Most swimmers are not engineers. Today, the only way for you (and almost everybody else) to profit from recent technological development is to buy a commercially available product developed by an innovative company. While such products can provide great value to the targeted community (e.g. Nike Plus for runners) they also have to generate money for the respective company. All to often, this leads to closed proprietary solutions confined to their initial purpose. There is no room left for innovation coming from the users themselves or from third parties. Even worse, communities too small to be considered a viable market are not served at all.
High-tech held hostage
On the other hand, there is an established open source movement in software and a nascent one in hardware and even industrial design with projects like Arduino, Bug Labs (together with Ideo), Chumby, Gumstix, Liquidware or Openmoko. And when it comes to connecting devices to the internet, books like Making Things Talk do a great job explaining all the technical details end-to-end in a language targeted at a non-technical audience. There is no lack of building blocks like sensors, controllers, protocols, data formats and incredibly cheap hosting or data storage solutions – but trading off their qualities and integrating the selected components to a consistent product is not trivial.
Documenting the development of Rfish as a sort of open design or open engineering project might help hackers in other communities to understand our design decisions and solve similar problems with less headache by adapting the system or at least the ideas behind it to their own needs. And even more important, it will hopefully one day bring state-of-the-art technology in a usable, affordable and open product straight to your swimming pool.
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