Zebra Imaging: The Publically Traded Company
In this paper the writer chooses a (public) company that has been a major player involved with the technology that was analyzed as part of the Evolution of a Technology project completed earlier in the course. The company we are going to focus on is “Zebra Imaging,” which has been focusing on 3D holographic technology. The paper identifies the overall technology and innovation strategy of Zebra Imaging; analyzes its innovation performance, the actions and choices it has made in creating and capturing value from its innovations. The paper also identifies problems and issues with those actions and choices. The paper provides recommendations for creating and capturing value, identifies key decisions, and recommends how to deliver value (implementation, market approaches, competitive/collaborative issues, etc.). The paper also includes the rationales for the recommendations given in the paper. Lastly, the paper applies the models and analysis tools as discussed in class and identifies key assumptions that underlie the recommendations.
Technology Strategy Analysis of Zebra Imaging
MIT’s Media Laboratory graduates founded Zebra Imaging back in 1996. The company created a mission that focused on the development of the best product and providing the best three dimensional services out there. With help from initial investors the business has made quite the progress since then. Today Zebra Imaging provides some of the most advanced and innovative technology and holographics on the market. The business sells portable, intuitively-understood, and scalable designs that are simple to the eye and that can create reality out of basic data. Customers range from government military departments to high-end private architects, and also anyone who is the need of demonstrating their data in an easy to view 3-D format (Williams, 2014).
Identify the overall technology and innovation strategy of your chosen company
The future is in 3D and Zebra Imaging is there to sell it. They provide by far the most innovative product out there with holographic capabilities. The basic 3D source can come from a plethora of sources including CAD (computer-aided design), CAM (computer-aided engineering), CAM (medical imaging technologies), laser scans, aerial photography, and LIDAR. This data provides the backbone for holographic software to function (Zebra Imaging Website, 2015).
Inference patterns created by lasers are how the hologram is created. The products break down the 3D data into divisions for each hogel (a 3D pixel). The data will usually consist of thousands upon thousands of hogels. Finally the holograph is recorded on a medium such as an LCD screen through the patterns created by the lasers. There are two lasers that create an image on the screen, the first one simply prints the 3D data like an image, but the second one provides a reference point for the first. When the two beams combine, holographics is created (Zebra Imaging Website, 2015).
The process described is repeated for every single hogel, so it needs to be done thousands of times (Zebra Imaging Website, 2015). There are no fancy glasses or outside product needed to view the final product the way it is intended to be seen. The light that is used mimics the original reference laser beam. This way each hogels interference pattern plays a role in diffracting the beams light and creating the 3D image to the eye. The user simply sees a refraction of the original 3D model (Zebra Imaging Website, 2015).
Analyze its innovation performance
When companies defy odds and break innovative barriers they can be awarded with a place in the Technology-Fast 500, and that is exactly what has happened to Zebra Imaging. The company took its place in the group for the second time in a row back in 2008. This is proof that the company is highly innovative and has been keeping a high standard of excellence in its overall performance. The company had an incredible 5-year spurt of growth and success in which it grew by over 1800% (Williams, 2014).
The actions and choices the firm has made in creating and capturing value from its innovations. Identify any problems or issues with those actions and choice
Unfortunately for retail consumers, they are excluded mostly from the market that the company is focused on. Zebra Imaging have chosen to keep government agencies as well as large scale corporations such as the Zygote Media Group Inc., the Reprographic Services Association, and the Engineering and Construction Companies as their consumers. This has led to the product being very highly priced and excludes a large portion of today’s market. That is a large decision made by the company which has ripple effects throughout the rest of the digital imaging industry (O’Toole, 2015).
Provide recommendations for creating and capturing value, identify key decisions, and recommend how to deliver value (implementation, market approaches, competitive/collaborative issues, etc.)
Although there are a large number of recommendations that can be made for this company, the following is a short list of some of the more important points and suggestions. The rationale for these will be discussed.
1. The company ought to increase its market base by seeking more diverse consumers and clients.
2. The company should maintain all the risks associated with holograms until the product is officially delivered and accepted by the customer.
Include the rationales for your recommendations, applying the models and analysis tools discussed in class.
