Disruption is all around us, and I’m not talking about the street noise outside your windows or the non-stop talkers standing outside your office door. Whether you’ve recognized it yet or not, the glass industry is in the midst of a major disruption and we need to step up and take action.

If you’re not familiar, disruptive innovation is a term referring to an innovation that creates a new market and value network, eventually disrupting and displacing established companies and/or products.

Just think how low-E coatings disrupted the glass industry. They came on the scene and changed everything. I think Paul Bieber said it well in his June 2017 USGlass column. He shared some lessons he’s learned after 40+ years in the industry, and said the glass shops that embraced low-E glass thrived while those that didn’t adapt “shriveled up and died”—disrupted and displaced.

From manufacturing and fabrication to transportation and installation, the glass and glazing industry is facing major disruptions ahead. And as Michael Robinson, CEO and design director of ED Design srl, said during Glass Performance Days (GPD) in Tampere, Finland, if we as an industry don’t step up to these changes, someone else will.

While Robinson’s firm is an automotive design and engineering company, his vision for the future opens a huge opportunity and potential for the glass industry that will carry over to the architectural segment.

This illustration shows what the interior of self-driving cars in the future could be like.

In his presentation, Robinson said that given the increasingly elevated number of traffic-related deaths, projections show the following:

  • In 2027 many people will be using autonomous vehicles;
  • In 2037 virtual chauffeurs will be driving most cars;
  • In 2047 steering wheels and gasoline will be prohibited; and
  • In 2057 we will have zero accidents and zero road deaths.

What does this have to do with me and the glass industry, you may be wondering? Think about the digital age, he said: vehicles are the last major market for digital connectivity. Consider this possibility: curtainwall cars.

Cutline: Could curtainwall cars be something of the future? Photo credit: Michael Robinson, ED Design srl

“What if you took the culture of glass high-rise buildings and put it in a car?” he suggested. With the curtainwall construction inside, images can be incorporated into the glass that can change to whatever you want it to be, even making it interactive. “Putting the glass inside the car equals more glass per vehicle. Why? Because the glass has information on it. It’s digital glass, not coated glass,” he said.

Imagine the same concept in home interiors, where the walls are all glass. When you want to view outside the glass is clear, but it can also change based on what the user (homeowner) wants it to be (like a huge video game screen—what kid doesn’t want that?).

Future designs, Robinson said, will be about the user experience. Digital technology could multiply the quantity of glass sold around the world.

“We could do so many things with digital glass, if only someone will make it.”

The future of the glass industry is going to change. It can’t stay static forever. How will you make sure your business moves forward, too? What other disruptors are you seeing? Share your comments or email me at erogers@glass.com.




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  2. Another game changing, fast mover may be codes & regulations. As positive and negative effects of new products come to light, design engineering standards will change too. Getting a glass focused engineer on board early will avoid costly twists and turns of the brave new world.

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