A recent survey gauging public perception of manufacturing in the United States had some good news for manufacturers: Generation Z (those born between 1997 and 2012, for the purposes of the survey) look more positively on manufacturing than preceding generations and are more inclined to consider a career in that field.

Neon sign Generation Z

The annual L2L Manufacturing Index conducted by Leading2Lean (L2L; Sparks, NV) found that 18 to 22 year olds are more likely to have had a counselor, teacher or mentor suggest they look into manufacturing as a viable career when compared with the general population. One-third (32%) of Generation Z has had manufacturing suggested to them as a career option, compared with only 18% of millennials and 13% of the general population. They are also more likely to consider working in the manufacturing sector and are less likely to view it as an industry in decline than other cohorts. The survey was conducted in the summer of 2019.

The news is especially welcome when you consider that there are currently more than 520,000 open manufacturing jobs in the United States, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. Moreover, 2.4 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled during the new decade, according to projections from Deloitte. But there are a few things you should know regarding the expectations of this workforce if you want to hire and, more importantly, retain those young workers. Keith Barr, President and CEO of L2L, which provides cloud-based Lean Execution System software that provides full operational visibility, has some thoughts about that.

The uptick in interest in manufacturing among Gen Z revealed by the survey was a “good surprise,” Barr told PlasticsToday. The growth in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs and outreach to schools by local manufacturers seem to be bearing fruit, he said. The timing is propitious, as baby boomers retire en masse and millennials show little interest in manufacturing.

Keith Barr is a featured speaker at the Smart Manufacturing Innovation Summit: The Rise of the Smart Factory conference track at the co-located Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) West and PLASTEC West event. During his session, Barr will explain why Generation Z is a perfect fit for the modern digitized manufacturing plant floor and what industry must do to effectively engage this group. The daylong track is scheduled for Feb. 11. The tradeshow runs from Feb. 11 to 13, 2020, in Anaheim, CA. Go to the event website for more information.

Baby boomers are leaving behind a replacement skills gap, said Barr, but many of those jobs will be filled by automation. “The skills that will be needed going forward are quite different.” Somewhat serendipitously, the level of automation and technological sophistication that exists in advanced manufacturing today is aligned with the skill sets and interests of Gen Zers.

Image: Abemos/Adobe Stock


Plastics have improved the performance, structure and safety of automobiles, and they are a major contributor to lightweighting and, thus, enable fuel efficiency and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Consequently, the automotive plastics market has emerged as a vital business space: Valued at $23.7 billion globally in 2016, demand for plastics in the automotive sector is projected to expand 11% CAGR and reach a market value exceeding $50 billion by 2024.

Speedometer showing 2020

Spurred by rigorous regulations, especially in terms of fuel efficiency, plastics are a key factor in the manufacture and design of automotive vehicles. In addition to reducing the mass of parts used in vehicles, plastics provide more design freedom vis-à-vis metals. Other advantages include the material’s recyclability, abrasion resistance, durability, strength and vibration control.

Based on research conducted by Global Market Insights (Selbyville, DE), here are some key trends that will define the automotive plastics market through 2024.

  • Demand for polypropylene (PP) will increase. It is being sourced for automotive interiors and exteriors, as well as under-the-hood applications, often replacing metal parts. In a bid to neutralize battery weight, PP will proliferate as electric vehicle (EV) production surges.
  • Polyethylene (PE) consumption is likely to remain stagnant. While high-density PE continues to replace steel in gas tanks, the newest trend affecting PE demand is the rising proliferation of EVs. In electric vehicles, PE mainly finds deployment in engine parts, since electrically powered engines obviate the need for plastics engineered for high-temperature environments.
  • Although ABS consumption may take a hit as the use of PP composites increases, it will remain in demand for some high-end automobiles because of its perceived quality for automotive interiors. The use of ABS in wheel covers and body parts has been increasing on account of the fact that this material enhances toughness, impact resistance and heat resistance in the final plastic product.
  • Polycarbonate (PC) is setting a new bar for autonomous vehicles, as well as in lighting and electrification in traditional vehicles. Also, PC exhibits exceptional impact, thermal, electrical and weathering properties. The combination of toughness, hardness and stiffness will drive the use of PC in the automotive plastics industry.
  • PVC will witness traction thanks to its enhanced flame retardance, excellent flexibility, low (to no) lead content and high gloss. PVC can be compression molded, injection molded and blow molded to form a range of products. Accordingly, demand for PVC in automobile instrumental panels and doors is expected to grow through 2024.
  • North America and Europe will continue to attract investors into the automotive plastics market, as polymer consumption in this sector experiences unprecedented growth through 2024.

Despite the buzz about advanced materials such as carbon fibers and aluminum, plastics continue to replace metals in automotive parts thanks to technological advances that have bolstered the material’s tensile strength and other properties.

Demand for plastics in automotive exteriors has brought a paradigm shift to auto body design. In addition to lightweighting, the use of plastics allows manufacturers to lower production costs, advance modular assembly practices and improve the aerodynamic properties of car exteriors.

Plastics help manufacturers to meet Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and cater to market trends and the buying habits of consumers who want products and companies to be environmentally responsible. The adoption of polymer technologies by automotive engineers is expected to continue in passenger cars and mass transit vehicles. PE and PVC appear to stand out amid growing calls for recyclability, but demand for PC and PP also will continue to gain traction. The automotive plastics market will experience a remarkable transformation in the ensuing period.

Global Market Insights Inc. has published a market report dedicated to global automotive plastics. For more information and to purchase the report, go to the company’s website.

Image: Peterschreiber.media/Adobe Stock

About the author

Sunil Kumar Jha is Research Content Developer with Global Market Insights.


Business rich communication services (RCS) messaging has been waiting for its turn in the spotlight for well over a decade now. 

The long-awaited replacement to short message service (SMS) was first conceived back in 2008 but the progress of the new messaging platform has been stuttering at best. Many would call it an utter shambles.

For consumers at least, RCS is now available to all android users in the U.S. as Google rolled out the new messaging platform in December.

But where does this leave businesses and organizations that want to use RCS to market and communicate with their customers?

What is business RCS messaging?

RCS is the evolution of the clunky and outdated text message. SMS is over 25 years old and despite being an incredibly powerful and responsive channel, its replacement is well overdue.

With RCS you can send images, video and share files. The new protocol supports read receipts and read notifications. Essentially it does everything that you’d want in a messaging app.

It doesn’t have any killer features to trump other apps but has the distinct advantage that it works in the same way that SMS does. As long as you have a mobile number, you’ll be able to send an RCS message.

At least, that’s the theory.

Business RCS faces multiple challenges

This leads us to the long list of problems that RCS faces before it can become a viable alternative to SMS.

Marketers are longing to get their hands on it. It could transform the way they communicate with their customers. But until all the issues are solved, RCS could be a spectacular failure.

