Source: Opensourceway, CC-BY-SA 2.0

By Jérémy Bonvoisin, University of Bath

In the past 18 months I had the pleasure to be part of a great adventure: establishing a new standard refining the contours of what we mean with “Open Source Hardware”. This standard, DIN SPEC 3105, sets a new milestone in the efforts of the open source hardware community to build shared practices and to chart a common identity. In this article, I summarize the main lines of the standard, focusing on the essence without going too much into technical detail. I also explain why I believe this standard is by design an opportunity for the open source hardware community rather than an annoying set of imposed rules. Finally, I discuss some of the challenges the dissemination of this standard will face and mention a few initiatives attempting to tackle them.

What is DIN SPEC 3105 about?

For this, DIN SPEC 3105 does two things. First, it provides an explicit and enforceable definition of the term “open source hardware”. This is done in Part 1, entitled “Requirements for technical documentation”. Second, it defines a new kind of community-based assessment process. This is done in Part 2, entitled “Community-based assessment”.

DIN SPEC 3105 Part 1 — Requirements for technical documentation

DIN SPEC 3105 Part 2 — Community-based assessment

More than a standard: An un-standard

Refining-by-doing: Building technology-specific documentation criteria

Participative revision process thanks to an open source standard

Outlook: From theory to practice

There are many ways the community can involve and make this standard becomes more than a piece of writing. One of them, Open Source Ecology Germany, is currently building the first conformity assessment body hosting the community-based assessment process. This is done as part of the oho.wiki project supported by the EU-funded project OpenNext. They are setting up the necessary infrastructure and are recruiting volunteers for a first assessment wave. If you are a hardware developer and would like to get your product attested, or if you are interested in assessing hardware products as a reviewer, don’t hesitate to contact them at assessment@oho.wiki. This initiative also builds a bridge with another practical issue in open source hardware: finding existing designs. They are building a search engine based on the open hardware metadata standard Open Know-how Manifest Specification 1.0. The objective here is to allow finding, filtering and cross-linking hardware documentation (e.g. answer queries like “find all ongoing and well documented COVID-19 research connected with open source ventilator designs”). If you want to take part in the development of this infrastructure, get in touch with assessment@oho.wiki or visit their repo directly.

Regardless of these projects, DIN SPEC 3105 already formalises some of the implicit principles at play in the open source hardware community and makes practical propositions for some open questions. Doing so, it contributes to the emergence of shared practices and the establishment of a visible and trustable identity. More, it does this in a way that aligns with the ethos of transparency and participation that is key to the open source movement.

Resources

  • The FAQ in the GitLab repository of the DIN SPEC 3105 working group provides more information about the initiative, the people behind it, the governance of the project, the relations with other standards, and many other topics.
  • More detail about the principles adopted in the standard and the major innovations it brings to light are provided in this article published in the Journal of Open Hardware.

Journal of Open Hardware, an Open Access initiative run by the Global Open Science Hardware community and published by Ubiquity Press.