In this instalment of Expert Opinions, APEX Media’s Op-Ed series, Zain Jaffer, founder and CEO of tech investment firm Zain Ventures, describes the technology that he believes will play the largest role in reviving the aviation industry.
The aviation industry adapted quickly and efficiently to the COVID-19 pandemic. Airports across the globe have seamlessly incorporated temperature checks and switched to contact-free check-in kiosks. The whole passenger experience has been reconfigured to make health and safety possible and probable, from drop off to destination.
But it’s not enough for an industry recovery. Reviving commercial aviation begins with rebuilding public trust. Technology has largely solved the industry’s immediate problem, the problem of passenger health and safety. Now it needs to solve the second, the problem of passenger confidence.
Seeing Is Still Believing
What if an airplane cabin was one of the safest places to be? Today, all passenger jets are equipped with hospital-grade air filters, high-efficiency systems that constantly clean and filter the air, providing proper circulation. In this way, the cabin is a smarter choice than the superstore.
The problem isn’t the safety of the design, it’s that the safety of the design is hard to believe. But airlines could help people see for themselves. Visual simulation technologies have been used throughout this pandemic by doctors, scientists and designers, allowing them to quickly plan and test new techniques and layouts for hospital adaptations. The same technology can demonstrate the safe airflow management system, and equip airlines with a visual language to address passenger concern.
Airports bring to mind images of long lines, shoulder to shoulder seating and contact-filled security protocols. By using the simulation technology to illustrate the adaptations made to the passenger experience, airports have the ability to communicate to prospective passengers, ahead of time, the extent to which they’ve gone to ensure travelers’ safety.
Visual demonstrations can also be integrated into mobile travel apps to instruct passengers through new security protocols in real-time. Simulated safety demonstrations can be featured on a passenger’s personal seatback TV, offered in addition to the pre-flight instructions. Informative and immersive videos can remain accessible there throughout the flight.
The power of simulation as an effective communication tool has been realized by many fields in the COVID-19 fight. Early reports by Washington Post and The New York Times used simple visual modeling to communicate important information to the public. Other fields have taken the technology further. In April, NATO ran one of the largest virtual simulation exercises in the military-medical field, simulating high-risk scenarios to facilitate paramedic training. Similarly, Johns Hopkins’ Simulation Center continues to advance medical training and help deliver online teaching.
The fight against COVID-19 requires large-scale collaboration — between scientists and designers, between tech engineers and HR professionals, between passengers and airline crews. Visual simulation technology is our best chance at achieving an accurate understanding and developing a competent response to the real-life challenges we face. At the end of the day, we all want the same things: safety, confidence, travel, connection and a restoration of the air travel experience, one of our most valued human ecosystems.
Zain Jaffer is the Founder and CEO of Zain Ventures, an investment firm that provides funding globally for tech startups, real estate and private equity. As a serial entrepreneur and investor, Zain knows first-hand how technology and adaptations, designed to solve pressing problems at hand, can become industry-shifting innovations with long-lasting effects.