Open Device Lab provides entrepreneurs and small business owners free access to technology

'Explore. Test. Play.' is the very succinct description on the Grand Rapids' Open Device Lab's homepage. 

Eric McKee, lead organizer behind the space, describes Open Device Lab as a modern library. But instead of books, the lab provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs and small business owners to explore, test, and play with new technology. 

McKee, founder of Vero Design, which is located a couple offices away from the lab in the Grand Rapids Tech Hub, says he "stumbled on" the idea through social media. 

"The concept came through a need I had personally. I started a conversation on Twitter in February and had so much feedback that I ended up researching the concept. It was during research that I stumbled on the national movement for open device labs."

Moving quickly, McKee teamed with several partners, including device manufacturers, to open the lab in March of 2013. Besides allowing individuals and businesses access to the devices for testing, the lab also serves a larger purpose for West Michigan: increasing the awareness of what mobile can do for an organization. 

"A second group of users we serve are businesses looking to enter the mobile space and individuals looking to understand mobile development and best practices. What does it means to be mobile as an organization?"

McKee says the concept is not unique; rather, it's just not well known in the U.S. "It's part of a global movement that originated in Europe. Typically, small companies and  entrepreneurs  do not have access to a wide variety of mobile devices. The lab provides new devices plus older devices for testing and exploring."

McKee says the Grand Rapids space is only the fifteenth of its kind in the U.S.

McKee says the lab is still early in its formation, as he is currently in the process of forming relationships with all major manufacturers to ensure access to a wide variety of devices. He is also still securing sponsoring partners. Additionally, McKee says educational seminars and classes surrounding mobile technology will be added soon. 

To learn more about this facility -- including hours, contact information, partners, and available devices -- you can visit the site here.

Source: Eric McKee, Open Device Lab
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor
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