In a presentation at the recent Future Travel Experience Global, innovator Rob Girling outlined some new technologies primed to revolutionize travel. Girling has taken these insights and catalyzed them into a paper entitled "Infinity and Beyond: How can outcome focused thinking help us in the travel industry?"
Published by Girling's product design firm Artefact Group, the paper focuses specifically on travel applications of wearable technology, NFC, and biometrics.
Girling takes a novel approach, especially when "the law of unintended consequences" continues to be the law of the land. By focusing on both the "anticipated desirable outcomes" and the "unintended undesirable consequences" of these technologies within the travel scope.
The framework is incredibly useful for any system or technology, and is as follows:
Oftentimes technology is deployed without consideration of both the desired and undesired outcomes.
Wearable tech, NFC and biometrics
Smart watches and Google Glass both come up within the context of just how wearables will impact our lives.
Consider the recent story of the woman who was given a ticket for wearing Google Glass while driving in California.
How will Glass fit in to current regulations? Is having the mere possibility of an active screen in front of a driver's eye enough to constitute a violation of the "no visible screen while driving" rule? What other unanticipated consequences are there to the infusion of wearables into every day life?
Some worry about the continued pixelation of everyday experiences - with wearables on every human, there may never be an unrecorded or unscreened moment in human life. This could be both a desired and undesired outcome.
In travel, this also means a much different approach to customer service. Take the recent Air France controversy. What if the customer had been recording the entire experience on Glass and livestreaming? How would this have impacted the experience in that case?
Glass is already banned in Las Vegas casinos, and being considered for restrictions by UK legislators. What's next in the path for Glass? Here's what Girling points to as far as the relative desired and undesired implications of the technology:
As far as smartwatches, biometrics and NFC, these technologies can all work in concert to create a sort of digital biofence that facilitates a human's path through the digitally-layered real world.
Biometrics, as seen in Apple's Fingerprint ID, have the potential to eliminate password and payment hassles while also posing a serious invasion of privacy threat. How will consumers - and governments - respond to this?
Or will NFC thrive as a non-biometric way to identify users? What happens when a device is stolen or misappropriated? Or as Girling suggests, a combination of biometrics and NFC could mean that the NFC chip only functions when biometrically compatible with the person wearing it - thus protecting it from unauthorized use.
Each of these outcomes - both intentional and unexpected - must be considered as new technologies are deployed into the travel space.
Overwhelming users with pointless applications of technology is not a clever move, nor is providing the wrong technology for a given outcome. This is an essential negotiation in a technologically-reliant vertical like the travel industry, which leads to the most pressing conclusion for travel technologists: outcomes before technology.
Conclusion: Outcomes before technology
The key takeaway here is one that cannot be reiterated enough: product designers, technologists and startup creators must now focus on outcomes before technology. As technology evolves ever-faster, technology for technology's sake is just not enough.
Consumers are sophisticated entities that now select from a raft of technologies not just because they are cool - but because of the problem that they help them solve, or how they make their lives better. Start with outcomes, and then move to technology.
This graphic sums up Girling's prescription for positive technology perfectly:
The full paper can be downloaded here from Artefact Group.