1. Seek to improve customer diversity
Partnering with government agencies is not a safe way to do business unfortunately. While the company has had great success, it also required a $5 million federal loan to get them through the crazy 2-week government shutdown in 2013. As of yet the company’s primary business target groups have been government agencies as well as a few other large scale corporations. However, the business product would serve multiple industries if Zebra Imaging simply opened its doors to other customers. Revenue could see a drastic increase by opening up for retail consumption. Imagine if the average Joe could capture hologram images with their iPhone, and later print them out. The market is there, the money is there, but the product is not there yet (Jaaskelainen, 2011).
2. Bearing the risks
This point should be self-explanatory. According to the company’s terms of sale, once an order has been placed, packed up, and sent out via FedEx, it is no longer Zebra Imaging’s responsibility. This is wrong and very bad customer service. If a package goes missing or if the product is broken while shipping, it is the customer who gets to deal with it. The company should take responsibility for the product until it has been shipped all the way and accepted by the consumer. It is even worse for international consumers since they are required to pre-pay for the order before it is even shipped. Additionally, all customer data is deleted after 14 days, at least that is the norm. During that time though, the business keeps the right to use your customer data in order to promote or market their business. This is yet another legal issue that the company ought to deal with (Jaaskelainen, 2011).
Identify any important assumptions that underlie your recommendations
A very big assumption often made is that if Zebra Imaging opens up to retail customers, that they will be able to lower their price due to access to cheaper materials. Whether or not this is true, it is the assumption. Since the company should be able to partner with cheaper material providers, they should be able to lower their product price for retail customers.
Identify all the patents that the company has patented
The USPTO has approved over 30 patents for Zebra Imaging. Most of these patents relate to the active hologram display but others focus on new inventions in the holography field that are new and different from past products. Unlike the past when there was a strict lens limitation in holograph technologies, we can today create holograms without the use of physical objects. Now we can create this technology from computer generated data. The patents relating to the holographic printers can be looked up in these two patents: 6,661,548B2, and 6,930,811 B2 (Jaaskelainen, 2011).
1. U.S. patent: 6,407,832.
Light source following optical system for hologram illumination
The system that uses the pulsed-laser was created in order to create both high resolution images and accurate holograms. The imager will be given a certain set of instructions and the pulled-laser system will ensure that the timing of every hogel recording is accurate. Since there are small spots between hogels that this system can’t record, it must be shut off while the instrument passes over them (Jaaskelainen, 2011).
2. U.S. patent: 7,505,186.
Pulsed-laser systems and methods for producing holographic stereograms
Systems focusing on the illumination of holographs with moving light sources. A heliostat device controls the rotation of the deflection mirror and thus directs the light where it needs to go. If there is no light source available then artificial light will be used (Jaaskelainen, 2011).
3. Correcting and Identifying Hogel and Hogel Beam Parameters
Application number: 20150053848
Methods and systems that help determine the proper parameter of hogel beams and how they relate to other sets of hogel beams. The system will check and control the hogel beam parameters in order to ensure proper procedure. If the parameters are outside of authorized thresholds, then new values will be assigned (Justia Patents, 2015).
4. U.S. patent: 6,710,900.
Holograms exposed and processed on plastic substrates
This is a device that has the capability to use holograms to print images with various resolutions from 3D data models. The reference beam moves right along with another object beam that is focused on the surface of the image. The computer calculates the exposure time before the object beam can pass through the image (Jaaskelainen, 2011).
5. U.S. patent: 6,661,548.
Method and apparatus for recording one-step, full-color, full-parallax, holographic stereograms
The hologram is recorded into material that couples with a surface made of plastic. This is exposed to a small light in order to create holographic elements. The light usually contains a combination of a couple of laser beams to create an interference pattern (Jaaskelainen, 2011).
6. Optics support structures with tapered walls
Patent number: 8596838
Stacks of optical components are placed and configured in the walls of various display models so that they can support a transparent structure that covers the whole surface. The walls are all touching where the transparent structure is being tapered (Justia Patents, 2015).
7. Converting 3D data to hogel data
Patent number: 8605081
Rendering hogels corresponding to the subsets acquired from 3D data. The 3D data is converted to data that the hogels can be configured by through these systems and methods (Justia Patents, 2015).
8. Pulsed-laser systems and methods for producing holographic stereograms with pre-sensitization of holographic recording materials
Patent number: 8665505
Very high quality holograms are recorded through pulsed laser technology in conjunction with pre-sensitization techniques. This is also possible through various other hologram producing hardware and software (Justia Patents, 2015).
