“Apart from this, various Arduino shields are available (for simple to complex project requirements) to integrate the required functionalities on the Arduino board via external connectors. Besides, since its microcontroller is Open Source, it is easy to clone Arduino as per different requirements, giving designers and hobbyists a lot of flexibilityin determining the components to be used on the platform. It even ensures that the cost of development is within their budgets. But this is not the case with BeagleBoard, which is managed by Texas Instruments and/or its partners,” says Sani Theo, an electronics engineer.
“Another flipside of BeagleBoard is that its documentation and tutorials are not well organised and BeagleBoard community is not as strong as the Arduino community,” observes Jadhao.
However, Ram, technical evangelist and writer, Tenet Technetronics, has another perspective to share in this regard: “While proprietary hardware help in maintaining a contained quality and delivery model, the amount of creativity of these tools is quite low, which unfortunately is the hard fact. A growing inclination towards making designs open is also found in the recent past, wherein companies themselves are coming up with some kind of Open Source hardware to promote the use of their silicon.”
3. Powered by design engineers from around the globe
Open Source as a concept and philosophy is driven by the core principle of putting the power in the hands of the user. Since Arduino too is an open platform, it is being used by a large number of developers and users across the globe, many of whom are design engineers.
“By giving the CAD file in the hands of many design engineers around the world, you simply make your own platform more powerful without directly hiring them. That is the core reason why Arduino is so successful even as a business model,” observes Chatterjee.
“The number of advanced users and developers who are using Arduino is already huge compared to many other platforms, and this number is growing,” he adds.
4. A dedicated and well-focused community
“Most design engineers say that Arduino has become popular due to the simplicity of use that the platform offers. But this alone can’t be the reason behind it,” feels Jadhao. He adds, “The Arduino community has maintained and popularised the platform properly.”
[stextbox id=”info” caption=”Some other Open Source prototyping platforms”]• Comet (an Indian Arduino clone)
• Pinguino (a PIC-based hardware)
• Armduino/Maple (an STM32-based hardware)
• chipKIT (a PIC 32-bit MCU-based Arduino solution from Microchip)
“Arduino forums are an excellent means of communication amongst the community that not only help people but are also a rich source of new ideas and thoughts to build better and more advanced hardware and software for the future,” says Ram.
“In addition, many ‘how to’ guides and project ideas are available in the public domain. The design ideas and users’ experiences are also shared in the community, which makes it easy even for beginners to work on the platform,” informs Jadhao.
“Also, the Arduino community brings in a diverse range of used cases across various levels, and it is amazing to see the community being able to support Arduino consistently with a good level of quality. It is the community that makes Open Source projects successful over time,” adds Ram.
5. Low cost and easy accessibility of the hardware
With ever-increasing affordability that the silicon vendors are adding these days, Arduino is becoming cheaper and more affordable to people. Starting at prices as low as Rs 500 (and even lesser for some boards), Arduino enjoys immense cost advantage over other proprietary and Open Source boards.
“Not just in India, but all around the world Arduino is competitively priced as against proprietary boards. Another factor for its widespread adoption is the vast distribution network that Arduino has set up in India, making the boards’ and shields’ accessibility easy,” says Chatterjee.
“In comparison, PandaBoard and BeagleBoard, which are also Open Source platforms (supported by Texas Instruments), are still not as easily available,” shares Theo.
6. Open hardware and software
Arduino is completely Open Source both in terms of software as well as hardware. Both the hardware development board as well as the IDE are open for people to experiment as well as add/remove features as required.
When we say Arduino hardware is open in nature, it means that the schematics as well as building instructions can be used to build hardware without the need to buy from a particular vendor. Also, features can be added or removed in the existing design as per requirement. One can build the Arduino board by hand or use a local fab/hackerspace. Lots of such options are springing up slowly in India as Ardunio is easy to clone too.