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You’ve heard of “The Internet of Things”, well how about “Things of the Internet”?

August 20, 2014

There’s a well known quote from Alan Kay, the notable computer scientist, made even more famous because it was repeated by Steve Jobs, the notable(!) entrepreneur: “People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware”. Well, I believe the opposite is also true: People who are really serious about hardware – in my case, custom furniture – should make their own software.

My interpretation of Kay’s statement is that software is limited by what the hardware it’s running on will support. If you want to push the boundaries of your software, you need to achieve a high level of integration between the capabilities of the software and the hardware, so that they run optimally together. But what about the inverse case? It stands to reason that a high level of integration between your software systems and the way you are trying to design and build things will increase your ability to innovate in the creation of those things. Virtually all advances being made in manufacturing are derived from computer control of machinery and processes, and yet the vast majority of companies are using the same commercially-available software. Competitive advantage in the manufacturing of “things” lies in the development of unique software, and integration with net-based capabilities.

Every significant advancement in art (that I can think of) has been derived from an advancement in technology. I recently read that Impressionism was made possible by the invention of tubes of coloured paint, which could be carried out into the world – painting was no longer restricted to the studio. The classic simplicity of Bauhaus furniture that was revolutionary in the 1920’s was enabled by great advances in the precision and versatility of manufacturing machinery. Same can be said for the Eames’ work after World War II. Today, advancements in technology, are transforming our world as we watch. CNC (computer numerically controlled) manufacturing is behind 3D printing, the growing use of robots and all other forms of automation.

So, let’s say you want to do something that’s a little different from what everyone else is doing. Do you think that’s more achievable if you’re using the same tools as everyone else, or if you create your own? And what is the easiest and most powerful way to create unique tools? Write some software. Create some Things, that would not be possible without the Internet.

Postscript: Started telling the world about massuni.com yesterday, and got a really gratifying response. Many words of encouragement, many people signing up to the email list, and most importantly, many people saying, “I could really use this to get that piece of furniture I’ve never been able to find.” Thanks to everyone who has offered support and is helping to spread the word.

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