Some highlights from this week include:

  • We welcomed Tom Igoe, co-founder of Arduino and Creative Technologist Jeff Feddersen to our base camp at HAX and explored the electronics markets and Guang Dong’s small-batch manufacturing ecosystem in depth. Check out the video with Tom below to hear his thoughts on the future of hardware.
  • Continued our research into the supplier ecosystem of Shenzhen
  • Completed our application wireframes and user interviews for the Hax / PCI Future Hardware Platform.
  • Continued to research, design and prototype our ‘smart’ trashcan, including Q+A with Ayi and others involved in the waste management processes around the 华强北 electronics markets.

Special Guests

Tom and Jeff were guests at this year’s Designing Interactive Systems conference in Hong Kong, and we managed to convince them to spend a few long days with us in Huaqiangbei, both to introduce them to the project, but also to get their feedback on how the marketplace, and Shenzhen might be useful to their own students and others in their field.

We further refined our video production techniques, and had a lot of fun filming the co-founder of Arduino in the markets of HuaQiangBei. Check it out below!

Tom Igoe, physical computing expert, co-founder of Arduino and Associate Professor at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program answers 33 of our questions about the future of hardware in Shenzhen’s 华强北HuaQiangBei electronics markets.

We also met with PCH, the largest product design, engineering, testing and manufacturing firm you’ve never heard of. They produce for GoPro, L’Oreal and many other firms. We’re meeting their media team next week to start brainstorming how to make the final (and critical) stage of engineering and product testing more accessible and understandable, through a series of fun videos, tentatively titled Breaking Stuff.


We continued our research into Shenzhen’s supplier ecosystem and took a (long) trip north into the factory heartland of Guangdong. Our specific goal was to understand where one might go to get a small batch of hardware produced, with the option of rapid expansion into mass manufacturing if the demand was present. This led us to visit a medium sized tooling and injection molding factory and laser etching factory.

Our visit allowed us to better understand the way the ecosystem functions, we learned that word-of-mouth comprises and an extended network of family businesses is key. This insight is informing the design and function of our Future Hardware Platform, an application designed to provide a way to connect early-stage hardware prototypes to the Shenzhen design, manufacturing supply chain. A mock-up of the application dashboard is below:

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Wireframes based on our team interviews

Hardware Project: Smart Trashcan

Engineering and design prototyping of our connected trashcan is coming along well. Specifically, we made progress the sensor and software design of the trashcan. Specifically, we designed an API (called TrashTalk) that allows each trashcan to communication with each other, sending information such as how full each can is, volatile organic compound levels, weight and moisture levels to a central dashboard and those involved in the waste management process.

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API visualization of our connected trashcan sensor network

Industrial and mechanical design of the trashcan also proceeded apace. In this video, Jennifer describes how she is using aluminum extrusions to build the actual trashcan structure.

Jennifer describes the process of designing and prototyping the exterior of the trashcan.

Ashley (our resident rising Freshman) continued to probe for user
Here are a few questions that we asked the waste management works of 华强北 HuaQiangBei:

  1. What is most inconvenient about these trash cans?
  2. What is the most annoying thing about the trash?
  3. Do you compress the trash bags?
  4. How do you deal with bottles that have liquids in them?
  5. If you see something that can be recycled in the non-recycling bin then do you take it out and put it in the correct bin?
  6. What is a function that you wish came with the trash cans so that it would make it better for you to work?
  7. How often to do you change the trash bags?
  8. Do you change the trash even when it is not full?

Adam Brandenburger arrives tomorrow and will be with us for a few days. We’re planning on outlining some of the case writing and written scholarship deliverables, as well as preparing for next week’s schedule, which includes hosting a forum on the future of logistics with Flexport.

Thanks for the read!

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