CERN unveils Open Hardware initiative

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CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, has issued version 1.1 of the Open Hardware Licence (OHL), a legal framework to facilitate knowledge exchange across the electronic design community.

The world's leading laboratory for particle physics made the announcement four months after it launched the alpha version. The CERN OHL was created to govern the use, copying, modification and distribution of hardware design documentation and the manufacture and distribution of products. Hardware design documentation includes schematic diagrams, designs, circuit or circuit board layouts, mechanical drawings, flow charts and descriptive texts, as well as other explanatory material. Version 1.0 of the CERN OHL was published in March 2011 on the Open Hardware Repository (OHR). It was the creation of electronic designers working in experimental physics laboratories who wanted to enable knowledge exchange across a wide community and in line with the ideals of 'open science'. Javier Serrano, an engineer at CERN's Beams Department and the founder of the OHR said that the drive towards open hardware was largely motivated by 'well intentioned envy' of colleagues who develop Linux device drivers. "They are part of a very large community of designers who share their knowledge and time in order to come up with the best possible operating system," he said. "We felt that there was no intrinsic reason why hardware development should be any different." According to Serrano, the CERN OHL provides a framework for knowledge exchange that reconciles open design principles with traceability with a clear policy for the management of intellectual property. "By sharing designs openly," said Serrano, "CERN expects to improve the quality of designs through peer review and to guarantee their users - including commercial companies - the freedom to study, modify and manufacture them, leading to better hardware and less duplication of efforts." A workshop on Open hardware is scheduled to be held in Grenoble on the 9th October 2011, during the 13th International Conference on Accelerator and Large Experimental Physics Control Systems.