Over the last year and a half I have talked to many people about Pocobor and mechatronics. These conversations have proved to be more difficult than I expected. Some people (mostly engineers) understand exactly what we do, some people kind of understand, but a vast majority of people only take away that Pocobor is some sort of engineering consultancy and our work is probably complicated and boring.
When we started Pocobor, we knew mechatronics was not a terribly common term outside of our field and we understood we would spend a good portion of our marketing effort on actively educating people about mechatronics. We were, and still are, excited about being on the forefront of evangelizing mechatronics to the world and getting people excited about how mechatronics will shape the future by improving the products and services of tomorrow. However, we weren’t aware how uncommon the term was, especially since mechatronics is a fairly mature field.
A Little Background…
The term mechatronics was coined over 40 years ago by Tetsuro Mori, a Japanese engineer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechatronics). Today, small microcontrollers are readily available from a variety of manufacturers and cost less than a couple of dollars each. People in the U.S. use mechatronic products every single day, from their cars to their microwaves to their smart phones. Specific mechatronic engineering programs are even available from many universities, such as Professor Ed Carryer’s program at Stanford University (ME218).
So, What’s The Problem?
Given its ubiquity in our lives, one might think that people would already have a pretty good idea about what mechatronics is. And yet, for the most part, it is still unknown outside of engineering circles. Personally, I think the problem comes down to the word mechatronics itself.
Mechatronics is a portmanteau (portman – wha?) of the words “mechanical” and “electronic”. It makes perfect sense; after all, mechatronics is the blending of mechanical systems with electrical systems and software. The problem is that when most people hear mechatronics they might as well be hearing gobbledygook. It is just a jumble of letters to them. They can’t visualize how the word is spelled or decipher its roots. Even if they do happen to break the word down into mechanical systems, electronics, and software, the conversation still requires a long winded explanation of how these three fields fit together and the services we provide. This makes it difficult for people to internalize and talk about later. But even worse, it makes some people tune us out as soon as we start talking because they think what we are about to say is going to be technical and boring.
So, What’s The Solution?
This is the question we are asking ourselves at Pocobor. We like the word mechatronics. It’s not a word we just made up. It’s a real field and aptly describes what we do. However, we also need to be sensitive to the very real idea that it may be in our best interest to find a word that the general public can understand or can immediately identify with. One such example is Smart Product Design. It’s simple and understandable. However, is Smart Product Design as a term any more informative to the general public about we do than mechatronics? Because mechatronics is still unknown outside of certain circles, regardless of what word or phrase we choose to describe it will still require some explanation. I believe the solution may lie in not the word itself but in perfecting a succinct, understandable explanation..No term can be a silver bullet; there has to be a discussion.
In general, we try to tailor our message depending on our audience (engineer vs. non-technical individual, medical device field vs. clean tech, etc.) and we are always trying out different ways to best describe Pocobor. Mechatronics is a growing field that is becoming more and more prevalent in our lives. The challenge for us is understanding how to best convey this message.