Jon Bruner

Jon Bruner is a data journalist who approaches questions that interest him by writing and coding. Before coming to O'Reilly, where he is editor-at-large, he was data editor at Forbes Magazine. He lives in New York, where he can occasionally be found at the console of a pipe organ.

Jim Stogdill on cloud-based typewriters and smart watches

The O’Reilly Solid Podcast: Distractions, wearables, and reference peanut butter.


Subscribe to the O’Reilly Solid Podcast for insight and analysis about the Internet of Things and the worlds of hardware, software, and manufacturing.

In this episode of the Solid Podcast, David Cranor and I talk with Jim Stogdill, one of the key figures behind the launch of our Solid conference, about some of the cool pieces of hardware that we’ve come across recently.

Stogdill starts off with the Hemingwrite, an ultra-simplified Internet-connected typewriter for writers who need to isolate themselves from distraction. It duplicates, at significant expense and austerity, a small part of any modern computer’s functionality. The Hemingwrite’s existence — along with that of its oversubscribed Kickstarter campaign — demonstrates the new economics of hardware: development costs have fallen enough that clever entrepreneurs can isolate and solve niche consumer problems like needing a browserless computer because you sometimes don’t want to be distracted by your browsered computer. Also, I’d like one. Read more…


Quentin Hardy on Facebook’s drones

The O’Reilly Solid Podcast: The New York Times' deputy technology editor talks about technology, people, and power.

Subscribe to the O’Reilly Solid Podcast for insight and analysis about the Internet of Things and the worlds of hardware, software, and manufacturing.

350px_Signaling_by_Napoleonic_semaphore_lineIn our new episode of the Solid Podcast, David Cranor and I talk with New York Times deputy technology editor Quentin Hardy. Hardy recorded with us just after visiting Facebook’s Aquila drone project, which promises to extend Internet access to remote parts of the globe — and to advance a slew of aerospace and communication technologies through open sourcing.

Projects like Aquila can challenge traditional government, but have their own tendency to create new mechanisms for control. “What’s clear is that existing systems of power will morph or collapse in decades to come because of these new technologies,” Hardy says, noting the contradiction that, in today’s world, “people have never been more empowered, and they’ve never been so controlled and repressed.”

We also talk about what’s happening in Shenzhen, China (which has been called “China’s Silicon Valley”), and the hardware hub’s dynamic mix of entrepreneurship, knockoffs, and innovation. Read more…


Brady Forrest and Renee DiResta on advising hardware startups

The O’Reilly Solid Podcast: Hardware startup success stories, pitfalls, and best practices.

Subscribe to the O’Reilly Solid Podcast for insight and analysis about the Internet of Things and the worlds of hardware, software, and manufacturing.

John_Sell_Cotman,_Norwich_Market_Place,_1806_(low_resolution)Hardware startups are starting to look like software startups: a lean company can bring a reasonably simple piece of consumer electronics to market for a few hundred thousand dollars.

Behind that low figure are technological advances (like 3D printing and CNC machining that make prototyping faster and easier) as well as organizational advances — in particular, hardware incubators and accelerators that offer funding and help founders work their way through the product development process.

In our new episode of the Solid Podcast, David Cranor and I talk with Renee DiResta and Brady Forrest, co-authors (along with Ryan Vineyard) of The Hardware Startup: Building Your Product, Business and Brand. DiResta is vice president of business development at Haven, a marketplace for ocean freight shipping, and Forrest runs Highway1, a leading hardware incubator.

Forrest and DiResta take us into the trenches on a wide range of topics, including design for manufacture (DFM), idea validation, crowdfunding, cost control, marketing, packaging, and shipping. It’s a quick tour of the tricky areas of expertise that hardware founders need to develop. Read more…


Ben Einstein on accelerating hardware startups

The O’Reilly Solid Podcast: A discussion about critical issues for hardware startups.


Subscribe to the O’Reilly Solid Podcast for insight and analysis about the Internet of Things and the worlds of hardware, software, and manufacturing.