On evaluating its chances of success, Tim Green from Mobile Ecosystem Forum said:

 “RCS is – for now at least – classic ‘vapourware’. It’s something that might take off… at some point in the future… we’re not sure when. “

– Tim Green

It’s highly unlikely that Apple will ever adopt RCS business messaging

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Apple is not going to adopt business RCS in the foreseeable future. It competes with its own iMessage and there is no reason why Apple would want its iPhone users moving away from it.

In a recent interview, Nick Lane from the UK-based research company Mobilesquared, said:

“In terms of supporting RCS business messaging, that won’t happen. Why would they want to do that?”

Nick Lane

As an alternative to RCS, marketers will need to deliver a text message to iPhone users containing a link to a mobile-optimized landing page that replicates the content of the RCS message.

It’s going to be highly complex and expensive to implement. For most, the benefits will not outweigh these additional hurdles.

Business RCS pricing is still unresolved

Industry insiders have been demanding some sort of resolution on pricing for the past three or four years and yet, we’re still waiting for clarity on what sending a business RCS is going to cost.

Nick Lane at Mobilesquared referred to the lack of progress as “groundhog day.”

A few pricing models have been suggested but these have all been complex or unrealistic.

RCS is different from SMS in that it encourages ongoing communication, rather than a simple one-way push of information. An RCS message flow might include multiple messages and interactions.

So unlike SMS, you need to have a pricing model that allows for multiple RCS but without the costs spiraling out of control.

One suggestion is to have a “cost per session.” Once an RCS conversation has begun, you simply pay a flat fee for a set period, probably 24 hours.

Another more outlandish idea is to set the price of RCS based on the profit that results from the RCS exchange. Thankfully this idea seems to have quietly disappeared. It would have been unworkable and impossible to regulate.

RCS tokens

Mobilesquared appears to be taking the lead on pricing with its token-based proposal.

Their suggestion is that you would purchase a block of RCS tokens from your RCS provider. Different types of RCS messages would use different numbers of tokens.

If you were sending a simple image then you might use one token but if you had a scrollable element or button options, then you would use two.

How this would work in reality is unclear, as there will be almost infinite numbers of ways that an RCS message could be presented.

The whole pricing of business RCS is still in utter chaos and without a universally agreed approach, RCS simply can’t be used.

RCS messaging is not encrypted and can lead to hacking

Surprisingly RCS, unlike most other messaging apps, is not end-to-end encrypted. It uses the same rules and protocols as SMS.

Network providers can keep records of all RCS messages in a fully readable format and these could be accessible to anyone with legitimate legal access.

More recently there have been troubling security concerns when German security company SRLabs demonstrated that RCS could allow hackers to access SMS and voice data. Sloppy implementation of RCS by both Google and carriers could allow messages and calls to be intercepted or altered at will.

SRLabs founder Karsten Nohl argues that:

“RCS gives us the capability to read your text messages and listen to your calls. You’re going to be more vulnerable to hackers because your network decided to activate RCS. If you put out a new technology for a billion people, you should define the whole security concept.”

– Karsten Nohl

10 years on and we’re still in case study mode

As the years drift past, we still haven’t seen any examples where companies are using RCS as an integrated part of their customer communications.

There have been some very eye-catching case studies, notably Subway who achieved a 140% uplift in sales with their RCS campaign in early 2019. 

The latest RCS campaign from Papa Johns in the UK achieved a 23% uplift compared to SMS.

But these campaigns are all one-off marketing tactics. You send an RCS message and then measure the sales and compare it to your usual response rates. Then you dash off a press release, trumpeting your success which is then gleefully published in the world’s marketing press.

But this is all a bit thin. We don’t see any companies who have taken RCS to the next stage of its development.

Until we see examples where a company has integrated RCS into all their other communications and tackled the complexity of having a solution for iPhone users, RCS will remain on the fringes, with promising potential but never quite delivering.

Unsustainable response rates

The fast food RCS case studies have produced impressive response rates. But it’s unlikely that these sky-high results will be sustainable.

As users become accustomed to the new messaging, then response rates are likely to settle down to levels that are similar to SMS.

Unless you believe that RCS messaging can increase the amount of pizza sold globally, then we’re bound to witness a readjustment to the high levels of engagement that the early case studies delivered.

A long and uncertain road ahead for RCS

With the catalog of issues facing RCS business messaging, it’s hard to predict when and even if it will become a credible option for marketers.

Just one of the problems would be challenging enough but with so many forces working against it, RCS may never emerge as a fully formed communication platform.

Optimism, goodwill and great case studies will only get the new channel so far. If RCS is to become a success, we need to see wide adoption in the next 12 months or it may sink without trace.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Henry is a two-time entrepreneur, founder and director of The SMS Works, a low cost and robust SMS API for developers. He’s been involved in SMS and mobile marketing since 1999 and helps companies of all sizes develop integrated mobile strategies. Henry also writes on a range of topics from mobile marketing to entrepreneurship.


The adoption of blockchain has indeed been widespread. But the realm of intellectual property protection could find blockchain particularly useful.

The industry of IP has plenty of its own problems. On average, infringement can cost a company around $102 million a year. And there’s little on the horizon that indicates any relief on that front. 

Blockchain, intellectual pro[perty, Cisco, Fortunly

Blockchain technology can address the issue of IP infringement. (Image source: Cisco)

But blockchain technology could address this issue. In fact, its radical approach to data storage lends itself kind of perfectly to solve much of the IP industry’s ills. And IP protection for engineering patents, in particular, could benefit from blockchain on its side.

But, first, let’s take a step back and look at why enforcing IP rights in general is so problematic.

Problems Plaguing Intellectual Property Protection

One of the greatest problems to IP protection comes from the Internet or, rather, how it helped proliferate content. The Internet has enabled us to easily copy, download, and share digital content. Not only that, but doing so is also near-instantaneous. Piracy is a great example of how IP owners lose out on profits.

You can see how that might make copyright protection a bit more difficult than before the Internet existed. With people being capable of copying, downloading, or otherwise distributing intellectual property owners’ content without breaking a sweat, protecting IP becomes next to undoable.

And that isn’t the end for owners’ woes. The systems that are supposed to enforce copyright protection are sorely out of date. DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) is the most up-to-scratch safeguard, and that act is from 1998. It has done some good, but it isn’t enough, especially nowadays.

This isn’t due to it being fundamentally flawed. Rather, it’s simply down to the fact that, on its own, it cannot keep up with so many people violating its stipulations. It’s more of a technology problem than anything else.

And that’s where blockchain comes into play.

What Is Blockchain? A Brief Explanation

Blockchain, in a nutshell, is a digital ledger that distributes access to and control over data to all of its members. Its records cannot be erased or changed in any capacity, all the data is completely transparent, and hacking the system is nigh impossible.

Using blockchain to guard the rights of intellectual property has quite a few advantages. GoChain is a well-known example of a company that leverages this tech to make IP’s safer. 

But how does this translate to IP protection? These characteristics are applicable to the aforementioned problems in several ways.

Proving Patent Ownership

Patent ownership rights are a bit of a pain to prove sometimes. In creative fields (music, videos, and the like), whatever you create de facto belongs to you, but when someone (wrongfully) claims that creation is theirs, it’s difficult to prove you created said content when there’s little to no documentation pointing to the fact. 

