2013
01.23

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Will Brick last week in Detroit. For those who do not know Will, his official title is general manager of TechShop Detroit, but I happen to like the way he was introduced to me a bit better: as a “third-generation tinkerer.”

We here at Connected World we love the tinkerers. You can call them DIY’ers, or as our friend Gregg Garrett likes to call them, an army of makers, but however you refer to them, they are a HUGE part of the future of M2M. Ford allowed me the introduction to Will as part of an event they were holding at the TechShop prior to the start of the North American Intl. Auto Show. The forum was the backdrop for filling us all in on the OpenXC platform Ford announced the previous week at CES, which for me absolutely worked. What a better place to foster the idea of innovation than the TechShop and what better person to instigate inspiration than Will?

For those who do not know, TechShop (which is not owned by Ford) is a membership-based DIY workshop that has locations across the country. Will worked hard to bring this TechShop to Detroit a few years back when coming to the Midwest wasn’t necessarily cool. I guess it was before Clint Eastwood and Eminem songs reminded us all how cool the Motor City could truly be.

The way in which Will described his desire to bring the TechShop to Detroit was the community it attracts. He also had a passion for setting up shop in Detroit where he could help revitalize the community. He calls it a great resource for those looking to innovate and that it creates this tremendous subculture exchange of ideas. The place is packed with machines, computers, tools, and other machinery, all free for members to use in order to take ideas from their heads to reality. It is not all computer or technology related—in fact, much of it isn’t (I embroidered my own beer stein!) but the general idea is to bring creativity into the door and use the tools to bring it to life. And heck, perhaps Ford might recognize your innovation and help you really hit the big time.

This is why I applaud Ford for making the TechShop our setting when presenting its OpenXC research platform. The idea is to create apps and hardware modules that extend the functionality of the car. In a way this is the new way to “tinker” with cars today—with apps! So why not tell us all about it in a tinkerer’s workshop? Nice.

The apps Ford presented to us were fine. In particular, nothing really blew me away—although I must admit the one that leverages your vehicle location to tell you the best places to bring a date at that very moment was pretty darn creative. In all, Ford emphasized how apps should help combat distracted driving. However, with the platform, the idea of tinkering will certainly attract a whole new community—a subculture exchange of ideas, as Will describes it—to the connected car.

Back to Garrett’s column for a moment. He cites how this new culture of “makers” is poised to extend the usefulness of a particular device and possibly even breed these connected device ecosystems. And I must agree. As you see from ideas like tinkering with the smart home that Mike Riley introduced to us with his book I reviewed, tinkering (or making) opens the door for the best ideas to come to life. And if you think this is just a hobbyist movement, think again. The companies that realize how to capitalize on the creativity are in for a boom.

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