Report: DARPA Cozies Up to Open Source

by Ostatic Staff - Dec. 06, 2011

Among organizations that favor closed technology development, DARPA would have to qualify as one of the most traditionally closed outfits of all. The United States' Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency routinely pops up with new inventions, many of which would impress James Bond, but the inventions are typically shrouded in secrecy and mystery until they arrive. After all, lots of them are intended for battlefields, where the element of surprise can matter a lot. But Ars Technica reports that DARPA is exploring some new technology development models, including embracing open source principles. This makes a lot of sense.

According to Ars:

"DARPA is looking to solve the problem of runaway defense systems projects by reinventing how complex systems are developed and manufactured. They aim to do this by borrowing from the playbooks of integrated circuit developers and open-source software projects."

The Ars Technica report also quotes DARPA Tactical Technology Office program manager Paul Eremenko:

"In the open source software world, anybody can go in and modify the design, and check it in, and the community can recompile it and see what the impact is. That process has proven itself and has yielded very high quality software."

It shouldn't have taken 50 years for DARPA to arrive at this strategy. Yes, it can be important to keep new defense technologies under wraps, but software and hardware components that the final projects are based on can be open sourced, and it's clear that DARPA officials now see the value of open development models.

DARPA is one of the leading producers of advanced robots in the world, and much of the best work going on in robotics is open sourced, as we've covered before.  On numerous fronts, less secrecy and more robust sharing can only benefit DARPA.