Ever since electronic devices like cell phones and laptops arrived on the market, performance characteristics have been their mainstay. Today's technology playing field, however, has largely been leveled by global access to state-of-the-art manufacturing processes from electronic-manufacturing-service (EMS) providers. The wide availability of electronic components and common operating systems also works to even out the current market. As a result, manufacturers can no longer rely on performance features to create a sustainable competitive edge. Once such advances are achieved, they are quickly copied and made ubiquitous.
As a result of these changes, enclosures are beginning to play a larger role in a product's success. Previously, they were not seen as a way to add value. But innovative enclosure design and manufacturing capabilities now boast added benefits. They communicate brand value through both enclosure-enabled functionality and aesthetics.
Enclosures offer OEMs an opportunity to create a competitive advantage. The user's first encounter with the product enclosure fosters an emotional connection. After all, the first thing that the consumer experiences is the product's outside housing. The enclosure feeds the user's desire to get a closer look or even touch and experience the product. Keep in mind that a product's appearance and feel are inherently intuitive. Anyone who sees a handheld device has an emotional response to it.
To successfully market to consumers on an emotional level, a very different approach is needed. It demands a perceptive understanding of a complex system: the continuously changing feelings that a user has about a product. It also requires that a product's development be based on a very different set of specifications—not the more traditional aspects like overall size and weight.
By gauging a product from the user's emotional point of view, manufacturers can gain essential insights into the product's likelihood of commercial success. For example, ruggedized "industrial" handhelds typically look metallic with protective rubber bumpers at the edges. The user is likely to perceive such a product as rugged, serious, and trustworthy. Yet he or she also will see it as bulky, heavy, clumsy, ugly, and expensive. Although ruggedized devices may meet mechanical specifications, they could be ignored in the mass market. Simply put, they fail to create an emotional connection with users.
To provide reliability while maintaining consumer appeal, Inclosia Solutions has developed several technologies for manufacturing enclosures. These enclosures provide protection without the bulk, cost, and weight that are typically associated with traditional "rugged" models. This new device generation has incorporated weathertight seals with full use of a touchscreen, connectors, and even keypads.
For the user, such enclosure manufacturing techniques offer features like a slip-resistant outer surface, impact-energy absorbency, and component isolation to protect against falls. This level of performance can be achieved for a wide variety of product styles, including a "sports" version; a playful, youth-oriented style; and a sophisticated "prosumer" model. The resulting products reinforce brand value through both aesthetics and reliability.
Trustworthiness and reliability can be translated into quantitative-engineering performance requirements. Desirability, on the other hand, is highly subjective. It's much more challenging to create an object of desire using widely available electronic components, manufacturing techniques, supply-chain cost structures, product quality, and operating systems. Here, the enclosure plays a key role.
In other consumer-oriented industries, creating a competitive edge through desirability has been accomplished for many years. Such industries range from fashion and accessories to furniture, household appliances, and even automobiles. Consider the wristwatch. To create an emotional bond with the user, it uses appearance characteristics like ruggedness (i.e., a scuba diver's watch) and ease of use (i.e., a runner's watch). Watch electronics/mechanics are now commodities. With the main focus on aesthetics, there is a stunning array of watches available in every look imaginable. They can be purchased in clothing stores, jewelry stores, department stores, and even sporting-goods outlets. As a result, many people have several watches, which allows them to select the one that best matches their outfit or activity.
In the months and years ahead, enclosures will be increasingly influenced by outside industries, such as fashion accessories and sporting goods. These industries, in turn, will be affected by consumer trends. Future portable electronic devices will not be limited to variations on colored or coated plastics. To create these objects of desire, new technologies will emerge to incorporate materials like leather, metals, and even semi-precious stones. Ultimately, these technologies will create a sustainable competitive advantage by reinforcing the brand.