And in these cases, the onus is normally on the creator to prove that they created the work in question. And that’s the tricky part. Patents are a tad easier to prove ownership over, but it can still prove difficult.

But blockchain, possessing indelible records of all data, can tell you exactly when what was created. This makes it easier to prove ownership whenever someone illegally uses your content. 

Monitoring Use of Content

Seeing that all the information on the blockchain is transparent, every piece of data is easily trackable. The network marks any instance of a patent being used, replicated, or otherwise, so users can track exactly what is done to it.

This would greatly improve the situation in regards to people infringing on IP rights willy-nilly. Creators could keep track of any instances of their work and how people utilize them. And if any of those instances violate ownership rights, you’ll know it.

Streamlining the Registration Process

Decentralization is blockchain’s main schick. The fact that the system doesn’t require third-party oversight means that all the red tape associated with such entities goes out the window.

This could come in handy indeed in the IP world. The journey to attaining patent rights can take as much as 22 months. Some exceptions, like utility patents, might be faster, usually wrapped up between six and twelve months, but it’s still a long wait.

The bulk of this time comes down to bureaucracy. And blockchain can go around this problem. Blockchain could greatly reduce this massive wait, leaving both individuals and businesses with more time for further innovation or other affairs.

Smart Contracts

The concept of smart contracts uses blockchain in a more innovative fashion. For those who don’t know, smart contracts are self-verifiable, self-enforceable contracts that don’t need any other entity other than those involved in the agreement.

This could facilitate much easier and smoother enforcement of licencing agreements. Creators that enter into these contracts can easily see if its stipulations are being respected or not. This is a more hands-on use of blockchain, and its potential applications are many. Nevertheless, it’s just as needed here.

Whenever a contract stipulation regarding patent use is being violated, the contract has the ability to respond by, for instance, terminating. This would do wonders to reduce IP abuse in the engineering world.


Blockchain technology has the potential to greatly improve the current situation of patent IP protection. Its triple-threat, that being decentralization, transparency, and immutability, would both smooth out and reinforce the systems that are currently in place. It would enable inventors to gain better control over their patents, while also having a better idea of what’s being done to them. As things stand right now, these would be welcome changes indeed.

Tamara Backovic is a content specialist at Fortunly with a background in computer sciences, tech research and IT.


2019 was a year of growth for Design News on Twitter. All metrics were up including tweets, followers, impressions, and engagements.  Reviewing the highest monthly tweet metrics on a yearly basis provides viable insights for what topics will be hot in the coming year.

In case you’ve forgotten the significance of these social media counters, here’s a quick review:

  • Engagements: This is a measure of the total number of times a user interacted in any way with a tweet. An engagement is recorded when anyone clicks on a link, a photo, a tweet, hashtag – anywhere in the tweet area.
  • Impressions: This value represents the number of times a user views a tweet in their timeline or search results. These users can be followers who viewed a tweet in their feeds or simply twitter users who found the tweet during a search.

The compilations below are the monthly metrics of the Top Tweet – the one with the most impressions, the Top Mention – the tweet by someone else mentioning you that received the most engagements, and the Top Media Tweet – the one that incudes a photo or video. The Top Media Tweet is the media tweet with the most impressions. Media Tweets are typically more effective than text-only Tweets.

December 2019

  • Top Tweet: New @IIHS_autosafety side crash test wallops cars 82 percent harder designnews.com/automotive-0/n…
  • Top Mention: Evan Kirstel #CES2020 @evankirstel Old 3G battle shifts to #5G struggle designnews.com//Z3Xo via @DesignNews
  • Top Media Tweet: Does your IoT device pass the UL test? designnews.com//Z38B @UL_Standards @ArmEmbedded @NIST @IEEEIoT @BrightsightBV #security #IoT #testing #labs

November 2019

  • Top Tweet:  Aiming for the Tier 1 market, @MicrochipTech has designed a cyber-protection solution that secures the vehicle while adhering to auto specifications and standards. #automotive #cybersecurity #autos designnews.com/automation-mot…
  • Top Mention: @HazemAlbalushi  @VDM_News @DieterRamsDsgn @designernewsbot @DesignNews Braun will bring Dieter Rams headphones to market again but with new technology. https://braun-audio.com
  • Top Media Tweet: New Free Online Course Nov. 18-22, Designing and Launching an Embedded Product: Join us as we focus on challenges facing teams looking to launch a product and explore best practices needed for success. ubm.io/32mpagE #DNCEC #embeddedproducts #productdevelopment

October 2019

  • Top Tweet: New Free Online Course October 21-25, Easy TCP/IP for IoT: Join us for a series of lectures that focus on designing and coding IoT devices that communicate using the services of TCP/IP. ubm.io/2lNURzH #DNCEC #IoT #TCP #InternetofThings #IoTDevices
  • Top Mention: Dan Carney @AutowriterDan I’m excited to announce today that, after 23 years as a freelancer, I’ve joined the staff of @DesignNews as a senior editor, covering automotive engineering, technology and design.
  • Top Media Tweet: Nine days till the #Midwest‘s largest Advanced Design & Manufacturing event. Claim your free expo pass here: ow.ly/7lEy50wL2No

September 2019

  • Top Tweet: Go back in time with a day-by-day journey through the #Apollo11 Moon Landing. Download this eBook for incredible photos, expert articles, insights from real Apollo 11 crew members and more! #sponsored Download your FREE eBook now! ow.ly/YaDV50vPuxM
  • Top Mention: Mouser Electronics @MouserElec Wearable devices that collect health, diagnostic, & environmental information are becoming more popular for medical, personal, & professional use. Researchers have designed an ultra-thin wearable they compare to wearing a Band-Aid: mou.sr/wearable-devic… via @DesignNews
  • Top Media Tweet: Free Online Course Sept 23-27, NFC-connected Phone as a User Interface? There’s an App For That! Join us for a lecture series presenting design steps necessary for the device and phone side of an NFC-based user app to control a device on the IoT. ubm.io/2PgaiPg

August 2019

  • Top Tweet: New Free Online Course August 26-30, Exploring Vision Devices: Join us for a series of lectures that investigate vision devices from the technological viewpoint of embedded vision and machine vision systems. ubm.io/2SxONHQ #DNCEC #visiondevices #machinevision
  • Top Mention:  Karolina Kurzac @karolina_kurzac The #Future of IoT Includes Edge Computing, ubm.io/303jok0 #AI & #Blockchain @ingliguori @IDC @DesignNews #IoT #IIoT #Blockchains #AI #ArtificialIntelligence #EdgeComputing @antgrasso @evankirstel @IIoT_World @vinod1975 @Ronald_vanLoon @FrRonconi @enricomolinari
  • Top Media Tweet: When the original CAD design isn’t accessible, what is the fastest way to quickly produce parts that reference real-world components? Join us August 6th! ubm.social/c39Tky pic.twitter.com/FofLlpTIuj

