What is the Arduino and where is it going in the future?
What the Arduino platform and brand has done is to take what was once a fragmented and expensive market for robotics, hobbyists, and microprocessors and become the major go to platform thanks to much lower cost and ease of us. The success of Arduino has lead to higher availability and popularity, and community support, which creates a positive feedback loop. Arduino has made it simple to program their small boards with any computer via USB and also made it simple to integrate with a wide array of sensors and devices.
The Arduino is great for hobbyists, prototypers, and people just starting out in robotics because of its low-cost, ease of use, and large community online. It's easy to learn and teach people to be able to do basic things with the Arduino, yet it's capable enough to do fairly sophisticated things. It's allowing people to develop projects and solutions inexpensively to build and control their own devices, such as sensors that send data to the Internet for Cloud Computing and control systems for all kinds of things. It's also reducing the cost of development by allowing companies to develop prototypes quickly and with less initial investment.
An example of an Arduino Kit (includes supporting components and project booklet) can be found on our shop page and also on Amazon.
Stand Alone model: Arduino Uno R3 Microcontroller
What does the future hold for Arduino?
At this point in time many businesses still haven't heard of and aren't using the Arduino, but I believe that this will change fairly quickly as businesses will eventually hire people who have worked with and are familiar with the Arduino platform.
One of the major things the Arduino platform is going to be able to positively effect for business is to reduce the cost of prototyping, allowing companies to iterate more during development, leading to better, more functional products. Which is capable to evolve and provide additional functions and better performance over time versus a static solution. The Arduino is going to enable companies with new options to complete tasks that aren't commonly done today, using remote sensor networks and node technology. This could lead to entirely new control strategies for making buildings more comfortable, saving energy, and reducing maintenance costs for equipment which increase the companies profits and encourages positive growth.
The Arduino is going to allow businesses to develop products that are easily upgradeable. Currently, if you purchase a product, such as a microwave, there's no way to upgrade or evolve the functionality. If the microwave used an Arduino board, you would be able to upload an update and change the interface or the way that the microwave cooked food to suit your desires.
The Arduino phenomenon will also to reduce the minimum volume necessary to include a control and sensing system with a product. Instead of spending large amounts of money to build hundreds of inflexible circuit boards, the Arduino will allow businesses to bring many more unique devices to market at lower break even volumes. We'll see a lot more lower-volume customized products, especially when customers expectations increase.
Specific applications that the Arduino could disrupt include:
PLCs - Programmable logic controllers are notoriously expensive and have very limited functionality in terms of what they can do. The Arduino, while not currently hardened for industrial environments, is much more capable in a lot of ways.
Algaculture - Arduinos and logic controllers will have a bright future in this field were more of the operations are becoming automated and are linked together in a network.
Troubleshooting and diagnosis - having the ability to network many sensors together and analyze the data could provide us with insights that are currently unavailable.
In short, the future for Arduino is very bright, and it's probably about where programming and the Internet were about 20 years ago. We've had a lot of people who were just hobbyists dabbling with programming and the Internet, and now we have huge open-source collaborative projects and game-changing functionality that was unavailable 20 years ago.