And the Envelope, Please

Well, it’s almost that time of year again, and we are getting ready.  No, it’s not Christmas or New Year, and Hanukkah is over. Nope, it’s not any of the usual suspects. There are three annuals that hit every December and you won’t find them on any datebook except the glass industry’s calendar.

The first is the USGlass Magazine Product of the Year Awards. Announced every December, these highly anticipated awards are given by our readers and editors together to the products we wrote about in 2013 that were so new, so revolutionary or unique that they merited honor. The Products of the Year will be announced in the December issue of USGlass magazine with a special product follow-up section in January. Be sure to take a look at these landmark products when your issue arrives.

The second are our USGNN.com™ and glassBYTEs.com™ news services’ lists of the Top Ten News Stories of 2013. Those lists are being compiled right now and, for obvious reasons,  will be ready as the end of the month gets nearer. One thing I know, and about which I am greatly relieved, is that the number of shocking industry bankruptcies has been reduced greatly. The Top Ten News Stories list in the past few years has included a number of high-profile industry bankruptcies. This year sadly there was one, but thankfully there was no more than one. If you have an thoughts on the biggest stories of this year, please email them to me at deb@glass.com and I will make sure our editors consider them.

The third end-of-the-year tradition is my own prediction, prognostication, whatever you want to call it. We call it DNBT in the office, shorthand for “Deb’s Next Big Thing.” This is the award I bestow on the person, item, service or trend that will emerge as influencing the glass industry in a game-changing way. Sometimes the DNBT Award goes to an industry product or person, other times it’s a force from outside the industry that will have implications within. It is not bestowed every year but is this year.  Here goes:

Computers have changed our lives, and our industry, in ways almost none of us could have imagined 30 years ago. Eventually I believe historians will divide history between the pre-computer and post-computer ages, because that is how considerable the computer’s influence has been.

Well, the DNBT Award goes to a technology that will build on computers in applications created specifically for tasks currently done by humans. 2014 will be the Year of the Robot.

And these robots do way more than replace repetitive functions—that technology has been in place for years. These replace traditionally and solely human functions like flying a plane or driving a car.

I was checked into a hotel recently through an entirely automated process. I never saw or communicated with a person. Medical doctors have been replaced by robotic ones in areas with severe shortages of medical personnel. Robots “examine” the patient, report vital signs and convey information back to the patients.  You can probably think of any number of examples yourself.

In fact, if you didn’t see the recent “60 Minutes” report about Amazon.com’s test of delivery using drones, you might want to. You can catch it here.

At first blush, it seems like a neat combination of Buck Rogers-meets-the-Jetsons technology. But it is much more than that. The use of that delivery drone will negate the need for a driver and helper. It will reduce the number of vehicles on the road. In fact, if successful, this program will most likely reduce the number of miles driven, which will affect the amount of glass that breaks everywhere and the number of windshields that will require replacement. That, in turn, will affect auto glass fabrication and primary glass manufacturing.

Forty years ago, no one would have guessed that the quirky personal computers being built by a few boys in some garages around Seattle would change the world, but it happened. And the same will be true of robots and robotics.

Sure, both are already used in the glass industry with great success, but this is different. Advancements like Amazon’s start the whole world imagining robots doing everything and eventually they will do nearly all of it. It moves us from the “why?” question to “why not?”

Well, that’s it for our informal awards preview. Please let me know what you think and have a good week. -Deb

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