The concept of open source is well-established in the software world but there are signs that the approach may have applications in the hardware sector.
Open source hardware works by developing and sharing details of circuit boards, right up to the idea of giving away devices to users for nothing.
The champion of "free" is author Chris Anderson who has published a book predicting that hardware is the next natural extension of the open source movement.
"You're likely familiar with the concept of open source software, but the new idea of extending that to hardware - from circuit boards all the way up to consumer electronic gadgets like Google's Android phone - is just now emerging," he writes in Free, the future of a radical price.
"The way most open source hardware companies work is this: All the plans, printed circuit board files, software, and instructions are free and available to all. If you want to build your own (or, even better, improve on a design), you're encouraged to do so. But if you don't want the hassle or risk of doing it yourself, you can buy a pre-made version that's guaranteed to work," he writes.
Some of the companies which have started in this space are making their money through licence and certification fees charged to the resellers that make and sell the boards.
More on open source:
- Michael Pincher blogs on open source hardware.
- Microsoft releases code to the open source community
- Open source security is the future.
A version of this story originally appeared on MicroScope.