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Do-It-Yourself Consumer Electronics

Do-It-Yourself (DIY) is a trend we see growing in Consumer Electronics as consumers seek to refresh, enhance, and even create their own CE devices, supported by online tutorials, online component marketplaces and a rapidly growing base of coding-savvy consumers.

We have seen connectivity penetrate home and personal CE devices; however the scope of what we can do with this connectivity is often limited to the OEM’s ideas of a product’s intended use. The demand for more flexibility in the functionality offered by devices is not new; we have seen groups develop the means to update and change locked devices, for example, jailbreaking iOS devices. It is the products that allow and encourage innovation that result in such interesting consumer creations.

The availability of make-your-own kits for DIY electronic goods is growing quickly; we are seeing products being made by new entrants, but also those established in their field. Bose, notoriously absent from CE trade shows, had a booth for their BOSEbuild educational DIY speaker at this January’s CES. We’ve seen a modular DIY electronics vendor collaborate with the giant Disney and other toy companies are being built from the ground up on offering educational toys on technology and electronics.

Home audio products also highlight the commitment and opportunity to upcycle and create products at home. Speakers and headphones can be made with relatively little prior knowledge of electrical engineering. For those willing to take on a greater challenge, high-end items such as electrostatic headphones, can be made at home for a lower cost than can be found on the high street.

The Lego Boost kit, announced at CES 2017, is perhaps a subtle sign of where some areas of consumer electronics are heading. The toy combines the traditional build and play opportunities, but an accompanying app brings creations to life through simple programming commands, bringing creations to life. While innovations in the toy market may not usually have many implications to wider CE products, the availability of such toys mark the increasing demand for the DIY creation of electronics goods.

In fact, the toy market is where a large degree of ‘makerspace’ products can be seen to be beginning their consumer life. XYZprinting, one of the leading consumer 3D printer vendors has a lot of products focused in the toy makerspace market. While ‘adult’ use cases for 3D printers in the home develop, there is clearly a healthy market for devices aimed to give children creative opportunities with advancing technology.

Raspberry Pi, currently by far the best-selling British computer with over 11 million units, is an important innovator in both the educational and non-educational DIY computing space. The tiny chipset has allowed the homebrew creation of a vast amount of products in the home. Home media controllers, photo booths, smart mirrors, car dashboards, retro arcade machines, smart plugs and home security systems have all been powered by Raspberry Pi’s. Communities of creatives have grown around the product, sharing design blueprints, pushing new concepts forward and allowing designers to customise consumer goods further than what is available from established brands.

An important catalyst to this makerspace and DIY CE trend, especially as we move forward, is coding being increasingly taught at schools - coding and the principles of programming are moving beyond after-school clubs and now feature in curriculums for children as young as five.

In parallel with this trend, the global home improvement market finds itself increasing year-on-year - those in developed nations spend between $150 and $200 a year on DIY home improvements and with technology taking a greater importance in the home, the overlap between these previously separated markets is growing.

Confidence in creation and design is a major barrier to entry for DIY expenditure and project initiation. Combatting this is a wide range of support groups that have been created both online and with real-world access points.  Sites such as YouTube host a wealth of how-to videos and discussion for project guides or tips for getting the most from a DIY investment. Hackerspaces offer an opportunity for those interested in pushing their creative ability to do so, around like minded people and without the need for investment into expensive professional equipment, such as high-end 3D printers. However, given the rise of electrical educational goods, it is likely as a whole we will come to be more competent in designing and building our own electronics.

Although it is all but a small segment of the overall CE market, there are observable and growing trends towards consumers demanding more access to building or customising their consumer goods. We should expect to see an increase in both educational toys, but also an increase in CE products being replicated, recycled and repaired at home, even created based on original designs.

About the author

James Manning Smith

About Us

Here at Futuresource Consulting we deliver specialist research and consulting services, providing market forecasts and intelligence reports. Since the 1980s we have supported a range of industry sectors, which has grown to include: CE, Broadcast, Entertainment Content, EdTech and many more.