Sensorica: Self Managed Open Network Innovation

23.06.2017| Christian Kreutz
Mosquito Smart Needle Project by Sensorica

Back at the Peer Value conference last year I had the chance to hear a presentation by Tiberius Brastaviceanu from Sensorica that was really impressive. Open innovation is my passion and I work with my clients finding great ideas around our platform. I believe open innovation is often seen very limited where company gradually open up for external expertise to innovate. Instead open innovation needs to be practiced in a network, where people collaborate open and effectively. Sensorica represents such a progresssive form of open innovation. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did.

Christian: I'm sitting here with Tiberius Brastaviceanu, who is from the company Sensorica.

Tiberius: It's not a company actually. It's a network. We call it an Open Value Network. That's the model. And the name is SENSORICA.

Christian: Exactly. That's why we're here, because this is a super interesting approach where you're basically having a network instead of a company, if I got it right, about open hardware. You’re having front companies, or legal entities, where you deal with normal contractors or people who are interested to work with you together, but your whole innovation process works within a network, and that's super exciting. Tell me more about it.

Tiberius: The idea here is that the Internet allows people to gather together from all over the world to work on projects. This is what open-source development has demonstrated. How can we take that process and turn it into a very stable and predictable economic system? What it means is that if you go and knock on the door of an open-source community, and you say, "Can you guys build this?" you don't know for sure when they're going to start, when they're going to finish. They might come up with something different because they like that better than what you need. There are these problems of reliability, predictability. Then you have the problems of allocation of resources. If you give money to this community, how are they going to use it? How are you going to trust them that they're going to allocate it in a good way? The whole idea of SENSORICA starts with the observation that open-source communities have demonstrated that they can innovate very effectively. We call that endogenous innovation, meaning an idea comes from the community, and is brought to a prototyping stage or product stage by the community, like Linux, Mozilla Firefox, and all these things. We also have a lot of open hardware projects that are done in the same way. What if a company, a government, or a university comes and proposes an idea? How do you know that they're going to do it the way you want it, and they're going to use a budget in a normal way?

Christian: Or they come with a real problem, and they need a solution.

Tiberius: Exactly. What we have done, we have built some tools, governance, and methodologies, to make these open-source communities more reliable, more accountable, in order to be able to function like any company would function, but without compromising the network and that network dynamic. This is where the secret lies in innovation. They're very effective at innovating. They're very creative. Without killing the goose with the golden eggs, how do you make open networks more predictable and more accountable? This is how SENSORICA has evolved into an economic agent.

Christian: How can I imagine this network to be? How does it look like; laboratories, individuals, groups? How does it look like?

Tiberius: There's a lot of work that is done in a virtual space. A virtual space is a website with some project management tools, with a database where you have your designs or you have your pictures and videos, with communication and coordination tools. Imagine a virtual space where you interact with people and collaborate. Sometimes you need a physical space to do some prototyping if you are into hardware development; do some soldering, some electronic boards and test them, and so on. There is a physical component to the network. We call these physical hubs. The physical hubs look like a fab-lab or a maker-space, where people bring their stuff, or the community buys community stuff. There's a lot of stuff that is owned by people, stuff that is owned by an organization that we have created to own it, which we call the Custodian. It's one of these peripheral legal structures. You have a network of individuals providing resources, some of them are physical, that end up in a space that people use, respecting some rules of access of use...

Christian: You have to be a member of network, or how do you organize who's being part of the network?

Tiberius: It works like an open-source community, meaning that if we have a project, we have project management tools, so we break it down into tasks. We mostly do Agile-type development. There are tasks that are created from these project management methodologies and anybody in the world can take a task, and no one can block someone from doing the task.

Christian: So it's public?

Tiberius: It's public and it's open in that sense. We don't call sensoricans members, because people can get confused as being member of Facebook, of being member of Uber. That membership is something that provides me a service, as a member. We call ourselves affiliates, and we think about our relations as we are affiliated with each other, it's a truly peer-to-peer network, meaning we're not members of..., we are affiliated with each other into peer-to-peer network. Anybody can join and be part of it. It's super open. The definition of a sensorican: somebody that has logged a contribution within our system, the project management system, and has documented something. That's all.

Christian: How does it work if I'm a government, I have a problem, I know that this network is amazing, and comes up with great solutions so I entered one of the entities to have a contract or something, and then this problem enters the network. What are the next steps then? Who's taking over?