July 2019

  • Top Tweet: SAE International President, Paul Mascarenas, will be moderating a #DriveWorldESC panel on setting the standard in transformational technologies. We hope to see you there! ow.ly/NK3x50v68Cv
  • Top Mention:  Karolina Kurzac @karolina_kurzac The #Future of IoT Includes Edge Computing, ubm.io/303jok0 #AI & #Blockchain @ingliguori @IDC @DesignNews #IoT #IIoT #Blockchains #AI #ArtificialIntelligence #EdgeComputing @antgrasso @evankirstel @IIoT_World @vinod1975 @Ronald_vanLoon @FrRonconi @enricomolinari
  • Top Media Tweet: Want to deconstruct an AV? VSI Labs’ Phil Magney has you covered in his session: Decomposition of an Autonomous Vehicle.  ow.ly/yVRb50v8snu

June 2019

  • Top Tweet: New Free Online Course July 22-26, Microprocessor-Based Industrial Controllers: Join us for a series of lectures that look at the development of microprocessor-based industrial controllers and the modern architectures currently in use. ubm.io/2X1Iv89 #DNCEC
  • Top Mention: Kia Motors Global @Kia_Motors The ‪#KiaNiroHybrid and ‪#KiaOptimahybrid are among the most efficient hybrids you can buy via ‪@DesignNews‪designnews.com/electronics-te… #KiaNow #Niro #Hybrid
  • Top Media Tweet: Catching up with Smalley and ROTOprecision at #ADMexpo Toronto! Stop by their booth and say hi! PS – can’t make it to Toronto? Smalley will be in at our East show next week. Claim your free expo pass here: ubm.social/East19

May 2019

  • Top Tweet:  New Free Online Course May 20-24, Connectivity Solutions for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT): Join us for a series of lectures that examine the communication components for the IIoT and how they are interconnected and architected. ubm.io/2V4lxNB #DNCEC
  • Top Mention: Giuliano [email protected] The #Future of IoT Includes Edge Computing, AI, and Blockchain @IDC via @DesignNews ubm.io/2GXwc3U #IoT #Blockchain #edgecomputing #AI #DigitalTransformation @antgrasso @evankirstel @IIoT_World @karolina_kurzac @vinod1975 @Ronald_vanLoon @FrRonconi @enricomolinari
  • Top Media Tweet: New Free Online Course June 10-14, Designing Embedded Systems Using Micro Python: Join us for a lecture series that explores how to use MicroPython to develop products and points out the little “gotchas” that can be stumbling blocks to developers. ubm.io/2wcLFa4

April 2019

  • Top Tweet: Experience products — from new materials and intelligent sensors to testing solutions and components — from industry giants serving New England’s medtech, embedded systems, and design engineering industries. Expo pass free for a limited time. #BIOMEDevice ubm.social/biomedconf
  • Top Mention: [email protected]  Apr 23Great @DesignNews article on the eight #RISC-V companies to watch! hubs.ly/H0hxWdQ0
  • Top Media Tweet: Don’t miss out -join your industry peers in New York this June! Claim your free expo pass today (prices go up at onsite). ubm.social/nyTw

March 2019

  • Top Tweet: In an assembly line that’s automated, we get to a certain step and cobots are a natural fit, especially If you need more force than a person can provide. ow.ly/SacF50ml4Av
  • Top Mention: [email protected] This morning we’re nostalgia’ing hard over 90’s #VR with @DesignNews’ exploration of SEGA’s unreleased headset for the Genesis. For today’s #WednesdayWisdom, what’s your favorite bit of retro tech? ubm.io/2VHM0w
  • Top Media Tweet: Not Available

February 2019

  • Top Tweet: Uber has autonomous car ambitions. The company is developing technologt for the space. The latest is an open-source version of its Autonomous Visualization System that allows developers and engineers to share standardized autonomous vehicle data. ow.ly/A7dx50lY2xz
  • Top Mention: [email protected]  Feb 26Our MPC-LS chipset is “a catalyst to unlock all the #connectedvehicle data that’s going through the car.” NXP’s Brian Carlson talks to @DesignNews about helping automakers enable service-oriented gateways for new revenue streams, safety and more. #EW19 designnews.com/electronics-te…
  • Top Media Tweet: New Free Online Course March 18-22, Prototyping Predictive Analytic Techniques: Join us for a series of lectures that will investigate predictive analytics techniques using embedded platforms, Python, and Orange software. ubm.io/2H08y7j #DNCEC #Analytics #python

January 2019

John Blyler is a Design News senior editor, covering the electronics and advanced manufacturing spaces. With a BS in Engineering Physics and an MS in Electrical Engineering, he has years of hardware-software-network systems experience as an editor and engineer within the advanced manufacturing, IoT and semiconductor industries. John has co-authored books related to system engineering and electronics for IEEE, Wiley, and Elsevier.


Thinking of developing a mobile app? Done properly, app development requires a significant investment of time, money and resources. And therefore some careful consideration before you proceed. 

Writing a business plan for a mobile app business in advance of any development can really help to clarify your vision as well as identify the steps you need to take to maximise the return on your investment.

What to consider when writing a mobile app business plan

Mobile apps are continuing to grow in popularity year on year – in fact, mobile apps are projected to hit $188.9 billion in revenue by 2020 – up from just $88billion in 2016 (Statista).

It doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable to wonder what the future holds for mobile apps – and whether the market is already saturated.

And yet technology is constantly changing (think about the rise of voice-based apps such as Google Home, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri for instance) along with consumer habits and expectations. 

So there is no doubt that the demand is still there for apps that can genuinely be shown to be more innovative and more engaging than their competitors.

Whatever your business, writing a business plan takes time. But it’s an iterative process can and one that can be hugely helpful in clarifying exactly what you want to achieve in the development of your own app.

So what are some of the key points you might want to consider when putting together a business plan for your mobile app?

Be clear about what kind of app do you want to develop

It is tempting to rush into the development of an app simply because other businesses similar to yours already have one.

But it’s worth giving some genuine thought to the ‘problem’ that you aim to solve with the creation of an app.

Businesses build apps for all sorts of reasons, such as branding, improving customer engagement, direct marketing etc. 

But as online publishing platform Medium says “Ultimately an effective mobile strategy involves more than just a mobile friendly website.”

Research your market

Once you have identified why the marketplace needs you to develop the app, it is vital to understand what your competitors are already doing – and how your app will improve on this.

When conducting market research, you should look at both primary and secondary data and consider key information such as include the size of your market as well as a thorough understanding of pricing. 

SWOT analysis can be useful for understanding your business’ Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. 

LivePlan explains “Strengths and weaknesses are internal to your company—things that you have some control over and can change. Examples include who is on your team, your patents and intellectual property, and your location.

“Opportunities and threats are external—things that are going on outside your company, in the larger market. You can take advantage of opportunities and protect against threats, but you can’t change them. Examples include competitors, prices of raw materials, and customer shopping trends.”

Building on this, there is also a value in conducting a PEST analysis to look at macro economic factors that may influence your business.  These are opportunities and threats due to Political, Economic, Social, and Technological forces. 