Hardware is getting more accessible, which makes hardware startups more appealing. A small team can develop a viable prototype for a simple product on a few hundred thousand dollars, and even tricky problems like autonomous cars are within the reach of startups.

Incubators and accelerators like Highway1, Lemnos, and HAX have played an important role in making hardware accessible; they help their portfolio companies work through the tricky engineering, manufacturing, and marketing problems that software startups don’t have to deal with.

In our new episode of the Solid Podcast, David Cranor and I have a wide-ranging discussion with Ben Einstein, co-founder and managing director of Bolt, one of the leading hardware startup accelerators.

Einstein, who spoke at Solid 2015 in California, talks about the importance of hardware marketing and customer development, including branding, crowdfunding, and virality (which is “much more possible with hardware now than it was 10 years ago,” he says). Read more…

Comment: 1

Coming up at Solid Amsterdam

A look at our unified program for unified creators.


Register now for Solid Amsterdam 2015, our conference exploring the intersections of manufacturing, design, hardware, software, and business strategy. The event will take place in Amsterdam on October 28, 2015.

Creating a great product means knowing something about many things: design, prototyping, electronics, software, manufacturing, marketing, and business strategy. That’s the blend that Solid brings together: over our one-day program at Solid Amsterdam on October 28, 2015, we’ll walk through a range of inspiration and insight that’s essential for anyone who creates physical products — consumer devices, industrial machines, and everything in between.

Start with design: it’s the first discipline that’s called on to master any new technology, and designers whose work has been confined to the digital realm are now expected to understand hardware and connected systems as well.

Design at Solid begins with our program co-chair, Marko Ahtisaari, who was head of product design at Nokia from 2009 to 2013, and is now CEO and co-founder of The Sync Project. We’ll also hear from Thomas Widdershoven, creative director at Design Academy Eindhoven and co-founder of thonik, a design studio whose work specializes in interaction and motion design. Read more…


What to see at Solid

A look at the interdisciplinary learning paths you'll find at Solid.


Flipping through the schedule for our Solid conference, you might wonder why we offer talks on synthetic biology in the same program that includes sessions on smart factories and how to ship goods within supply chains. The answer is that Solid is about a nascent movement — new hardware — that draws on a lot of different areas of expertise. It’s about access and the idea that physical things are becoming easier for anyone to create and engineer. Understanding hardware and the Internet of Things, then, is critical for every technologist and every company.

Solid’s program has emphasized interdisciplinary learning from the beginning; we’ve seen that a smart, accessible, connected world will need contributions from a lot of different backgrounds: designers, electrical engineers, software developers, executives, investors, entrepreneurs, researchers, and artists.

The keynotes that we’ve lined up will provide an overview, and a sense of how widely impactful this idea is; they touch on designmanufacturing, urban futures, synthetic biology, governmentinnovation, and techno-archaeology (a topic we’ve explored in the Solid Podcast). And they’ll wrap up with a thought-provoking talk — with a demo — on how we experience flavor.

After lunch on Wednesday and Thursday, the program gets broad.

I’ve drawn up a handful of paths that you might consider taking as you go through Solid next week. None of these is a comprehensive program, but they’ll serve as jumping-off points for different members of the new hardware community. Read more…

Comments: 2

Why the Internet of Things isn’t the same as the new hardware movement

Cheap, accessible, open hardware is driving the IoT.

The Internet of Things and the New Hardware Movement are not the same thing

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been committing a lot of buzzword imperialism lately. It’s a hot term, marching across the technological countryside and looking for rich disciplines to capture. Electronics, manufacturing, and robotics, among others, have all become dominions of the IoT. The result is that the meaning of IoT has broadened to include practically anything that involves 1. technology, and 2. something physical.

At the same time, practitioners have been trying to escape the IoT — and its early association with Internet-connected refrigerators — for years. Big enterprises that want to develop serious applications for the Internet of Things have come up with other terms for what they’re doing, like Internet of Everything (Cisco) and Industrial Internet (GE).

