DreamBoard represents a milestone in the way engineers show hardware manufacturers what features they want the most. A development kit, or devkit, is an essential piece of technology for the electrical design engineer. Devkits allow engineers to quickly produce a prototype of their invention without having to invest heavily in custom hardware or circuitry. Devkits have changed the face of how electronic products are made, and every year new ones are made that offer additional kinds of functionality—temperature sensors, onboard gyroscopes, accelerometers, and dozens of other components.
But with thousands of different kinds of devkits available to choose from, are engineers really getting the features they need? The hardware manufacturers whose products we sell want to know what engineers really want. We decided to turn to our community of 300,000 electronic engineers and put the question to them in a fun, new way.
We designed a new tool that engineers could use to design their dream devkit. Want a small form-factor? No problem. Like to have an onboard wifi chip to make connecting to the Internet easy? Go for it. We gave engineers a wide array of options to choose from. When an engineer finished designing their dream board, an image of it would be posted to the element14 community for their peers to see and enjoy. We even made it easy for engineers to share these images of their dream boards on their social networks. We hoped they would find it a fun, possibly addicting experience—and one that their friends would be drawn to as well.
Our primary goal in launching DreamBoard was to provide hardware manufacturers with realtime insights into what product features engineers want the most. In the process, we wanted to give our members a fun new way to interact with element14.
Our primary goal was to deliver new insights to hardware makers about what features engineers wanted most in new devkits. Over 1,900 DreamBoards have been produced by electronic engineers to date. This constitutes a wealth of deep product data that will influence the next generation of development kits produced by hardware manufacturers. Engineers shared their DreamBoards on their social media channels, leading even more engineers to discover element14 and build their dream devkits. The social sharing features we built into the DreamBoard tool proved essential to the program's success: more than half of all DreamBoards produced were from people joining element14 for the first time because they saw DreamBoards being posted on their friends' social network profiles. In all, over 900 engineers from 85 countries joined our community during this campaign, helping us grow to over 300,000 members.
As a distributor, we support the products of a wide range of electronics suppliers such as Texas Instruments and Freescale. These suppliers rely upon us, but we must also demonstrate our ability to deliver unique value to them in order to gain a competitive advantage over other distributors. By going directly to electronic engineers and asking them to construct their ideal development kit, we have shown our suppliers that we can provide them with direct market insight which they can use to design products which fit actual consumer demand. If the majority of engineers included a specific component on their ideal devkits, this information is vital to a supplier wishing to produce the next breakthrough product.