Pestle Analysis explains these four areas in more detail: 

  1. Political 

    Here government regulations and legal factors are assessed in terms of their ability to affect the business environment and trade markets. The main issues addressed in this section include political stability, tax guidelines, trade regulations, safety regulations, and employment laws.
  2. Economic 

    Through this factor, businesses examine the economic issues that are bound to have an impact on the company. This would include factors like inflation, interest rates, economic growth, the unemployment rate and policies, and the business cycle followed in the country.
  3. Social 

    With the social factor, a business can analyze the socio-economic environment of its market via elements like customer demographics, cultural limitations, lifestyle attitude, and education. With these, a business can understand how consumer needs are shaped and what brings them to the market for a purchase.
  4. Technological 

    How technology can either positively or negatively impact the introduction of a product or service into a marketplace is assessed here. These factors include technological advancements, lifecycle of technologies, the role of the Internet, and the spending on technology research by the government.

What is your app’s unique selling point?

So what problem does your app actually solve? What makes it different from all the other apps out there? Any why will someone download your app rather than another, similar one?

Identifying your app’s unique selling point (USP) is a useful exercise in really understanding what you plan to do that’s different to everyone else. 

It can also help you develop an ‘elevator pitch’ – a 20 second, one or two line summary that comprehensively explains your product. And which could, as the phrase suggests, be articulated to a potential investor between the floors of a buildings – should you be lucky enough to find yourself in a lift with someone on the lookout for your product! 

Understand your budget and how your app will make money

No matter how good your mobile app business idea, good financial management will ultimately be key to its success.

How, for instance, are you going to make money from your app? You might decide on a freemium model, where basic features are free but full functionality is hidden behind a paywall. You might prefer in-app advertising. Or your app might be for solely for in-app purchases. 

It is reassuring to know that it is possible to develop a mobile app on a tiny budget – but that budget still needs careful management.

Alongside all the usual business plan financial headings, you should also consider costs that are specific to app development. 

These can include customer acquisition cost, which Appster elaborates as cost per app install or CPI, suggesting “If you want to go one level deeper and be more exact, find out the cost per activation, keeping in mind that there will be a percentage of users who might install the app, and then uninstall it without engaging with the app.”

How do you plan to market your app? 

Developing an app is one thing but getting it to arguably saturated marketplace, with good take up is quite another.  

You will therefore need to give some considerable thought to how you plan to market your app once it is built (and possibly even before you have launched it). 

And so taking the time to put together a marketing plan for your mobile app business can pay dividends after launch.

Looking for a hand with writing a business plan for your mobile app business?  

If you would like a steer developing a business plan for your mobile app business, then the team at Creative.onl would love to help.

We are a friendly bunch with expertise across all of the following areas: 

  • Digital strategy 
  • UX design 
  • App development
  • Web development 
  • Responsive web design
  • Content
  • Graphic design
  • Video animation 
  • Marketing support 

And we would love to help you with any aspect of your digital marketing strategy.

Whatever you are looking for, get in touch with Creative.onl to talk through the creative processes of any of our services and products.    


It was one hell of a [insert your adjective] year, but one thing you can’t say is that it was boring. That was true of the movies—The Irishman! Ford v Ferrari! Once Upon a Time in Hollywood! Parasite!—music—Billie Eilish! Lizzo! Billie Eilish!—and, last but not least, politics—Trump! Brexit! Impeachment!

It was a year to remember for the plastics industry, as well, 2019 being a K year, after all. We had a great time at the show, discovering new products, identifying trends and catching up with folks in the industry from around the world.

year change to 2020

But 2019 is winding down and our attention turns to the year ahead, which gave us the idea of asking people associated with the plastics industry what was on their wish list for 2020. Here’s what they told us.

A special thanks to all of the folks who shared their 2020 wish lists with PlasticsToday, and now we invite you, dear readers, to share your wishes for the new year in the comments section below. And allow me to take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a happy new year. Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear, as someone once sang.

Circularity of the economy is a must for the future

Mark Costa, Eastman“As a materials innovation company, Eastman is working toward creating infinite value from our finite resources as we strive to improve the quality of life globally in a material way. We believe circularity of the economy is a must for the future and that chemical recycling is a critical tool for making that happen. In this arena, our greatest wish for 2020 is that chemical recycling becomes accepted as a legitimate recycling option, facilitated by a mass balance credit approach. As a subset of that, we want to see policies and infrastructure created to drive the collection, aggregation and distribution of plastic waste to companies like ours that can use it right now as a feedstock to create new, circular materials.”

—Mark Costa, Board Chair and CEO, Eastman

We will drive digitalization even further

Stefan Engleder, ENGEL“Digitalization is paving the way for solving some of the toughest challenges of our time. One important field are the emerging initiatives regarding the circular economy. Only by connecting companies along the value chain, will we be capable of implementing a sustainable recycling network. Digitalization is the enabler of a modern, healthy and eco-friendly life. For 2020, I wish that together, with our customers, we will drive digitalization even further.”

—Dr. Stefan Engleder, CEO, Engel Holding

Plastics is strong

David Preusse, Wittmann Battenfeld USA“Plastic bans continue and may be gaining some momentum, but I can’t state the actual effects since much of it is based on emotion and there are hardly any better materials to replace plastics. We see more advances in plastics applications in the medical field that continue to save lives and push life expectancy. It’s too bad the public isn’t learning how plastics are saving lives and contributing to our sustainability. As governments add more bans and brand owners demand recycling, while China isn’t taking our trash, we might start to see the real change that I believe is possible. Landfills are not the answer.

“The U.S. division of Wittmann Battenfeld had a super year. After 12 years of a wonderful economic climb, I don’t expect 2020 growth necessarily, but if we actually do see growth, I will be very pleased.

“If we don’t follow the negative news media, we are still so fortunate here in the United States. Plastics is strong, and we all should be proud. If a partial slow down comes, just maybe we slow the issue we face in not having enough of a technical trained workforce and slow the challenges in such a low unemployment situation (technical unemployment is below 2%!).”

—David Preusse, President, Wittmann Battenfeld USA

Main image: Phunrawin/Adobe Stock


George E. Danis, CEO of Plastic Molding Manufacturing (Hudson, MA), is a man with a mission. Several missions to be exact. In an interview with PlasticsToday, Danis provided some insights into his strategies for success in 2020, how politics plays a role in small- to mid-sized manufacturing businesses and why manufacturing is important to the United States.

PlasticsToday: What worries you about the political atmosphere?

George E. Danis, CEO, Plastic Molding Manufacturing (PMM): The uncertainty. In general, the lack of an industrial, economic strategy over the past few years and even in the previous administration has confused the industry. It will take some time to really settle down, and that is obviously more difficult when we have a confused administration. On the morning of Dec. 3, 2019, President Trump announced that it may take until after the 2020 election to settle the trade war. Remarks like this leave business people like myself uncertain about what’s going to happen tomorrow.

Our government is taking the short-term view and businesses cannot survive that way. [The government] doesn’t care about the long-term outlook. It’s based on thinking there is paradise in the future. Most administrations speak of “hope,” but hope does not bring in any new business or income to pay our employees.