9. Multi-core processor architecture for active autostereoscopic emissive displays
Patent number: 8736675
Multi-core processors included in a system with an optical display that requires a plethora of hogels. Each individual hogel is created in such a way that it can give off light in many directions. The processor controls the display and the hodels. The processor also needs at least two cores and an on-chip memory system. The master core has to be a part of a an integrated circuit package and be able to control the other cores. All cores are configured to obtain data from the hogels and return corresponding signals (Justia Patents, 2015).
There are still a large number of patents held by Zebra Imaging that have not been mentioned. This presentation sought to bring out both some of the older and some of the more modern patents to demonstrate their nature. A more complete list all patents are recorded in the USPTO’s database (Justia Patents, 2015).
Identify all the major new products (and their time line) the company has launched
1. ZScapeÂ® 3D Holographic Prints
Viewing these prints is a visual experience that allows you to see information from all angles. The power demonstrated by 3D Holographic Prints is rich, detailed, and more realistic than any other product out there. Through this Holographic printer the audiences can collaborate, comprehend each other, and connect like never before. The uses are incredibly numerous and almost anyone can use the hardware. The machine is important in creating architectural designs as well as creating important 3D medical images. 3D comprehension and understanding is a methodology that has been proven (Zebra Imaging Website, 2015).
Producing faster True-3D Holographic Imagery is the purpose of this newly designed product. Incredibly detailed 3D imagery is created almost instantaneously through this hardware and is aimed to please large businesses with heavy demand and high volume needs. Due to the speed and detailed prints from the product, this is the perfect fit for any company that needs a large quantity of work done. Zebra imaging can come and install the product on site or they can maintain the hardware for the consumer at their own facility. The two best perks of this imager are the roll fed film that allows for non-stop printing, even overnight, and the incredibly speedy print times. A1 images can be produced in as little as 90 minutes. The imager is also built with components that are easily replaced and dismantled for easy deployability. Finally, this imager sells for around $500,000 (Zebra Imaging Website, 2015).
3. ZScapeÂ® Motion Displays
The development of this prototype was helped by the government military defense organization called DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) as part of the UPSD (Urban Photonic Sandtable Display) program. From a meager 6 inches to 6 diagonal feet, this product is scalable and supports real-time sensory data streaming without the need for 3D glasses or other viewing aids. Amazingly enough this allows the product to show large 3D images such as cityscapes or topography that can be viewed by large groups of people at a time (PR Newswire, 2011).
Thus instantaneous collaboration and improved planning can be done on site. In 2011 this product was awarded one of the spots in TIME’s list of the 50 best inventions. No other product in the world can do what the ZScape â„¢ Motion Display can do. It is the first of its kind, and the world’s very first full-parallax, real-time, and interactive hologram (PR Newswire, 2011).
Strategic alliances for new product development and Mergers and Acquisitions for getting access to new technologies
Access to new technology has been the motivation for the several acquisitions and mergers that Zebra Imaging has been a part of, and so it has been for their numerous partnerships as well. Another reason has been to increase company growth and revenue so that it was able to advance certain fields of technology. Zygote Media Group has been the world wide industry leader in 3D programming and imagery for medical purposes, and Zebra Imaging recently agreed to a partnership with them to provide service to the market of medical education. This has been a great benefit for Zebra Imaging due to Zygote Media Group having the world’s largest and most detailed library in regards to 3D anatomy and biomedical models (O’Toole, 2015).
Zebra Imaging now share access to that massive library and will be able to create holographic prints in 3D of the content. This has done wonders for the business in their content strength assimilation (O’Toole, 2015). On the flip side, the zygote customers will also have access to the 3D prints from Zebra Imaging and their holograms of the medical models. These can be accessed directly from a site called 3DScience.com as well as ZygoteBody.com. There will also be additional products created throughout the term of the partnership aimed directly at their medical customers: Hospitals, medical educators, physicians, and pharmaceutical device manufacturers (O’Toole, 2015).
Another alliance that was strategically made was with the RSA, the Reprographics Services Association. The partnership was to help Zebra start their rapid expanse into the service of architectural and engineering-based consumers. The RSA boasts a huge network across the nation. They have over 185 locations and are a collaboration of over 80 different businesses. All of the individual companies are well versed and dedicated to the AEC industry. The AEC is the Architecture, Engineering and Construction companies (PR Newswire, 2014).
