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Creators See Progress Moving Technology from Development to Market, but Hurdles Still Remain.

two young men working in lab on prototype

It’s become cliché, but nonetheless it still holds true: hardware is hard. There are dozens of reasons why your product may never see the light of day, but the good news is that creators and makers have an unprecedented access to technology.

In years past, technically minded individuals could locate technology that was close to what they were looking for, and cobble it together to demonstrate a proof of concept. However, creators now have the ability to ideate, design, and develop right in the confines of their own homes. Access to technology has truly become democratized, freeing creators to unleash their full creative powers. But how does access to all of this technology truly impact todays makers and creators?

In conjunction with Hardware Studio, Avnet conducted a survey of its Hackster.io community to assess the challenges of technology development.

The good news is that creators say it’s much easier today to develop and test prototypes. This validates the belief that we now have unprecedented access to technology. That access comes with a tradeoff though. While the majority of those surveyed (76%) indicated it’s easier to develop and test prototypes, only 45% of respondents agreed that “the process for identifying the right technology for their projects has improved.” What does that mean exactly? Well, it indicates that the access to a broad range of technology is present, but there is not a great process for creators to sift through all of that technology to identify the best components for their individual products.

Finding the right technology for your product is essential, as components can vary wildly on performance, cost, and even availability. Do you fall into the 45% who say the process is improving, or the 55% majority that isn’t quite sure the technology inside of their product is optimized?

If you do fall into that majority, it’s advisable that you find a trusted partner to ensure you’ve optimized both cost and performance when it comes to your technology. You’re going to want to deliver the best quality product, for the lowest possible cost, to your backers. The survey indicates that accomplishing those goals on your own is a difficult proposition.

The survey also indicated that the majority of creators (65%) are finding it more difficult to get traditional financing for their projects. While traditional investment is harder to come by, there is no shortage of new and exciting hardware getting onto shelves, which validates crowdfunding as a legitimate path to bringing a new product to market. 

What’s more, a successful crowdfunding campaign can help creators engage with a distribution partner to secure financing terms and a line of credit. Financing can allow creators to defer the upfront cost of some raw materials (like electronic components), while they generate a positive cash flow cycle via funds from backers.

The survey also indicated the obvious: Internet of Things (IoT) technology dominates the landscape. From sensors, to connected devices, IoT is in and sensors are hot. That’s not news, but the takeaway here is that creators should consider product features if they plan to make a splash in the hardware space. Good products generally solve a problem, or fill a need of some kind. Keep in mind that the pace of innovation in the hardware space is exceptionally fast, and consider whether or not you’re truly using the best technology to solve your customer’s problem or fill their need. 

Finally, the survey indicated that 55% of the creators surveyed felt that prototype and early stage development are the most critical times in the product development cycle. While this is likely true for those 55%, it could also indicated that those 55% have not made it past those stages and into manufacturing, which is more complex and challenging than many first time creators assume it will be. 

The bottom line: hardware is still hard and even harder for creators who plan to go it alone. The good news is that engaging with a partner with a robust ecosystem can help creators and startups navigate the difficult journey of getting new and exciting hardware products to the market.

Graphic with survey results from a survey of makers

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