PlasticsToday: How is Plastic Molding Manufacturing doing, and what are you looking forward to in 2020?

Danis: We are very busy currently. We have an exciting year ahead and it’s a very important year for making sure we maintain our competitiveness. We are looking to increase our investment in automation and grow our revenue, as well as grow our employee base.

George E. Danis, CEO of Plastic Molding Manufacturing
A strong advocate of reshoring since the 1990s, Plastic Molding Manufacturing CEO George Danis believes it’s the only way for manufacturing—and our country—to succeed.

PlasticsToday: Recently, you purchased Phillips-Moldex. How does this fit into your strategic plans for 2020?

Danis: Over the last 10 years we have acquired seven companies. A few were consolidated into our other molding facilities, creating a total of four plants plus Phillips-Moldex, which we acquired on Nov. 8, 2019. We look forward to further welcoming Phillips-Moldex to the PMM family and working toward improving its profitability.

PlasticsToday: As far back as a couple of decades, I had predicted that small-sized, family-owned molding companies would have to attain size/scale or they wouldn’t be able to compete with larger molding operations that have developed through M&A. Are many of these smaller companies having problems?

Danis: Yes, absolutely, I agree. The important element is that manufacturing businesses require a very high capital outlay and, therefore, it’s very difficult for someone to start a business, finance it and grow economies of scale to induce confidence with customers and vendors, and have the infrastructure needed to be successful.

To remain a manufacturing nation, we need longer payment terms on capital equipment. For example, if we can borrow $1 million and pay Federal Reserve interest rates of less than 0.5% and have a long pay back—say, 10 years rather than five—that will encourage small- to medium-sized companies to invest. It’s simple logic to assist manufacturing companies like a lot of our overseas competitors get from government. Manufacturing is the foundation of our economy. As a business owner we have to sign [for loans] personally and pay today’s going interest rate, which is now over 5%. That makes it difficult for us to be competitive with the Chinese or other foreign nations.

Also, the inability of our government to formulate a policy for the capitalization of companies [is a problem]. Allowing depreciation of capital equipment over the first 12 months instead of the longer term, which may be five years, would allow manufacturing companies that are struggling to re-invest in new equipment, automation, productivity and quality.

PlasticsToday: How have you met these challenges and succeeded?

Danis: We have been able to build a strong company by consolidating many of our operations and through customer service to stay ahead of our competition, which tend to be small family-owned companies. I don’t have more clarity into the problems than everyone else in manufacturing, but we’re working very diligently to consolidate because that’s what the industry is doing to compete globally.

PlasticsToday: What’s the primary cause of the failure of many small molding companies to thrive, and why should we care?

Danis: The failure of these small companies is not the ideal situation for the future of our country, because it eliminates that local competitiveness and the ability for small businesses to grow and employ more people in their communities. As a result, you have business owners and entrepreneurs looking to exit the industry rather than investing in U.S. manufacturing.

PlasticsToday: You’ve long encouraged the reshoring of manufacturing to the United States, yet you are also a big fan of working with Mexico and Central America to make this region much stronger.

Danis: Yes, my long-term plan is to convince the industry and companies to bring back their products from offshore or re-tool in the U.S. However, due to the lack of a technical labor force, companies are forced to buy a lot of tools from outside the United States, and these imports have resulted in local job losses, tariffs and businesses leaving our country. 

Reshoring has been our objective since the 1990s, when manufacturing was leaving the United States. It is the only way for manufacturing—and our country—to succeed. The unfortunate thing, which makes me unhappy, is that we could have had a much more futuristic policy and had manufacturing economic sovereignty independence, if we cultivated our neighbors from Mexico all the way to South America, where now we depend on China.

A transportation rail link that would reach the southernmost tip of South America to transport goods would greatly help the manufacturing industry. This would allow us to be more competitive in the global market. Transportation today has uncertainty involving navigating through the Pacific Ocean, which takes more than a month and is not cost effective [compared with] bringing products from China.

This is a long-term strategy to reenergize our manufacturing industry with labor that exists from Mexico to the tip of the Americas that would create employment and as a result the whole continent would prosper. We need to help our neighbors to prosper and eliminate the corruption and drug wars by bettering the economy of the people there, and not have immigrants feel the need to come to the U.S. to make a living.

This is one initiative both our industry and our government leaders should have cultivated years ago rather than going to China or other overseas countries or debating building a wall.

PlasticsToday:  What are your plans for 2020?

Danis: Our future plans call for improving our processes, organization and infrastructure to be more competitive and be first for our customers, and look for more companies to acquire. We are planning to acquire two more plastic molding manufacturers in 2020. We currently have four to five companies we’re analyzing, but our concern is that they are struggling. We’ve been able to reverse the trend of these companies we acquire because of our low overhead.

  • There are a lot of reasons to be excited about artificial intelligence. AI is transforming industries in innovative ways and even enabling entirely new business models to emerge.

    But there are also a lot of reasons to be cautious about AI. The 2019 AI Now Report, created by the AI Now Institute, takes a look back on the social impact of AI in 2019, and some of the most important issues surrounding the technology as it moves forward. The AI Now Institute is a non-profit, interdisciplinary research institute “dedicated to understanding the social implications of AI technologies.”

    “This year we saw a wave of pushback, as community groups, researchers, policymakers, and workers demanded a halt to risky and dangerous AI,” the report says.

    As AI moves into the next decade we’ve outlined some of the most important issues AI will have to grapple with in the coming years.

  • 1.) Algorithmic bias is already affecting us

    As more and more AI algorithms are implemented into decision making processes in everything from real estate to healthcare, it is important to for developers to be aware of the inherent biases within the datasets they use to train AI.

    Apple’s Apple Pay service recently came under fire from customers – including Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak – over allegations that the services approval system was assigning lower credit limits to female customers.

    Experts agree it will likely be impossible to completely safeguard systems again bias, but steps can be taken to mitigate the impact of bias.

    (Image source: Apple)

  • 2.) Facial recognition is watching us

    Facial recognition is already here and being widely deployed throughout the world. In China facial recognition technology has become a part of surveillance and security systems and even allowed customers to use their face to access ATMs.

    While there is an argument for convenience and security, there are also wide spread privacy and ethics concerns around using AI facial recognition. The city of Detroit is facing pushback over plans to add facial recognition to its Project Green Light – a camera system that allows police departments to monitor businesses and intersections in real time.

    In 2019 cities of Oakland, Calif., Somerville, Mass., and San Francisco voted to pass a ordinances banning municipal use of face recognition technology.

    By contrast however, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it has plans to issue a proposed regulation that could require all travelers, including US citizens, to submit to face and other biometric scans at airports and other ports of entry.

    Regarding the DHS announcement, ACLU Senior Policy Analyst Jay Stanley had this to say:

    “Time and again, the government told the public and members of Congress that US citizens would not be required to submit to this intrusive surveillance technology as a condition of traveling. This new notice suggests that the government is reneging on what was already an insufficient promise.”

