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The Solid Story | About Solid | Who Should Attend | What to Expect | Program Chairs & Committee | Venue | Pricing & Packages

O'Reilly Solid: Software/ Hardware/ Everywhere

Watch the video of Tim O'Reilly, founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media, and Jim Stogdill, who leads O'Reilly Solid discuss the current state of the convergence of hardware + software—what this means beyond the Internet of Things, the promises and pitfalls, and a vision for the future.

The Solid Story

A few years ago at OSCON one of the tutorials demonstrated how to click a virtual light switch in Second Life and have a real desk lamp light up in the room. Looking back it was rather trivial, but it was striking at the time to see software people taking an interest in the "real world." And what better metaphor for the collision of virtual and real than a connection between Second Life and the Portland Convention Center?

In December 2012 our Radar team was meeting in Sebastopol and we were talking about trends in robotics, Maker DIY, Internet of Things, wearables, smart grid, industrial internet, advanced manufacturing, frictionless supply chain and etc. We were trying to figure out where to put our focus among all of these trends when suddenly it was obvious (at least to Mike Loukides, who pointed it out). They are all more alike than different, and we could focus on all of them by looking at the relationships among them. The Solid program was conceived that day. Read more

More About Solid

Physical things—machines, devices, components—are about to experience a profound transformation. The Internet fundamentally changed how software is developed and deployed, and now hardware is on the brink of a similar disruption. Consumers, already carrying smart phones and driving cars that park themselves, have come to demand more from their objects than ever before. They expect their belongings to “know” them, to interact with them, and to adapt to their needs. Industry is realizing that smart, networked machines can bring them the efficiencies and new capabilities to do more, faster and cheaper. Devices from thermostats to jet engines that were once strictly mechanical are now seamless blends of hardware and software—packages of microcontrollers, sensors, and, above all, networked software that can ingest lots of data, understand context, and make intelligent decisions. Hardware and software are fusing into a single fluid entity.

This collision of software and hardware is fueling the creation of a software-enhanced, networked physical world.

The impact of this phenomenon goes far beyond the development of intelligent new consumer products. A few of the changes this new world will entail:

Manufacturing made frictionless. 3D printers, developer boards like Arduino and Raspberry Pi, advanced sensors, and crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter have lowered the barrier of entry to manufacturing. New manufacturing-as-a-service frameworks make factory work fast and capital-light. Development costs are plunging, and it’s becoming easier to serve niches with specialized hardware that’s designed for a single purpose.

APIs for the physical world. The characteristics that make the Web accessible and robust—abstraction, modularity, and loosely-coupled services—are coming to the physical world. Open source libraries for sensors and microcontrollers are bringing easy-to-use and easy-to-integrate software interfaces to everything from weather stations to cars.

Software intelligence above the level of a single machine. Machine learning and data-driven optimization have revolutionized the way companies work with the Web, but the kind of sophisticated knowledge that Amazon and Netflix have accumulated has been elusive in the offline world. We can now gather data through networked sensors and exert real-time control to optimize complicated systems. Many of the machines around us can become more efficient simply through intelligent control: a furnace saves oil when software, aware that the homeowners are away, turns down the thermostat; a car saves gas when Google Maps, polling its users’ smartphones, discovers a traffic jam and suggests an alternative route.

Every company is a software company. As physical assets take on software interfaces, operating them will increasingly become a software undertaking. A software startup with promising technology might just as easily be bought by a big industrial company as by a Silicon Valley software firm. This new world creates significant impacts on organizations, cultures, and competency requirements.

Data-driven things as a service. Anything from an Uber car to a railroad locomotive can be sold as a service, provided that it’s adequately instrumented and dispatched by intelligent software. Good data from the physical world brings about efficient markets, makes cheating difficult, and improves quality of service. And it will revolutionize business models in every industry as service contracts replace straightforward equipment sales. Instead of owning an air conditioner and buying electricity from a utility to run it, a homeowner might let the utility own the air conditioner and just buy a contract to keep her house at 72°, giving the utility an incentive to invest in more efficient equipment, while creating economies of scale.

Designing the post-screen world. Until a few years ago, we interacted with computers largely through keyboards and monitors. The software interface is now a dispersed collection of conventional computers, mobile phones, embedded sensors, and networked microcontrollers. Computing happens everywhere, with data flowing in through multiple inputs outside of human awareness and ambient software intuiting our preferences.

What’s it called? You’ve heard these ideas bubbling up among innovators and alpha geeks under a myriad of tags: the Internet of Things, the Programmable World, the Industrial Internet, Maker-Pro, generative things, or the integration of software and machines (to name just a few). These are not a mish-mash of ideas--they are different perspectives of the same exciting evolution: a perfect storm of opportunity for intelligent things. But none of these phrases fully captures the depth and breadth of this disruption. Attend Solid and help us explore—and maybe name—this place where software and the physical world collide.

