To makers around the world and specifically in Italy, Massimo Banzi is like a rock-star. The co-founder of Arduino has been at the centre of the maker movement and maker culture for over a decade. As well as being the king of open-source, the former Interaction Design Institute Ivrea professor also founded the first Italian FabLab in Turin and has been involved in the Make in Italy foundation, which he and several partners founded to support FabLabs and Makerspaces throughout the country.
This weekend at the Maker Faire Rome: The European Edition DesignSpark’s Pete Wood caught up with Massimo to discuss the 5th edition of the faire, Italy’s maker movement and his vision for the future of IoT and Industry 4.0.
PW: Good Morning Massimo. Are you enjoying the Maker Faire and how many years has this event been going for?
MB: "This is the fifth edition of the Maker Faire in Rome, I am one of the curators who started this thing and am part of the event organisation.
"This year we have over 700 makers represented from 40 countries, including the 28 current European Union member countries.
"The Maker Faire is pretty amazing, we started off with 35,000 people 4 years ago, last year we had over 100,000 visitors and we are hoping to do even better this year. It’s really getting out of control, we didn’t expect it to be so successful."
PW: One thing that I have noticed is just how big the maker movement is in Italy. How does it compare with the maker movement around the world? Is Italy leading the way?
MB: "I think the maker movement has different identities depending on where you are. Italy is a country of small and medium companies. There are over 400,000 companies in Italy who are about manufacturing of different kinds. You can imagine that a lot of these companies are 1, 2 or 3 people, so a lot of the makers here are small companies using maker methods to develop their own stuff.
"The Maker Movement in Italy is more of a junction between the SME’s and makers."
PW: So do you see a lot more makers coming into the business space now, starting off in small bedrooms or garages and moving into big business. Are you seeing a lot of that in Italy?
MB: "We are seeing a lot of makers moving into the business world which is quite nice, but I also see some small companies developing products who do not have the resources that bigger companies do. They are making use of maker tools, such as open source 3D printers and Arduinos, all of the stuff to create products. It is a very nice contribution that I like very much.
"The last time we counted there were 100 Fab Lab’s and Maker Spaces in Italy, which is insane considering that in the USA there are about 200. There is a lot of enthusiasm and the successful ones really find a way to interact with their local communities and be useful for local companies and provide education. They are integrating within their local communities and are providing a lot of value."
PW: Obviously the maker movement is very strong then here in Italy. I see that you’ve had a lot of focus around the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0 on the Arduino stand, what is it that is so attractive about those topics and why are you guys focusing on that?
MB: "I am very interested in helping the smaller companies to use the same tools that the bigger companies are using for their digital transformation. We call it Industry 4.0 in Europe, and it has other names around the world, but it is a digital transformation of the whole production processes from manufacturing to sales.
"So helping the smaller companies requires tools that are available off the shelf and are simple to use, software platforms that are also easy to use. That is what we are focusing on at Arduino, providing off the shelf components that are certified, our online cloud and we’re doing a lot of work on gateways too.
"We are doing a lot of things to help people to implement new processes in their company without huge investments and also using Arduino for example as a way to train their workers, because it is very difficult to find the right people to employ people with the right skills. There is a high demand for people who can programme electronics and Arduino can help with that as well."
PW: And what are the key products that you have to help support Industry 4.0 and IoT projects?
MB: "The MKR product line is a good example of how we are supporting the Industry 4.0 revolution. It is a new, small sized format Arduino designed for devices that have wireless connectivity and they also have battery chargers on board so that you can power them with batteries. They’re slightly more powerful that the regular Arduino’s because they run on Cortex m0+ processors and they also have security embedded in them to make it more secure when they connect to the cloud.
"The basic model is the MKR 1000, which is a WiFi device. But we also have versions for SigFox, LoRa and GSM 3G connection.
"It is very easy to buy a board, plug in the sensors, connect to out online cloud and you’re data is on the cloud."
Watch the full interview below: