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Open Know-Where launched

Updated: May 7, 2021

April’s end bought the unveiling of a new model that can help people find what they need where they’re looking for it - Open Know-Where.

Just as digital maps show us what’s near our specific locations, Open Know-Where will allow users to map manufacturing capabilities so they “know where” something can be made. The model will enable consistent documentation and information sharing about who can make what among those who use it – which will be a game-changer for the work Field Ready does.

Initiated by the Internet of Production Alliance and sponsored by the Shuttleworth Foundation, Open Know-Where was developed by an open working group, with help from technical document specialists Barbal and their dedicated online platform.

The model was launched last week during a forum hosted in part by Internet of Production Chair and Field Ready Global Innovation Lead Andrew Lamb. The standard will be used initially by the Internet of Production Alliance, which includes Field Ready among its member organizations aiming to deliver locally sourced products faster and with less ecological impact. Developers hope it will especially help share information about and location of manufacturers who can produce items used in humanitarian aid and development situations.

Open Know-Where will enable data to be shared by anyone, developers said. It will include information from different mapping systems and platforms and can aggregated to a regional or national level, paving the way for local production of global designs.

Rather than creating a single database of all the information, Open Know-Where allows data stored in different places to be shared more easily. Developers hope it will be adopted and used by governments, manufacturers, trade associations, non-government organizations (NGOs), aid agencies, mapping communities, makers and online maker platforms.

Possible uses include searching for nearby 3D printers, finding specifications of area plastics factories or checking availability of a local makerspace, Lamb noted.

Field Ready will be using Open Know-Where to find sewing machines in refugee settlements in northern Uganda so we can hire refugees to make face masks, said Kat Sellers, manager of our “Protecting the Frontline” project that will help provide PPE for at least 100,000 frontline healthcare workers in conflict-affected areas of Bangladesh, Iraq, Kenya and Uganda. Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), one of our partners in the "Protecting the Frontline" project, is leading the Open Know-Where mapping effort as well.

“It will also help us find injection-molding factories in Bangladesh so that we can make face shields,” Sellers said. “We will use it to share our data on 3D Printers in Iraq so that the makers and small companies there can find orders from, say, nearby hospitals. It’s a game changer for the way we provide aid – not built on global supply chains, but on local capabilities."

Manufacturing items locally means they can get to area markets more easily, communities can develop their own livelihoods and become less reliant on imports and aid.

“It has become so easy for us to find products online, that are often made in distant countries, and to have them shipped halfway around the world to be delivered to you,” Lamb said. But that slows delivery of emergency items and raises costs while damaging the environment. “The Internet of Production is about distributing and localizing manufacturing so that anyone, everywhere can have the chance to participate in production and to become creators and makers – not just consumers or recipients.”

Open Know-Where follows on from the success of the Open Know-How documentation standard (released in 2019) for sharing hardware designs and documentation online, to “Know How” something can be made. These two models are part of a series of open infrastructure created by the Internet of Production Alliance, aiming to build a new web that will do for products what the web has done for information – give everyone the chance to participate in production.

"Everyone should be able to find and have open access to the manufacturing capabilities they require to get something made wherever it is needed,” said Tom Salfield, working group member and chief executive officer and co-founder of Wikifactory, a social platform for collaborative product development. “Now more than ever, this shift in standards can have a critical impact in reducing unnecessary shipping while ensuring that products are made in-place where supply chains have been most pressured, are fragile or even, broken. Wikifactory, which is building an open-standards based model of distributed design and production will be working hard to implement Open Know-Where into our manufacturing marketplace, and we encourage others to do the same."

The new model will have a “significant impact for mapping initiatives and maker communities,” said the Internet of Production Alliance’s Anna Lowe, who chairs the Open Know-Where project. “The Internet of Production Alliance will be working to implement Open Know-Where and circulate awareness of the standard.”

In addition to Field Ready and WikiFactory, other members of the Open Know-Where working group include representatives from Appropedia, COVID Action, Fab Labs, Juakali Smart, Makernet,, Make Works, Manufacturing Change, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Metabolic, Procedurable, The Royal College of Art and University College London.

For more information on Open Know-Where and to watch the launch video, click here.


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