    (Image source:  teguhjati pras from Pixabay )

  • 3.) Deepfakes are a reality

    If you want to see the power of deepfakes you only need to browse around YouTube, to channels like Ctrl Shift Face.

    This isn’t a special effect. With enough data (including images and audio) AI algorithms can actually reconstruct and superimpose individual’s faces onto existing video footage. It makes for some entertaining viral videos, but there are wider, more frightening implications for deepfakes as they can be used to create fraudulent videos of political figures, celebrities, and even private citizens. Left unchecked, deepfakes could become a powerful tool for the spread of misinformation.

    (Image source: Ctrl Shift Face)

  • 4.) Algorithms are ruining our social media experience

    Have you ever watched one video on YouTube or liked a post on Facebook or other social media only to be sent down a rabbit hole of increasingly questionable recommendations? That’s not an accident – that’s AI trying to predict what you’ll “like.” And by “like” we mean it’s trying to figure out what content you’re most likely to engage with – and that often means offending or shocking you. Algorithmic issues are being blamed for both a rise in the quantity of extremist content on social media as well as its proliferation. Google, Facebook, and others have pledged to search for ways to tamp down on the spread of dangerous and extremist content as well as misinformation. But many would argue the damage has already been done.

    (Image source: Pixelkult from Pixabay  )

  • 5.) AI is a powerful tool for hacking

    Automation is meant to handle the dirty, dangerous, and repetitive tasks humans can’t or don’t want to perform, right? Well the benefits go both ways. More and more malicious hackers are leveraging AI technology to assist with sophisticated cybersecurity attacks. A well-trained algorithm can attack a target with a level of speed and efficiency that would be difficult for one or even a larger group of hackers. Fortunately, cybersecurity companies like XM Cyber are fighting fire with fire and are also using machine learning algorithms to safeguard networks and sensitive systems as well.

    (Image source: XM Cyber)

  • 6.) AI developers lack diversity

    Issues with AI can be correlated to a lack of racial and gender diversity among the engineers and developers being hired at the top technology companies working on AI. The AI Now Institute has found that Black and Latinx workers are substantially underrepresented in the tech workforce, and women are particularly underrepresented as AI researchers.

    “Rather than recognizing the scale and systemic nature of the problem, tech companies have responded to mounting evidence of bias and misuse by primarily focusing on narrow diversity solutions,” the AI Now Institute said. “They have also attempted technical debiasing, working to ‘fix’ algorithms and diversify data sets, even though these approaches have proven insufficient and raise serious privacy and consent concerns. Notably, neither approach addresses underlying structural inequalities.”

    (Image source: PixLoger from Pixabay)

  • 7.) AI isn’t green

    As engineers come to terms with the realities of climate change and the need to develop greener technologies, AI is having its own energy crisis. The massive amount of compute power required for AI also comes with a massive energy bill.

    “As a whole, the industry’s energy dependence is on an exponential trajectory, with best estimates showing that its 2020 global footprint amounts to 3–3.6 percent of global greenhouse emissions, more than double what the sector produced in 2007,” the AI Now Institute said. “This is comparable to that of the aviation industry,and larger than that of Japan, which is the fifth biggest polluter in the world.”

    Tech companies are already implementing renewable energy sources and other means to make data centers more efficient. But the emergence of 5G and other advanced networking technologies only threatens to make the problem worse before it gets better. “In the worst-case scenario, this footprint could increase to 14 percent of global emissions by 2040,” the Institute warned.

    (Image source: Free-Photos from Pixabay )

  • 8.) AI helps privatize public infrastructure

    “Troubling partnerships between government and private tech companies also emerged as a trend this year, especially those that extended surveillance from public environments into private spaces like private properties and the home,” the AI Now Institute said.

    In 2019 the city of Detroit established the “Neighborhood Real-Time Intelligence Program,” a $9 million, state- and federally-funded initiative that would expand the city’s Project Green Light surveillance system to 500 intersections, in addition to the 500 businesses where it is already deployed, as well as add facial recognition technology to the system. The city has reported reduced crime in areas thanks to Project Green Light, but that hasn’t stopped privacy advocates from protesting the technology.

    In 2018, Amazon came under fire for offering to let police departments utilize its facial recognition software. The company has also negotiated with over 700 police departments in the US to give police access to videos from Ring smart home cameras if the footage can help with a criminal investigation, according to the AI Now Institute.

    (Image source: Pixabay)

  • 9.) Automation impacts people of color and the poor the most

    The debate about automation and labor likely won’t ever stop. But the narrative is taking new shape as more data emerges about specific groups affected by rapid automation due to AI.

    Depending on who you ask, automation will be a boon to the economy as well as personal productivity, or it will usher in a dystopian nightmare where humans struggle for basic needs while robots handle all of the jobs.

    “Both narratives are predicated on the assumption that automation in the workplace is inevitable and that automated systems are capable of performing tasks that had previously been the work of humans. What is missing from both conflicting narratives is the more nuanced prediction of who will be harmed and who will benefit from labor automation in the years to come,” the AI Now Institute said.

    The 2019 AI Now Report predicts that Black, Latinx, and low-wage workers in the US will be disproportionately impacted by increased levels of automation.

    (Image source: mohamed_hassan from Pixabay)

  • 10. ) AI is removing the ‘human’ from human resources

    More and more companies are using AI to manage and oversee workers. AI is even being implemented into the hiring process. Amazon, for example, uses an AI system to set shifting performance goals for its warehouse workers. Workers are assigned a daily “rate” of productivity to hit each day, based on their prior performance and the overall goals of the warehouse.

    “If a worker falls behind, they are subject to disciplinary action. In many warehouses, termination is an automated process (not unlike being “kicked off” a gig-economy platform),” the AI Now Institute said. “According to Abdi Muse, an organizer with Amazon warehouse workers in Minneapolis, if workers fall behind the algorithmically set productivity rate three times in one day, they are fired, however long they may have worked for the company, and irrespective of the personal circumstances that led to their ‘mistakes.’ ”

    “The introduction of AI-enabled labor-management systems raises significant questions about worker rights and safety. The use of these systems—from Amazon warehouses to Uber and InstaCart—pools power and control in the hands of employers and harms mainly low-wage workers (who are disproportionately people of color) by setting productivity targets linked to chronic injuries, psychological stress, and even death and by imposing unpredictable algorithmic wage cuts that undermine economic stability.”

    (Image source: iosphere / Freedigitalphotos.net)

Magic Leap is rolling out a suite of solutions targeted at enterprise users. But is it too little too late? (Image source: Magic Leap)

When the Magic Leap One first rolled out, we wondered if the headset would be better suited to enterprise applications, rather than consumers. Now it looks like the company is finally ready to see if engineers and designers will embrace its product.

Thinking of all the hype that once surrounded Magic Leap to where it is now it’s easy to recall that scene of Obi Wan confronting Anakin in Revenge of the Sith. Magic Leap was supposed to be the chosen one – the company that would make a quantum leap in extended reality (XR) technology.

