Archive for the ‘Digital Disruption’ Category

The Maker Movement Disrupts Brands, Provides Opportunities


For my third year, I spent yesterday at the Maker Faire, in Silicon Valley.  Unlike any other year, the crowds were overflowing, suggesting this movement was growing faster than the cottage industry before.  To put this into context, the maker movement is yet (another) disruption to brands, here’s the lineage:

[Disruptions Summarized: 1) The Internet democratized knowledge, 2) Social Media empowered crowd, 3) Collaborative Economy endows crowd to buy once, share many, 4) the Maker Movement aims at buying from brands no more.

I must honestly confess, I struggle to keep abreast of all the new technologies, and I suspect corporations are experiencing the same.  It’s my full time job, I attend these events on weekends, and we’ve a company dedicated to tracking and helping companies navigate, and I see the disruptions accelerating. Here’s what the maker movement means to corporations and brands:

[The maker movement empowers people to build their own products, and share with each other –rather than buying from brands]

Those involved in the maker movement are creating their own goods and products, using recycled materials, or improving on existing products. Some are selling the goods to each other, some trade, and some simply just use for their own personal usage. They use technology, skill, community, and massive fairs to connect and grow. So what are the disruptions to corporations and brands by the maker movement?

Brands are disrupted by the Maker Movement.

  • Technology empowers the maker movement.  The movement is already connected on digital communication channels, see Make magazine, social networks and online marketplaces like Etsy that enable individual artisans to sell, trade, or buy unique goods.  Furthermore, the birth of 3D printing is spurring on a new class of goods created beyond jewelry and toys as furniture or home designs emerge
  • Several key industries are ripe for disruption.  Energy can be disrupted from biomass converter creates energy from leaves, walnut shells, from a variety of solar solutions. Also, consumer goods, industrial goods, toys, media, consumer electronics, can be impacted from 3D printers, a call out section directly below.  Additionally, even in dense living, food supply chain be impacted as home gardens and solutions become more available.
  • The maker movement is accelerating. Having attended a few of these events, I was surprised by the sheer volume of attendees yesterday. As technology becomes mainstay for future generations who are all connected and learning to use technology, our next generation will be more adapt at creating –rather than consuming. In many ways, this is just a swing back to the old village ecosystem where every family had a key skill: smith, baker, cook, and beyond, Yet now, we’re not bound by geographic limitations of knowledge, goods, or materials.
Technology Call Out: 3D Printer Market Accelerating
While there were many technologies feature, I wanted to focus on one area of heat, 3D printers. Previously, Altimeter saw the 3D printer market as fragmented, with the industry not cohesive. While the space is exploding, there are dozens if not hundreds of 3D printers on the market, and an entire expo hall dedicated to them, each with a variety of specs. We expect consolidation as the market matures. Some key findings yesterday:

  • Investor and my key contact Vivian Wang shared with me that over 90 types of materials can be 3D printed.
  • Beyond plastics, we witnessed items printed from concrete, salt, metals, and even wood. The wood was sawdust mixed with plastic to create fibers, which result in mostly sustainable product creation.
  • Digital designs and CAD files are being shared using online networks, with all the associated issues DRM comes with. Some artisans sell designs or create custom.
  • There were entire playsets printed 3D printers, furniture, stainless steel jewelry, and we saw Autodesk (an enabling brand) being a key sponsor.
  • 3D scanners can reverse engineer products and turn into CAD drawings. This means IP and copyright for company form function will be difficult to control and enforce.
  • There’s been a cambrian explosion of printers, there are many brands, makes, materials, and it’s not clear they’ve interop or there’s a market leader

Opportunities abound: Brands can leverage the movement.

  • Mindset change: become an enabler of this movement.  I spent time with RadioShack  (thanks Cosmin) at the show, who showed they were enabling this movement. They were providing free training for soldering education and hands on work, and also hosted a popup store selling components and controllers like Arduino.  In previous years, Google, Yahoo and other tech companies have sponsored booths to enable future creators and engineers.
  • Build a marketplace that builds new products around you.  While I’ll cover this more in depth on my upcoming report on the Collaborative Economy, brands can host a marketplace around them, enabling customers to buy and sell and make their future products on hosted communities.   See how Shapeways enables 3d printed jewelery artists to host, sell, and offer products –now, imagine a branded website from your company. 
  • Offer customized products directly to consumers.  Rather than become disrupted as consumers purchase 3D printers, instead provide or host them.  The future of Target, Walmart, Nordstrom, or Macy’s could be to host a showroom, then print out 3D products in near real time, or for immediate pickup.  Imagine retail stores shifting from show and sell to show and make.

