Software source codes and hardware designs tend to be closely guarded trade secrets. Not so with open-source products. For instance, the code of open-source software is freely available to all: the best known example is the Linux operating system. Not only are interested developers able to use the software, they can also further develop it and adapt it to their own needs.
Open-source products also exist on the hardware side. Examples are open micro-controller boards such as Arduino or Raspberry Pi, of which blueprints are publicly available. However, these boards are based on commercial chips, whose internal architecture is not open-source. A few days ago, scientists at ETH Zurich and the University of Bologna, led by ETH Professor Luca Benini, open sourced the full design of one of their microprocessor systems - in a way that maximises the freedom of other developers to use and change the system, says Benini. "It will now be possible to build open source hardware from the ground up."