3D printing to cost US$100bil worth of IP losses: Gartner

  • Governments may be pressured to create laws for DRM-type embedding in 3D printers
  • As machines get smarter, people may lose jobs; this may cause social unrest: Gartner

3D printing to cost US$100bil worth of IP losses: GartnerMORE than US$100 billion worth of intellectual property (IP) losses due to 3D printing is expected to occur annually from 2018 onwards as the technology becomes increasingly accessible to manufacturers and businesses.
“Whether the number is US$100 billion, US$50 billion or US$250 billion, I don't think it's really instrumental if your company is the one that's getting targeted and has problems as a result of that,” said Brian Prentice, research vice president of Gartner Inc.
“So the issue here is what you need to do to deal with it, or what governments need to do around the laws to try and avoid this from happening," he said.
The IP theft issue will affect all sectors. According to Prentice, the global automotive aftermarket parts, toys, IT and consumer products industries will report IP theft in 2016 due to 3D printing worth at least US$15 billion.
3D printing technology has been around for a few decades, but it started to gain traction over the past few years as the printers became widely available commercially.
With the technology, one can manufacture almost anything three-dimensional, from doorknobs and screws, to car components, plastic guns, and more. Recently, it was reported that you can create a figurine of your unborn foetus from an ultrasound scan for as little as US$250.
While the technology can benefit mankind, it is also open to many types of abuses. “3D printing is gaining acceptance and it is creating this very real risks,” said Prentice, who was speaking to the media during a ‘Gartner Top Predictions 2014+’ briefing in Kuala Lumpur today (Jan 21).
“By 2015, at least one high-profile case of the use of ‘bio-printed’ organs will become a global headline news story due to its success or failure. That case will most likely be centred on the Asia Pacific region, with Western countries asking ethical questions related to the case based more on curiosity than fear,” he said.
To address the ‘3D printing IP theft’ issue, Prentice said that IP owners may likely pressure governments to legislate that some form of digital rights management (DRM) technology be embedded into 3D printers.
“We should be forcing the manufacturers of the printers themselves to embed the DRM technology so you can't accept the file unless there's some type of protection. I think you will see routes going on that way to try to fix the problem,” he said.
He added that companies must invest in new means of identifying products as genuine that cannot be duplicated with 3D printers, such as embedded chips with unique signal characteristics, as well as teaming up with retailers to find out ways for consumers to validate a particular product.
3D printing to cost US$100bil worth of IP losses: GartnerMachines get smarter, jobs at stake
Prentice (pic) also highlighted that employees' jobs may be affected as a result of digitalisation. In other words, as machines get ‘smarter,’ human jobs may be at stake if people don't move up the value chain.
Gartner predicts that a major portion of knowledge-worker jobs may be disrupted by smart machines in both positive and negative ways.
The research firm also predicted that labour reduction due to digitalisation will cause social unrest and a quest for new economic models in several mature economies.
“This is something very worrying for me,” said Prentice.
By 2024, at least 10% of activities potentially injurious to human life will require mandatory use of a smart system that cannot be overridden. This means there may be automated trucking systems which can help logistic companies deliver goods in a safe and orderly manner without the need for human intervention.
Other predictions Gartner made include:

  • By 2017, 20% of computers will be learning rather than processing;
  • By 2020, consumer data collected from wearable devices will drive 5% of sales from the global 1000 companies;
  • By 2020, enterprises and governments will fail to protect 75% of sensitive data, and declassify and grant broad/ public access to it;
  • By 2017, 80% of consumers will collect, track and barter their personal data for cost savings, convenience and customisation; and
  • By 2017, over half of consumer goods manufacturers will receive 75% of their consumer innovation and R&D capabilities from crowd-sourced solutions.

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It’s a new era: The Digital Industrial Economy, says Gartner
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