Incredible Ideas In Unusual Places

Ideas for the next big things are showing up in different places than in the past.

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IoT, IoE, The Connected World, ARM-based anything. OK, I’ve gotten some buzz terms out of the way, and probably improved search engine optimization (SEO) for this post quite a bit. The point is, all of these buzz terms hold promise for the Next Big Thing. That new, killer app that will create new markets, new ecosystems, and generally fantastic wealth for those who get there early. There are a lot of new trends that hold great promise. By the way, I forgot autonomous-anything.

Watching all this brings to mind lots of changes. Changes in technology development, consumer expectations and development paradigms. I want to point out another change that is happening before our eyes. It’s subtle, but very real, and I believe drives the very core of innovation.

If you’re watching these trends, where should you be looking?

Figure 1

Conventional wisdom says that major technology conferences and trade shows are where it’s at. Depending on the world you live in, that could be the Consumer Electronics Show, Mobile World Congress, SEMICON or the Design Automation Conference. These shows are clearly a focal point for new product introductions. That is, unless you’re Apple, in which case you set your own agenda and calendar. Lately, I’ve noticed a new force in the world of innovation. A rather large venue, held in many locations around the world. A show that represents the spectrum of innovation, from the weekend warrior building things in the garage to the largest corporate entities on the planet. I’m referring to Maker Faire.

I attended my first event a few months ago in the San Francisco Bay Area. I spent a full day there – enough time to see a small fraction of the show. I suppose the best way to describe Maker Faire is a combination of CES and Burning Man. Lots of innovation and inspiration, all set in a Woodstock-like venue. Apologies for those not old enough to get that reference.

I left Maker Faire completely invigorated. I truly believe some of the best ideas for the Next Big Thing will debut there. In the Startup Pavilion, I saw a small device you can stick to anything and then track it anywhere in the world with your phone. Also available was a hackable smartphone multimeter. I’m not sure why I need that, but it sounded cool. I saw 40-foot-high-fire-breathing robots. There was also a huge tent filled with blister-pack components — hydrogen gas sensors, colored LEDs, infrared proximity sensors, three-axis digital accelerometers and alcohol sensors to name a few. The tent’s sign read “What Will You Make”? It was Intel’s exhibit at the show.

You can Google the statistics – I’m sure many of you will. Here are some good sound bites to start:

• 2015 CES attendance: 170,000 (a record)
• 2015 Mobile World Congress attendance: 94,000+
• 2015 Maker Faire flagship shows in NYC and San Francisco Bay Area: 235,000+

There are many Maker Faires around the world. In 2015, more than 1,000,000 people visited them in total. There’s something going on here that is important to watch. As a custom chip company, eSilicon lives to serve the Next Big Thing. Venues like Maker Faire are shining a light on the very beginning of the innovation pipeline – and it’s important to watch.