Cambridge Open Device Lab puts out call for mobile donations

Cambridge Open Device Lab puts out call for mobile donations


AThe modern day gold rush is taking place online, it’s the world of web services and mobile apps where all you need is a computer and your brains to create something that thousands if not millions just might switch on to, cue untold riches.

The reality though is that if you’re going to make it big in software you need to be testing and if you’re a one person team or a small band of brothers and sisters, you’re going to struggle to get your hands on all the mobile devices out there that you want carrying your big idea.

It’s not just the different operating systems that present a problem, but the growing number of devices, up to 15 new ones released each week, and each with its own technical quirks and hurdles and at anything from £200 to £500 per device, it’s well beyond the means of most small independents – step forward Cambridge Open Device Labs.

Cambridge Open Device Labs (CambODL) is part of the throughly altruistic Open Device Labs movement, essentially shared community pools of internet connected devices. Smartphones, tablets, consoles… all are lent to developers completely free of charge so they can test their websites and mobile apps.

So far so great. But where does CambODL – and all ODLs for that matter – get its devices from? The answer is donations; an ODL’s altruistic efforts are entirely reliant on the philanthropy of others, it needs companies or individuals to pass on their old or unused devices.

At the moment CambODL only holds 10 devices in-house, a lowly sum for a city boasting the UK’s largest tech company and the brains behind the mobile world’s most popular processor, ARM.

In comparison, Bridgend ODL has 130 devices, Cheltenham 62 and Bournemouth a walloping 257 devices. That was principally due to the efforts of Xerox subsidiary, WDS, and there’s no reason why it can’t be repeated in Cambridge, which as well as ARM can boast true blue chip technology companies such as HP, IBM, Toshiba, Microsoft, Citrix, Samsung, Nokia, Oracle, Broadcom, Qualcomm and Mathworks to name a few.

Then there’s the other Cambridge success stories, homegrown companies like CSR, Red Gate Software, TTP, Cambridge Consultants, Abcam, Xaar, Domino Printing, AVEVA and Ubisense.

CambODL needs at least some of these to step up if it’s to achieve its aim of building a Cambridge-wide network of labs that’s open not just to developers, but other businesses, students and scientists.

So far there’s app design agency, Bug Interactive, which helped launch CambODL together with Matt Rose a little over a year ago, as well as newcomers Cambrionix, the multiple USB charging and sync device firm, and PR agency, KISS Communications.

“With Cambridge’s reputation in science, technology and entrepreneurship there’s a real opportunity to make the Cambridge Open Device Lab one of the best resources in the world,” said Rose.

“Being able to test across multiple platforms, different devices and models is critical for any web developer. Unfortunately, maintaining a representative selection of necessary devices for testing purposes in-house has become more complex and expensive due to the sheer variety, which is why places like the CambODL will become an important resource for developers and local companies.”

CambODL is calling people and businesses to take part in the Donate Your Dusty Device (DYDD) initiative, a simple process done through the ODL website, something Cambrionix director, Steven Tyson, regards as something of a duty.

“As a company who designs products which can be used with any number of different mobiles or tablet devices, it’s essential for us to support our local ODLs,” said Tyson.

“It’s nice to be in possession of the newest and latest gadgets but from a business perspective it’s not practical to spend hundreds on a device which may only be needed for a quick test. Open Device Labs should be embraced as something which can save you money and broaden your SW/HW test coverage – both of which are essential for many tech businesses.”

Adam Miller, digital director at Bug when the idea was first introduced by Rose, adds: “For those of us that build web applications, testing is the only solution as the hardware options available to our audiences are increasing constantly.

“Manufacturers on the whole do not provide devices for testing purposes, and with many legacy setups being hard to find (let alone buy) DYDD can only be a huge benefit.”