Embracing exponential technology in a safety focused industry

Exponential technology is one of the hot social media topics of 2016. Technological advancements are occurring at an increasingly rapid rate, to the point where we are realising possibilities that a decade ago would have lived only in the minds of science fiction writers.

Looking ahead, what will the world look like in five, ten, 50 years’ time? What will the aviation industry look like?

I recently had the opportunity to attend two events discussing exponential technology: a Professional Advantage day hosted by Airways and the New Zealand summit for Singularity University. Several experts in their fields - from robotics, the environment and self-driving cars, to exonomics (exponential economics) and education - shared their experiences with exponential and disruptive technologies and provided their predictions for the future.

Glen Andert from Creative HQ proposed the idea of the Uberisation of Air Traffic Control, in which air travel was entirely automated. It sounded far-fetched and Glen is by no means an aviation expert. Interestingly, at the SingularityU summit, drone services company HaloDrop's CEO ­­David Roberts said that “most entrepreneurs are not actually experts in their field and it is because of this that they are willing to try things that no others are willing to”. This resonated with me because for the past 18 months I have been involved in the development of Airbooks, a digital resource that enables faster, better, more flexible training.  

We took our vision for Airbooks and the future of training to ATC Global in Dubai last year. Overall our message was positively received and it generated a lot of buzz at the Airways stand. Many people said that it was something that they had wanted to do themselves. So, why hadn’t they? Why was it that Airbooks was one of the only tools of its kind in ATC training when e-learning was well established in other industries?

After attending a number of events and speaking with potential customers, I’ve learned that as a safety focused industry aviation is understandably risk averse. The challenge for us, therefore, is to deliver a product in a way that acknowledges this and supports business goals. Like other industries, it’s great to see aviation taking the leap into digital training and new technologies.

Armed with this knowledge, I recently attended ATCA in Washington DC to demonstrate Airbooks to senior staff at the FAA. We shared case studies demonstrating real world success stories, described programmes that enable customers to run pilot studies with a controlled group to reduce risk, and listened to their ideas about how digital and interactive training can help support safety goals. Airbooks was well received and we found ourselves inundated with visitors during the closing stages of the event.

Technology is changing at a greater rate than ever before and it is clear it will play a big part in all industries including ours, possibly helping to support air traffic density and higher demands for safety.