Why Arduino Headed To Uncharted Waters
When Arduino was created in 2005, the goal was to give students and hobbyists an easy way to prototype electronic devices.
Since then, however, corporate boards have figured into increasingly complex systems, and software has become an increasingly important part of its business.
Now Arduino is moving towards the enterprise production environment, beyond the prototyping phase, and to find out more, we spoke to Fabio Violante, CEO of Arduino, who told us about the product strategy , his overall vision for the business and how he will invest his latest cash injection of $32 million.
How would you describe Arduino to someone unfamiliar with the project?
Arduino was born at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea as an easy-to-use tool for rapid prototyping, aimed at students with no background in electronics and programming. The goal was, and still is, to make technology accessible and easy to use for everyone. We have always been focused on universal innovation, actively building a company that solves real problems and positively impacts the world.
Over the years, Arduino has grown to offer tools for education and professionals. For the past decade and a half, Arduino has been an integral part of STEM/STEAM programs around the world. There is a whole generation that grew up learning technology through our boards and software. Today, this generation is entering the job market and changing the way engineering departments work. They want the flexibility, speed and ease they know from Arduino, and we are preparing new products and services to give them that.
How are Arduino boards different from others on the market?
Arduino is known for microcontrollers, especially in real-time applications and control applications. Our ecosystem has highlighted some very specific needs that would benefit from a slightly different approach, which takes the best of what’s available in the world of microcontrollers and microprocessors and combines them to provide real-time control and intelligence.
For example, the Portenta X8 combines an STMicroelectronics H7 Dual ARM® Cortex® M7/M4 and ARM Cortex M4 microcontroller and a Quad-core NXP® i.MX 8M Mini ARM® Cortex® -A53 and ARM Cortex -M4 microprocessor . The two parts of the device can talk to each other through a multiple communication mechanism, thus allowing the user to enjoy both.
This allows people to develop applications that deal with the more sophisticated aspects of the cloud while keeping the real-time aspect. This is especially important in the enterprise where there is a high level of knowledge in the development of Linux applications, especially in the form of containers, while on the other hand there is also a need for deterministic and fast control. Robotics, AGV, multi-protocol gateways and smart kiosks are some of the target applications.
The latest devices are designed with a production and industrial production use case in mind. This means that the microprocessor and all board components have a higher temperature range to cope with harsh environments. Combined with the security aspect (the Portenta X8 is PSA certified by Arm), these features place the Arduino Pro line in a different class of device for industrial use. These are products that can easily be integrated into a machine or as a product to modernize a process and send data to the cloud without having to install additional heating and/or cooling devices as well.
The company may be best known for its hardware, but tell us about the software side of things
Arduino has evolved into a comprehensive platform providing hardware, firmware, software, cloud services and content. To achieve the goal of making technology accessible and easy to use for everyone in the business, our approach to software and cloud services is a critical component.
Arduino provides the most complex libraries for solving business problems (eg connecting a fieldbus like a mod bus). We are also developing partnerships related to AI applications to allow image recognition or signal processing to be done on a microcontroller without the developer having to know all the details of how the algorithm works.
Why is the open source model the right one for Arduino?
Open source is fundamental to accelerating innovation, leveraging the scale and expertise of the Arduino user community, which brings new features, bug fixes, and collaborative review of code changes .
It also provides a key benefit to professional developers by enabling faster technology adoption through the added flexibility and reduced risk of lock-in.
Our software revenue model is more sophisticated than traditional closed-source models based on selling licenses regardless of the usage scenario. We base our technology stack on OSI-approved software licenses that allow the code to be used, studied, and modified by anyone; at the same time, we offer dual license options for businesses and professionals who need even more control.
How will Arduino look to deploy the funds generated in its latest funding round?
Funds will be primarily spent on R&D as we develop more sophisticated technology, transforming into an Arduino platform with hardware, firmware, cloud services and content.
A key goal is to reduce friction, both for Gen Z by providing them with a familiar environment as they enter the world of embedded and AIoT, and for engineers in general by reducing the number of redundancies. Arduino provides engineers with the tools to avoid having to rewrite or repeat tasks and coding, leaving them free to focus on the final application. These will be particularly visible via the Arduino Cloud which will be easier and faster than ever.
Tell us about the push to the business. What is the strategy there?
Arduino has millions of enthusiasts and passionate users around the world. When we analyzed use cases, we found that hundreds of thousands of companies were using Arduino for rapid prototyping of complex applications. This applied to businesses of all sizes, from large corporations like Apple and CocaCola to typical SMBs. At the same time, in many cases, Arduino was used in production applications, such as the development of test equipment or mechatronic applications.
Thus, the strategy is to provide enterprises with a full stack of HW, FW, libraries and accessories to enable scaling from prototype to production seamlessly. In companies where there is little or no in-house R&D capability, Arduino provides the tools to allow them to create more sophisticated applications without having to design a custom board. We help them approach IoT and connected products without the need to invest in design services or hire design engineers, allowing them to focus on the applications they design.
Is there still a place for the hobbyist in the new vision of Arduino?
Yes, Arduino and our Series B investors are committed to continuing to support the Arduino community and its global ecosystem. We recently strengthened the dedicated maker team to ensure that we continue to improve innovative tools for our maker audience and engage with them.
For example, in early June, we announced the launch of the Arduino User Groups program to officially recognize and support groups and clubs that come together to learn and share their Arduino experience. With 169 applications so far from all over the world, we are really excited to see the passion for Arduino enthusiasts.
Additionally, we have many new products in the pipeline for late 2022/early 2023, ranging from improvements to some of the classic Arduino boards to completely new designs and kits. Our new vision is not a change of direction from our main mission of democratizing the most advanced technologies, but a strong extension of it towards the professional market, in addition to the traditional market of makers and creators.
What will the continued rise of IoT and IIoT mean for the Arduino project?
The continued rise of IoT and IIoT provides an exciting opportunity for Arduino, not only with microcontrollers and microprocessor, but also with the importance of sensors. Arduino provides devices that provide users with high-end sensing capabilities with intelligence at a very accessible price with a tiny form factor and low power consumption. The ability to sense and process many different types of data at the edge increases battery life and reduces latency and power consumption, provides more privacy, and requires less bandwidth. For example, the Arduino Nicla Sense ME incorporates the latest sensors from Bosch Sensortec combined with a microcontroller, allowing you to locally run tiny machine learning algorithms to detect patterns on the device and then trigger an action. in the cloud, opening up a whole new range. of applications leveraging sensor fusion.
Arduino also sees great potential in machine and system control: the introduction of competitive secure connectivity features is now possible with more standard fieldbus and I/O interfaces, opening up the possibility of interrupt of the PLC in many fields of application. Compact machines and ancillary production equipment can benefit from Arduino products, like Portenta Machine Control, and an exceptional user experience, blending Arduino with more traditional PLC programming languages. All of this in line with Arduino’s goal of making complex technology accessible and simple to use for everyone, regardless of skill level.