This move by Zebra Imaging was an incredibly wise decision since it gave the company access to huge expansion points all across the American market. The extension of their 3D hologram products into the Architecture, Engineering and Construction companies was very natural since their product was in high demand. Experts have estimated the use of 3D hologram imaging to increase over 50% over the coming years and Zebra Imaging is there to fill the need. Their fast and effective products serve as an easy solution to the industry’s needs (PR Newswire, 2014).
The digital files stored by the AEC companies can easily be transformed into full 3D holograms in a fraction of the time and at an incredibly cheaper price than the alternatives on the market. They also serve as nice complements to the more traditional 2D blueprints. The rendering of holograms uses the same CAD products that many clients already have in use for their 2D imaging. The images can be generated from a variety of capturing techniques like oblique photography or laser scanning. 3D scanning and visualization is such a powerful tool in the AEC industry because it can give clients a very real idea of what the final product will look like (PR Newswire, 2014).
Yet another very strategic partnership and alliance that Zebra Imaging made was with Autodesk. Autodesk started providing a new web service back in 2013 that allowed for 123D-users to print 3D holograms from a model they had created. With the partnership that was created, both companies benefited from their generated growth and revenue, and it also increased their global presence in the world wide 3D hologram industry (PR Newswire, 2013).
One development with this partnership is the extension of holographic services to 3D modelers who seek to share their ideas and designs to connect with others. With the ZScapeÂ® 3D Zebra Imaging is offering consumers the option to print their creations as a hologram. The price is made affordable due to the business’s existing technology and service base. The main theme for this partnership is to inspire and create. The consumers that this partnership targets are those that use creativity to make beautiful and inspiring 3D designs to share with others (PR Newswire, 2013).
It is all a big part of steps towards re-imagining digital visualization. Zebra Imaging’s part in this is the graphical user interface that they made for Autodesk’s web service. This way the users can easily select 3D models online or upload their own. Users can upload or access existing 3D material on Autodesk’s site and then through the technology provided by Zebra Imaging, they can print it as a 3D hologram (PR Newswire, 2013).
O’Toole, M. (2015). Zebra Imaging and Zygote Media Partner to Bring 3D Visualization to the Medical Community. PR Newswire. Retrieved from: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/zebra-imaging-and-zygote-media-partner-to-bring-3d-visualization-to-the-medical-community-281061562.html
Zebra Imaging Website. (2015). Technology. Retrieved from: http://www.zebraimaging.com/zebra-imaging-emerging-technology/
Shah, A. (2013). Austin’s Zebra Imaging Closes $5M Loan to Boost Retail 3-D Holograms. XConomy. Retrieved from: http://www.xconomy.com/texas/2013/12/10/austins-zebra-imaging-closes-5m-loan-boost-retail-3-d-holograms/
Crunchbase. (2015). Zebra Imaging. Retrieved from: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/zebra-imaging
Williams, T. (2014). Zebra Imaging Named to Deloitte Fast 500 for Second Year in a Row. PR Newswire. Retrieved from: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/zebra-imaging-named-to-deloitte-fast-500-for-second-year-in-a-row-64939382.html
PR Newswire. (2014). Zebra Imaging and the Reprographics Services Association (RSA) Partner to Bring 3D Visualization to the AEC Community. Retrieved from: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/zebra-imaging-and-the-reprographics-services-association-rsa-partner-to-bring-3d-visualization-to-the-aec-community-262103561.html
PR Newswire. (2013). A Whole New Way to Go 3D – Zebra Imaging to Partner with Autodesk. Retrieved from: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/a-whole-new-way-to-go-3d-zebra-imaging-to-partner-with-autodesk-189193521.html
PR Newswire. (2011). Zebra Imaging’s ZScape Motion Display (ZMD) Named a TIME Magazine “Best Invention of the Year.” Retrieved from: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/zebra-imagings-zscape-motion-display-zmd-named-a-time-magazine-best-invention-of-the-year-134385248.html
Jaaskelainen, J. (2011). Holographic print from an architectural model. Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences. Retrieved from: http://www.theseus.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/33568/Jaaskelainen_Juha_holographic_print.pdf?sequence=1
Justia Patents. (2015). Patents by Assignee Zebra Imaging, Inc. Retrieved from: https://patents.justia.com/assignee/zebra-imaging-inc