Hardware, Software & the Internet of Things
June 23–25, 2015 • San Francisco, CA

Why can't hardware be more like software?

Thomas Kennedy (ReFactory)
1:15pm–1:55pm Wednesday, 06/24/2015
Get It Made
Location: Fire House
Average rating: ***..
(3.17, 6 ratings)

Prerequisite Knowledge

Attendees should have a general understanding of software principles and hardware development.


Software development has continually improved at breakneck speed. From open source software development, continuous testing, continual integration to automatic deployment, we’ve seen the complexity and time to deployment, and cloud-based applications, dramatically improve year after year.

How can we apply some of the same principles that have enabled the development of a web application in a matter of days to hardware? No one rewrites a web server when launching a new web application. Yet hardware engineers design, select, and place pullups, by-pass capacitors, and programming headers over and over.

First we’ll take a look at the challenges that are present in hardware development and distribution. Next we’ll examine the challenges that are unique to hardware and pare them down to their core.

We’ll then see what we can impove by applying some principles present in software to hardware development and manufacturing.

Some of the ideas we will examine are:

  • Standardized hardware interfaces as APIs
  • (D)on’t ( R )epeat (Y)ourself
  • Modularization
  • Chef for manufacturing
  • Continuous integration for supply chain
  • An OSI model for product design
  • Security

Last we’ll look at next steps for these principles and ideas as hopes for future hardware development.

Photo of Thomas Kennedy

Thomas Kennedy


Tom Kennedy has worked on a wide range of technical projects including medical devices, industrial control systems, robotics, wireless products, and consumer electronics. He worked from 2004-2008 at Honeybee Robotics, an aerospace company. There he was the lead electrical engineer for the Sample Manipulation System, a robotic sample handling system aboard Mars Curiosity, which continues to operate to this day on the surface of Mars. After Honeybee, Tom co-founded EnergyHub where he served as the director of hardware development and CTO. He also served on the Board of Directors up until its acquisition by Alarm.com. At EnergyHub he led the development of seven products that were deployed by utility companies throughout the US. He worked on every aspect of the development from the hardware and firmware R&D to the selection of the contract manufacturers and the certification and mass production of the products. It was through this process that he learned firsthand how hardware startups get things made overseas, and the challenges they face in doing so. Tom received his bachelor of engineering in electrical engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology. Tom also took post-graduate classes at USC in astronautical engineering.