Written by: Andrea King
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How do consumers keep pace?

Ask anyone with responsibility for innovation about the key ingredients for success, and somewhere near the top of their list will be 'consumer trust' or 'stakeholder confidence'. Leading innovators like Amazon, Air BnB, and Apple address these issues in their business models and in the fundamental user experiences they create; incorporating checks and balances, feedback loops, transparency and security in equal measure. And when leading innovators, like Uber, fail to live up to expectations, the business consequences make headlines. It remains to be seen whether Uber will be allowed to operate in London beyond 2019, but more than 750,000 consumers have petitioned in their favour. Convenience, cost, and 'ease of use' benefits drive not only early adoption, but also ongoing loyalty.

At our 2017 Airport Seminar, which took place at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London, consumer trust and stakeholder confidence were a common thread across diverse topics such as drone traffic management, artificial intelligence, cyber-security and aviation noise. Within each of these topics, the promise of a range of innovations depends, to some extent, on winning the hearts and minds of the people, as well as the regulators.

Take drones for example, airport delegates at the seminar are already planning to use robotic birds of prey to relocate birds away from runways, others are using drones for infrastructure inspection, but large-scale innovations like drone delivery hubs won't happen without new regulations and public acceptance. The technical enablers already exist but are not necessarily proven. It won't be long before detect and avoid technology has been sufficiently miniaturised to enable drones to navigate busy skies, but overcoming public concerns about privacy and safety when it comes to 'swarms' of delivery drones overflying homes and parks is another matter!

The answer may lie in the ability of trusted brands like Amazon and Google to show that convenience, cost and user experience are worth the risk, and in the ability of urban planners and aviation regulators to apply the right checks and balances. The experience of Uber may just give the London public the confidence that regulators will use their muscle when needed, and that operators will do more than pay lip service to complaints.

The challenge in all these things lies in demonstrating safety, developing the right regulatory process/structure and ensuring the human remains central to the solution, both as user and service provider. This is more important than ever given the pace of technological change relative to the ability of regulators and the public to keep up.

For more information please contact Andrea King.

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