Let’s put a stop to this and define some boundaries. In my view, the Internet of Things is the result of a much larger and more important movement that’s about making the physical environment accessible in the same way that the Internet has become accessible over the last 20 years. I’ll call this the “new hardware movement.” Read more…

Comments: 14

Tying software and hardware together through art

The O'Reilly Solid Podcast: Andy Cavatorta and Jamie Zigelbaum on art that combines physical and digital.

One of the theses behind our Solid Conference is that the stacks — the ranges of knowledge that technologists need to understand — are expanding so that the formerly separate disciplines of hardware and software are merging. Specific expertise is still critical, but the future lies in systems that integrate physical and virtual, and developing those effectively requires the ability to understand both sides at some basic level.

Installation art is a great place to look for those seamless integrations, and we’re excited to feature a couple of interesting installations at Solid. Our latest episode of the Solid Podcast takes us to Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, home to a collective of designers and engineers called Dark Matter Manufacturing, where David Cranor and I spoke with Andy Cavatorta and Jamie Zigelbaum. Cavatorta and Zigelbaum both create installations; Cavatorta works with sound and robotics, and Zigelbaum’s projects explore communication and interaction.

Cavatorta’s Dervishes installation will appear at O’Reilly Solid, June 23-25. He will also speak on “Music, machines, and meaning: What art teaches us about robotics and networks.” Read more…


Building a hardware business

A free compilation of chapter excerpts from our IoT library highlights the approachable complexity of hardware.

Download a free copy of “Building a Hardware Business,” a curated compilation of chapter excerpts from our IoT library.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen an astonishing change in what it takes to build a hardware business. Hardware remains hard — executing it well requires technical and marketing expertise in several fields — but the barriers that startups must cross have been lowered considerably.

That change has come about as a result of several changes in the way the market approaches hardware.

  • Customers, whether consumers or businesses, have become aware of what hardware and connected devices can do for them. The Internet of Things means more than connected refrigerators now. For consumers, it represents desirable products like the NEST thermostat and Apple Watch. For managers, it represents the highest standards of informed decision-making and operational efficiency in everything from delivery fleets to heavy machines to simple design-driven data.
  • Connecting with those customers has become easier. Startups can sell directly to niche consumers through online channels with the help of Etsy, Tindie, and ShopLocket, which are vastly easier to deal with than big-box retailers. These platforms also return rapid market feedback and offer ways for companies to connect with their consumers and build communities without intermediaries.
  • Funding has become available through new mechanisms at every stage. Crowdfunding helps entrepreneurs test their ideas in the marketplace and raise enough money for early development. Venture capitalists, impressed by recent exits and aware of the vast green fields awaiting the Internet of Things, are willing to invest. Supply-chain managers like PCH are willing to take equity stakes in return for invoice financing, addressing a critical cash-flow challenge that can be a big barrier to startups looking to have products manufactured in large quantities.
  • Read more…


Cottage industry 2.0

The O'Reilly Solid Podcast: Amanda Peyton of Etsy on the rise of craft.

Our new episode of the Solid Podcast brings us to Etsy, where David and I spoke with Amanda Peyton, a serial entrepreneur and product manager at Etsy, about the company’s role as a macro-community of micro-communities.

The connection between Etsy and Solid might not be obvious at first. Etsy’s specialty is the ultra-analog: handmade crafts that represent a return to an earlier era of artisan design and manufacturing.

But Etsy is emblematic of how Web platforms have transformed the relationship between product creators and product consumers. It offers rapid feedback from the market, quick discovery of new trends, and access to a large and diverse enough customer base that even extraordinarily niche products can be viable.

The result is a community of distributed manufacturers that’s responsive and efficient. For goods that can be made without a large, well-capitalized factory (even some electronics now fall into this category), Etsy may be the future of manufacturing. Read more…