Shepple or Appell

by Rob Noble, the founder of Great Fridays, now an EPAM company

Transportation is the next frontier and challenge for service design. The connected home is well underway, enhanced with the ‘internet of you’, connectivity is something all service designers are vying to get their heads around, but as we approach permanent insertion into the matrix, transportation has also become crucial to seamless connected experiences. 

We all know about Google Chauffeur and its driverless cars as well as their shareholding in San Francisco-based transportation network company Uber.

Driverless taxis that you talk to will be prevalent in the world’s most connected cities earlier than most people think; vehicles that can advise you on what you want to eat and where you want to eat it are just around the corner.

Couple that with the upcoming ubiquity of digital assistants and we have a major shift coming in everyday travel that I don’t believe the average consumer has quite got their head round.

Public transportation will have to catch up. How can I fly at 30,000 feet on one airline and be permanently connected, free to use my devices and on another airline I have to switch my phone off? I appreciate that competition means differentiation is a factor of service, but some form of inclusion would be good.

This disconnect is even more contrasting when it comes to landing and boarding a train for the final connection. Firstly, I can’t get a signal on my operator’s network, and secondly I can’t get a decent WiFi connection on a major train service such as that between London and Manchester. Don’t even talk to me about tunnels or that area about an hour outside of Stoke.

This means that I will do one thing in the future, I will sit back in my self-drive car that I hire at the airport and will be taken home or to my next meeting, knowing that I will be connected.

Once driverless cars offer features without ever needing to touch a screen – Siri and voice-controlled digital assistants will be the interface…  the public transport system of the future will have been completely disrupted.

The possibilities from that point are almost infinite. The experience in the home matrix will be completely replicated in the future. There will be no difference. The notion of a driverless car will be as everyday as the idea of a driverless house or apartment.

The possibilities for design are similarly limitless. Whether its physical device design or the connected service design, this entire futurism has to be adopted now by the transportation industry, as well as other brands connected to the industry.

The same goes for the ‘home-to-car’ ecosystem as well as any car-to-other-mode transport ecosystems, when Apple announced ‘Car Play’ it is very obvious that complete disruption of the automotive industry is imminent.

Not only will our relatively analogue cars of today change beyond recognition, but so will our transportation hubs. The forecourt of the future may not even exist. Augmented reality apps, local information, special offers at the new transportation hubs, social media notifications and things we haven’t even dreamt of in our current philosophy will be part of the in-car experience. One especial challenge for service design will be the symbiosis between smart services and data overload, how much will driven-drivers be able to handle?

BMW’s recent conversation with DesignBoom.com gives us a flavour of the concepts that approach solving these problems in the minds of their designers.

We all saw the GoogleZon video 10 years ago  what about a version that considers transportation, Shepple or Appell, thought provoking new partnerships and service ecosystems from global leaders in their field.

Nike and Apple have been friends for a long time, Tim Cook the Apple CEO sits upon the Nike board, it is no coincidence to me that the recent rumours surrounding their exit from the hardware market and the end of Nike Fuelband happen to be just in advance of Apple’s WWDC 2014.

I would bet that similar conversations are happening across the transportation industry, as the vision for the future is mapped out by the best consumer experience brands in the world. Apple (swap for Google/Microsoft) and Tesla, interesting? Apple (swap for Google/Microsoft) and Square as payment becomes more and more digital.

Smart navigation is also key. Where Nokia are very relevant having changed it’s focus from the mobile market with its acquisition by Microsoft, to focussing on location, smart mapping and route-finding through Here, as well as it’s technology dominating the in-car navigation market. Once the route has been found, drivers of today want smart service, a richer travelling experience, a richer outdoor experience and a history of their active experience. I can see a rich tapestry of services being layered over the current location technologies creating complete new travelling/movement based ecosystems. Those demands will only increase in the future.

Personalisation will be another issue. Will the cars of the future be cookie-cutter and designed for the businessperson (who will, er, drive this market) or will they be designed for families? Then, who will be the driver of the driverless car? Will the ‘passenger’ of an owned driverless car have less in-car rights than the owner?

These questions are one that service and product design companies will have to address. There will be conflicts between hardware and software; will the hardware car space be designed around the software capabilities of the vehicle?

These challenges are ones that all the team at Great Fridays welcome; we believe they will herald another ‘Age of Design’. A time where global brands need to be transformed in their thinking, a parallel age of transformation will allow us to set the agenda for a future of unlimited potential… for everybody and everything in this new service ecosystem.