On a related but broader context, Altimeter has found four major business themes from the disruption these movements are causing, read about the highlights here, and a formalized report comes soon. Below are some select 6 second vine videos and images which help to illustrate the experience

Above: Combustion cars being converted to electric

Screen Shot 2013-05-19 at 7.26.34 AM
Above: Turn biomass (Leaves, wood, in this case, walnut shells) into electricity to power your home

Above: Close up of the 3D printed wood

Above: Intricate 3D printed plastics

Above: Close up of the 3D printed wood

Screen Shot 2013-05-19 at 7.27.52 AM
Above: 3D printed stainless steel and bronze jewelry

Above Video: 3D printed Concrete, Salt, Composite and more

Above: Rather than buy toys, print them

Above: 3D Printed Wood.

Above: The massive 3D printer pavilion

Index of 2013 Disruptive Technologies


Lightning city
Above: Like lightning, digital technologies jolt us with energy, the savvy will harness their energy, those who ignore, risk danger.

One Line Goal:  List disruptive technologies in 2013 on one page, with your help in the comments.

The number of technologies that are creating disruptions to companies and ecosystems are increasing at an alarming rate. Even though Altimeter rated the technologies that matter from last week’s SXSW, we see even more technologies emerging on the heels of mobile world congress, and CES. Expect even more technologies to emerge, radically altering the power shift of those who use these technologies to gain power over existing institutions.

In an attempt to track and then analyze these technologies, I’ll host the following “industry index”, where I list out examples, and the community adds to it in comments. I’ve done this multiple times over previous years, which often results in discrete research projects, market definition reports, and ratings and rankings of technology vendors.

I’ve kicked off the list with 10 technologies I see (with help from colleague Chris Silva), and at Altimeter, we’ve embarked on looking at research themes that impact business. With your help through the comments, we can keep this list updated for the year.

Index: 2013 Disruptive Technologies 

Disruptive Technology Description Example
Proximity Based Communications Devices that capture and analyze a set of sensors, providing intelligence based on context of people, place, and time in a detailed manner Mobile devices that use Indoor Positioning Systems IPS, NFC, RFID, mobile/social data, and Wifi networks can identify a consumer as they move through a showroom floor, down to the inch.
3D Printing Technology that empowers manufacturing of 3D objects and production anywhere. MakerBot, 3D systems, Affinia, Formlabs, Stratasys, and now replicator technology quickly scans, and copies a 3D item.
Collaborative Consumption Web and mobile apps that enable users to share, rent, borrow, and gift products and services with low friction transactions. AirBnb, Lyft, Uber, see my list of 200, and brand examples.
Gesture Based Interfaces Technology that senses movement, and causes digital systems to respond.  Computer interfaces and sensors will emerge causing  keyboards and mice to fade away. Leap, Kinnect and other technologies give path to a minority report experience.  Eye tracking software such as Tobbi and retina tracking software even in store emerge.
Augmented Reality A layer of information is placed on top of our reality plan, using digital glasses, empowering users to access  and transmit real time digital information. Google Glass (we’re on beta test list) will emerge and empower consumers to access Google interfaces as they traverse world.
Virtual Reality Unlike Augmented Reality, this is an immersive experience across many senses that digital replicates sight, sound, feel. Oculus Rift, Stanfords VR Lab (I’ve visited) provide immersive headsets that simulate a world
Quantified Self Also called wearable computing, these body reading sensors harvest, analyze, and provide insight to how our bodies are working. Body API, Nike Fuel Band, Nike+, Fitbit Garmin, Runkeeper, most mobile devices track our movements.
Quantified World, Internet of Things Technologies that capture data from around the world, cities, and nature to analyze and predict future patterns. Open data economy, data in mobile networks and mobile devices, telematics in cars, Nest thermostat, and thousands of other sensors are actively collecting data and altering our world. hat tip Michael Fraietta for IOT reference.
Digital Screen Experiences There are evolutions happening to digital screens, from flexible screens that can morph to anything, to digital output devices everywhere, and 3D technology. 4k resolution (higher res than HDTV), 3D TVs, flexible OLED screens
Power Everywhere Wireless power, solar power, and efficient power sources enable transportation, devices, enable more computing, sensing, and information spread. Powermat, Powertrekk, eCoupled provide wireless power
Drones and Automated Robots Technology is empowering for humans to man aerial drones to also create self-driving cars, warehouse robots, and more. The impacts to business, technology, government, privacy, and warfare are just starting to surface. ARDrone (I owned version 1), Google’s self driving car, and Amazon’s robot warehouse are just the start of the automated planet. Submission provided by Annalie Killian
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Next Steps
These technologies will continue to arrive at an accelrated pace, while many corporations will not be able to react to these companies, there’s already a growing list of companies that are investing in physical innovation labs. I kicked off this list with 10 distinct technology sets, I look forward to reading your comments, and adding them to this list. I’ll be sure to credit those who participate.

Image Credits used with creative commons attribution by WVS