Who Should Attend

The inaugural O’Reilly Solid Conference is where the new multi-disciplinary community forming around the convergence of software and hardware—engineers, researchers, roboticists, artists, founders of startups, and innovators—will gather to explore what lies ahead as software increasingly interacts with the physical world. This includes:

  • Business Leaders who want to surf the upcoming innovative disruption, stay competitive, and understand an uncharted business model where things are also services.
  • Software developers who create intelligent, cost-effective, and beautifully designed things.
  • Hardware engineers who want their elegantly engineered things to be connected, intelligent, and adaptive.
  • Innovators and Start-ups in the new digital industrial economy actively seeking the latest solutions to optimize efficiencies, increase productivity, attract funding, and grow.
  • Product Managers and Marketing Execs looking for new ways to connect with customers in an era of screen fatigue and fragmented attention.
  • Academics carrying out the basic research in engineering and the sciences that will enable the connected world.
  • Government Policy Makers and Engineers who define, nourish, and build connected infrastructure like intelligent transportation and better social-services delivery.
  • Investors who want to stay ahead of this wave of disruption—and prosper from it.

What to Expect

This isn't your typical industry, and Solid is not your typical conference. For one thing, it won't be taking place in a typical conference venue, it'll be at Fort Mason—a unique art, performance, and meeting space on San Francisco's waterfront.  

And you won't be spending all of your time listening to speaker after speaker after speaker. Solid will be two jam-packed days of intense conversation, interactive experiences, thought-provoking presentations and demos, and plenty of networking opportunities.  

Program Chairs

Joi Ito

MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito is a leading thinker and writer on innovation, global technology policy, and the role of the Internet in transforming society in substantial and positive ways. A vocal advocate of emergent democracy, privacy, and Internet freedom, Ito has served as both board chair and CEO of Creative Commons, and sits on the boards of Sony Corporation, Creative Commons, Knight Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The New York Times Company, Mozilla Foundation, WITNESS, and Global Voices. In Japan, he was a founder of Digital Garage, and helped establish and later became CEO of the country’s first commercial Internet service provider. He was an early investor in more than 40 companies, including Flickr, Six Apart,, Kongregate, Kickstarter, and Twitter. Ito’s honors include TIME magazine’s "Cyber-Elite” listing in 1997 (at age 31) and selection as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum (2001). In 2008, BusinessWeek named him one of the "25 Most Influential People on the Web." In 2011, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oxford Internet Institute. In 2013, he received an honorary D.Litt from The New School in New York City.

Jon Bruner

Jon Bruner is a data journalist who approaches questions that interest him by writing and coding. Before coming to O'Reilly, where he is editor-at-large, he was data editor at Forbes Magazine. He lives in New York, where he can occasionally be found at the console of a pipe organ.


Program Committee

  • Marko Ahtisaari
  • Chris Anderson, 3D Robotics
  • Paola Antonelli, Museum of Modern Art
  • Ayah Bdeir, littleBits
  • Matt Biddulph, Product Club
  • Mike Bove, MIT Media Lab
  • Kipp Bradford, Kippworks
  • Rodney Brooks, Rethink Robotics
  • Liam Casey, PCH International
  • Tom Coates, Product Club
  • Rob Coneybeer, Shasta Ventures
  • David Cranor, MIT Media Lab
  • Kenneth Cukier, The Economist
  • Michael Dewar, New York Times
  • Renee DiResta, O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures
  • Ian Ferguson, Formlabs
  • Brady Forrest, Highway1
  • Limor Fried, Adafruit
  • José Gómez-Márquez, MIT Little Devices Lab
  • Horst Hoertner, Ars Electronica Futurelab
  • Henry Holtzman, MIT Media Lab
  • Rachel Kalmar, Misfit Wearables
  • Michael Korpi, Baylor University Film & Digital Media
  • Coco Krumme, MIT
  • Natan Linder, MIT Media Lab
  • Pranav Mistry, Samsung Think Tank Team
  • Joe Paradiso, MIT Media Lab
  • Arthur Petron, MIT Media Lab
  • Amanda Peyton, Grand St.
  • Ivan Poupyrev, Walt Disney Research
  • Venkatesh Prasad, Ford Motor
  • Colin Raney, IDEO
  • Antonio Rodriguez, Matrix Partners
  • Andy Rubin, Google
  • Peter Semmelhack, Bug Labs
  • Yodit Stanton,
  • Gerfried Stocker, Ars Electronica Center
  • Linda Stone, Generalist
  • Phil Torrone, Adafruit
  • Bruce Upbin, Forbes
  • Trae Vassallo, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers
  • Ben Waber, Sociometric Solutions
  • Jenn Webb, O'Reilly Media


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