What has emerged in the year since the “spatial computing” company released its flagship headset – the Magic Leap One – is less of a vision of a bold, new future and more of an emerging cautionary tale.

Magic Leap has announced it will now be offering a suite of services and applications targeted specifically at enterprise, as well as a new headset to go with it, the Magic Leap 1 – an updated version of its Magic Leap One Creator Edition.

“Today’s announcement heralds the arrival of a new chapter for spatial computing with an advanced technology platform for enterprises across all industry sectors,” Omar Khan, chief product officer at Magic Leap, said in a press statement. “Our innovative partners are leading the charge by developing groundbreaking solutions that will transform their businesses and customer experiences. Together, we are rewriting the rules of business with spatial solutions that will yield greater efficiencies, deeper engagement, and significant new business opportunities for all stakeholders.”

This new chapter that Khan speaks of looks less like a new innovation and more like a re-branding. For the price of $2,995, a couple hundred more dollars than the headset alone, Magic Leap’s Enterprise Suite offers customers the Magic Leap 1 along with access to Device Manager – a cloud-based support and metric analytics system. However there are no new significant hardware upgrades to the Magic Leap 1 or any features that might pull potential customers away from other options like the Hololens, or convince skeptics to add AR to their workflow.

Though it refers to its technology as spatial computing (a term you’d think NASA would have adopted decades ago if it really meant anything), Magic Leap is offering the expected benefits associated with augmented reality for enterprise: digital twin and 3D visualizations; education and training; and remote collaboration. None of that is at all bad in and of itself, but you have to ask if Magic Leap is late to the party at this point.

The company has however managed to secure a good number of partners for its enterprise venture. Big names like McLaren, JetBlue Travel, Deloitte, and NTT DOCOMO, among others, have already “committed to bringing spatial computing to their companies and customers,” according to Magic Leap. There’s even a hyperloop company, Hyperloop TT, committed to using Magic Leap for remote demonstrations of its transportation technology.

Magic Leap is also touting a healthy ecosystem of enterprise app developers including Across Realities, Arvizio, Eon Reality, Immersion Analytics, and PTC, that will be rolling out apps for everything from design and virtual prototyping to remote collaboration in the coming months.

Look before you leap

This latest announcement from Magic Leap could excite engineers and developers who have been itching to get their hands on the headset for applications outside of entertainment. However, it also comes at an embattled time for the company.

A recent report by The Information paints Magic Leap less as the next Microsoft or Apple and more like the next WeWork or Theranos (though such a comparison is a tad unfair given Magic Leap has released an actual, working product).

Upon its initial release, Magic Leap’s CEO, Rony Abovitz, aimed for the company to sell one million headset units in its first year. That number was later significantly downgraded to 100,000 by the company’s more conservative executives. The latest sales figures, according to The Information, reveal the company has only sold about 6,000 units to date.

Magic Leap has responded to The Information piece in a statement, calling the article “clickbait.”

“The Information’s reporting is littered with inaccuracies and misleading statements, and erroneously portrays Magic Leap’s operations, internal plans, and overall strategy,” a company statement released to GamesIndustry.biz said.

Magic Leap did not return Design News‘ request for further comment.

Where’s the magic?

What’s most surprising is that Magic Leap didn’t target its hardware at enterprise sooner – as in, upon its initial release (or even before). The company heavily marketed itself as a next-wave entertainment product. But the hype fizzled when reports emerged that the company’s hardware was nothing revolutionary and was more in line with current market trends. Early demo videos of Magic Leap’s technology were also discovered to have been created by special FX houses, and not on the company’s actual hardware.

A lightweight headset with limited head tracking ability seems like a much better fit for engineers and designers working in 3D CAD than for a gamer looking to play an action-packed first person shooter in their living room.

Magic Leap begged to differ. Outside of a partnership with CAD software company OnShape, the company really had no enterprise-focused content for the Magic Leap One on its initial release.

Did we mention the headset also costs $2,2,95? Surely there early adopters willing to pay that price, but any savvy consumer knows they can put together a respectable VR PC rig with a headset from Oculus, HTC, or HP for almost half that price – and enjoy a healthy library of gaming content to boot.

Now, if the disappointing sales figures are to be believed, Magic Leap has found itself at a crossroads. It is not the consumer darling it pledged itself to be, but it also has a lot of ground to gain in enterprise with companies like Microsoft, Google, Vuxiz, HTC, HP, and ThirdEye Gen having already offered enterprise AR, VR, and mixed reality (MR) hardware for a while now.

The company is also falling behind on the hardware front. Magic Leap said its second-generation headset – the Magic Leap Two – will offer new features like 5G connectivity. But insiders have speculated that it is years away from releasing a new headset. Meanwhile Microsoft’s Hololens 2 is available in limited release and is expected to go wide next year. And Qualcomm has already announced a 2020 release for its new XR2 platform for developing AR and MR hardware, which will offer 5G capability. Niantic, the company behind Pokemon Go, is reportedly working on its own AR glasses based on the XR2.

Magic Leap’s consumer ambitions were not misguided. There is still no singular AR product that has taken over the consumer market. What Magic Leap has been aiming to do was become a general-purpose AR headset – to do for augmented and extended reality what consoles like the Sony Playstation or Nintendo Switch do for gaming. More broadly, the Magic Leap One is meant to spark an entirely new device category along the lines of the PC or smartphone.

But maybe consumers don’t want that product? So far the most successful consumer deployments of AR have come on the software end – where games like Pokemon Go have leveraged existing smartphone hardware. On the enterprise end even offerings like ABB’s Ability Remote Insights services remain hardware agnostic.

More and more, the market seems to be saying that customers want AR for specific, niche applications (like enterprise).

In another example of niche demand, earlier this year, Tilt Five, a startup founded by Jeri Ellsworth, an AR entrepreneur and former R&D engineer at Valve, launched a successful Kickstarter campaign for its augmented reality system targeted solely at holographic table top gaming.

While a system like Tilt Five’s doesn’t offer the horsepower of something like the Magic Leap 1, it does offer another attractive incentive for consumers – a price point expected to be around $300-350. For the price of one Magic Leap system you can outfit your entire immediate family with Tilt Five glasses.

The AR market is still in flux – both in enterprise and consumer – with no one big name leading the pack yet. AR technology itself also still has some technical issues to iron out – most notably optics-related issues. With the right partnerships in place, Magic Leap could establish a firm enough foothold to keep itself afloat long enough to course correct and release a next-generation hardware platform. But time isn’t on Magic Leap’s side – particularly in an increasingly crowded enterprise space and with the company having already fallen short of so many lofty promises.

Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at  Design News covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, blockchain, and robotics.

DesignCon 2020 25th anniversary Logo

January 28-30: North America’s largest chip, board, and systems event, DesignCon, returns to Silicon Valley for its 25th year! The premier educational conference and technology exhibition, this three-day event brings together the brightest minds across the high-speed communications and semiconductor industries, who are looking to engineer the technology of tomorrow. DesignCon is your rocket to the future. Ready to come aboard? 

Register to attend!