Andrea Picchi - Designer, Mentor, Evangelist
Andrea Picchi - Designer, Mentor, Evangelist

Andrea Picchi
Designer, Mentor, Evangelist

Are wearables in aviation just a fad? – Blu Sky Interview

Business Design Center (London, United Kingdom). Are wearables in aviation just a fad? They are predicted as the ‘next big thing’ in the industry but will they deliver on this promise? We asked the former Head of Wearables from Ryanair Andrea Picchi on his thoughts on the future role of wearables in travel.

BlueSky: What do you say to people who claim wearables is just an industry fad?

Andrea Picchi: I remember Steve Ballmer laugh at the original iPhone in 2007 because the new phone didn’t have a keyboard and cost 499 dollars. Maybe I’m just a visionary but I clearly see that wearable technology will play a big role in our not-so-distant future.

BS: What are the main areas of application for wearable technology in aviation?

AP: Generally speaking wearable can play a big role in supporting the in-airport and in-flight experience while the customer is on-the-go and most of the time also in a hurry.
In this context, a wearable device will be able to deliver glanceable information at the right time without distracting the customer from their main focus.
Today wearable means smartwatch more than anything else, and smartwatch is all about micro-interactions, as a result of that for the next few years in-airport notifications and in-flight payment will probably be the main context of use for this technology.

BS: How will an airport adopt the technology compared to an airline?

AP: They have very different contexts of use. An airline can use the wearable technology enriching the in-airport and in-flight customer experience mainly through glanceable notifications, wearable payment and other kinds of micro-interactions.
An airport can use the same technology supporting the ground crew in their daily routines with a variety of enterprise applications.

BS: What are the psychological challenges of passenger adoption and engagement?

AP: I don’t see any psychological challenges because if there is something we learned from the original iPhone in 2007 is that people are pretty fast to refactor their mental model if they can get a clear benefit from that.
For the same reason I don’t either see any wearable-related barrier, the point here is that for the moment there is no any kill application in any of the smartwatch and wearable operating systems on the market; this directly translates into a flatter adoption curve.

BS: How do you see wearables impacting MRO in commercial aviation?

AP: Commercial aviation has the unique opportunity to build a real ecosystem based on different devices like smartphone, tablet and now smartwatch and other wearable devices. Tablet and smartwatch, for example, can work in tandem very efficiently supporting the MRO groundwork with their unique form factor and functionalities. Hardware like GPS, Gyroscope, Camera, or software like notifications, database, and remote surveillance can really make the different in the MRO day-to-day life.

BS: What benefits can wearables have to your brand as an airline?

Andrea Picchi: Being at the forefront of wearable technology can really help an airline to reinforce its identity as the market leader. The key point here is that the customer has the perception that when an airline cares about the quality of its services also cares about its customers and this translates into more trust from them and as a consequence into a better acquisition/retention rate. If you really care about people, then people care about you, it’s a primitive rule.

BS: Finally, what do you think will be the etiquette for wearable use in public?

AP: In a few years the wearable technology will likely reach its tipping point, at this point in time the magnitude of its effect will impact billions of people. In this scenario will be inevitable that this technology will also redefine the rules of conventional forms. Turn the wrist trying to check a notification during a meeting will probably be annoying for the attendees like today is pulling out the smartphone from the pocket.

Want to learn more about how wearables will impact your business? Andrea will be running an exclusive workshop as part of the Global Aviation Festival in London on the 14th September.