms and technologies
To: Christina Raasch <raasch at>, Wolfgang Spraul
<wolfgang at>

Hi Christina

Dear Prof. Camargo,

Carlos please :)

> I am doing research with Prof. Sonali Shah from the University of
> Washington in Seattle ( We are
> trying to learn more about open hardware and the modes and limitations of
> transferring 'open source principles' to the hardware domain. Also, we are
> trying to better understand the meaning and implementation of ‘openness’ in
> different contexts.
Great, right now I'm working in a similar área.

> Following an interview with Wolfgang Spraul, he referred us to you as an
> international expert on these issues. He also pointed out that your
> perspective from Colombia is particularly interesting and valuable for our
> project.

I'm so far to be an expert in these issues :).

Right now, I'm trying to make a successful technological transfer process to
the local industry and academy in Digital Design area, Embedded System
design. For my point of view, this is the most important topic for Countries
like Colombia. We are using obsolete technologies and outdated design
methodologies, Additionally our electronic industry is very small and can't
compete with Asian products. As result Colombia depends of external
technology and technological products, our electronic engineers are working
on different areas like programming, or sales.

I've started to work on open projects when I design my first platform
ECBAT91 [1], many people around the world ask me for this work, and I build
some boards for people from Mexico, Peru, Italy, Belgium, USA, Argentina,
and many universities in Colombia.

We've created a wiki page and put some information about our platform here
[2]. The problem with this approach was the manufacturing process, here in
Colombia we don't have facilities for automatic mounting (pick and place
machines) . The  impact of this work was very good, we can spread the use of
this board around the country and I make a lot of talks in many colombian
universities.  The time for design this platform and adapt FOSS projects to
it was 2 years. The next step was create a technological company  [3],
emQbit was the first colombian company that design custom embedded systems
based on [1]. emQbit already make many commercial products used at present
for colombian companies, (one USA company on one Italian company) . For me
this is the key for technological development in the system design area in
countries like Colombia, Startup companies created from Academy and
knowledge and technology transfer using Open hardware projects.

So, what is an open hardware project, we talk a lot with Wolfgang about
that, and we think that we consider economical aspects and physical
resources like facilities for build the hardware. For me the key in copyleft
is the availability for modify an existent design. You can modify SW in easy
way, there are a lot of development tools: compilers, debuggers, text
editors, libraries, applications, etc. But HW is totally different, if you
want to modify an existing design first you must to buy the design tool
(Orcad, protel, allegro, etc) Current open CAD design tools like kicad [4]
or PCB [5] are in th initial stage and provide limited aids for manual or
automatic routing. So, if you need 10.000 USD for a commercial tool, this
project can be used for specific people. Another point is the PCB
manufacturing, many companies like Atmel provide the design files for their
development boards, using commercial CAD and 6 or 8 layers PCBs, the cost
for make one of this boards is around 1000 usd, and again only a specific
target can use this project. If you finally can build one PCB you buy and
 mount the components, so, you need specific skills and special equipment,
or have enough money for use special companies that makes teh work for you.
Again, the access is limited to some people.

Wolfgang and me are working on a development board that try to minimize
the associated costs [6] we are using 2 layer PCB (the cheapest PCB) and
TQFP components, so is relatively- easy to mount. Additionally we are
writing a lot of documentation [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] showing how the board
works, we think that knowledge transfer is mandatory in copyleft hardware
projects.  My students upload their work [12] [13] [14], as requirement of
my courses methodology, with this we expand the community around our idea,
and increase the common (as knowledge). The complexity level of this
projects are very high than past project when we don't use copyleft hardware
projects, the students have access to full documentation, and they can think
in new commercial products.

Wolfgang are talking with asian companies to create relationships for
manufacturing, so, you can reduce the associated costs, or you can provide
access to this facilities to any interested people.

So, in conclusion, copyleft hardware projects (from my point of view) can be
viewed as a powerful tool for technology and knowledge transfer on
development process countries like Colombia. Is necessary add the economical
topic to the copyleft definition, the economic aspect vary from city to city
and depends on country's technological platform,  so, we need to define some
"levels of freedom" based on this economic restrictions.

If you want, we can continue this discussion using mails, so many people can
contribute :)

Best Regards


 We would really appreciate the opportunity to learn from you and to talk
> about your experience in a telephone interview. If you have a little time to
> share, that would be really helpful for us. We look forward to hearing from
> you.
> Many thanks and kind regards
> Christina
> PS: Should you be interested, you might have a look at the two attachments
> showing some of our past work.
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Dr. Christina Raasch
> Institute for Technology and Innovation Management
> Hamburg University of Technology
> Schwarzenbergstr. 95, D- 21073 Hamburg
> Ph:  +49 40 42878-3951
> Fax: +49 40 42878-2867

Carlos Iván Camargo Bareño
Profesor Asistente
Departamento de Ingeniería Eléctrica y Electrónica
Universidad Nacional de Colombia
cicamargoba at

Carlos Iván Camargo Bareño
Profesor Asistente
Departamento de Ingeniería Eléctrica y Electrónica
Universidad Nacional de Colombia
cicamargoba at
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