Send in your ideas. Deadline June 1, 2024
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Theme fund: NGI0 PET
Start: 2020-12
End: 2022-10
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EEZ DIY Instrument Bus

The aim of the EEZ DIB project is to enable the creating and management of modular open hardware T&M (Test & Measurement) solutions. Born out of frustration that solutions from reputable manufacturers are feature rich but closed in design and with expensive software licenses, an attempt have been made to fill the gap between such solutions and DIY/hobbyists solutions which although often open in design lack structure, documentation and completeness that could ensure further growth, development and support.

The hardware part of the project is EEZ BB3, an open source DIB chassis in a compact format that can accommodate up to 3 peripheral T&M modules which can be monitored locally via touchscreen display with responsive and attractive user interface or remotely via USB or Ethernet using Telnet, MQTT, JS and Node-RED. Additional autonomy and programmability has been achieved by adding support for MicroPython scripting.

The software part of the project is EEZ Studio, a free and open source cross-platform application that has two functions: a) visual editor that simplify and accelerate touchscreen GUI development and b) management of multiple EEZ BB3 and 3rd party T&M devices for the purpose of simple communication and acquisition, search and presentation of measurement data.

Why does this actually matter to end users?

Consumers and businesses overpay for computer hardware, because the market is not working well. When you go to a store to buy a laptop or mobile phone, you may see different brands on the outside but choice in terms of what is inside the box (in particular the most expensive component, the processor technology) is pretty much limited to the same core technologies and large vendors that have been in the market for decades. This has a much bigger effect on the users than just the hefty price tag of the hardware, because the technologies at that level impact all other technologies and insecurity at that level break security across the board.

In the field of software, open source has already become the default option in the market for any new setup. In hardware, the situation is different. Users - even very big users such as governments - have very little control over the actual hardware security of the technology they critically depend on every day. Security experts continue to uncover major security issues, and users are rightly concerned about the security of their private data as well as the continuity of their operations. But in a locked-down market there is little anyone can do, because the lack of alternatives. European companies are locked out of the possibility to contribute solutions and start new businesses that can change the status quo.

Fortunately there are efforts underway to make hardware that, like open source software, is free to be re-imagined and reassembled without restriction and that is transparently created, from the design down to the silicone. As these projects grow and connect, they can lay the foundations for a technological commons of trustworthy hardware that is accessible for everyone to learn from and build upon.

This project is one of these efforts to solve a specific, but universal problem in hardware design: the lack of open source (and affordable) test and measurement tools. Think of product development, working in laboratories, testing electronic circuits for automobiles or embedded devices, there is a need to test and measure that a device or design functions as expected. To fill in the gap between hobbyist and professional solutions, EEZ DIB will develop an open source chassis to hold up to three test and measurement modules and an open source platform to make graphical user interfaces for the modules and other third party devices. Allowing individuals but also business and institutions to choose from a more diverse range of tools, including tools that welcome hacking and repair, can help level the playing field and advance open innovation.

Run by Envox d.o.o.

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This project was funded through the NGI0 PET Fund, a fund established by NLnet with financial support from the European Commission's Next Generation Internet programme, under the aegis of DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology under grant agreement No 825310.