Innovation relies on security and trust

KLM: delivering true innovation

When you take a look back at the Digital Retail Innovations Top 50 and the Digital Leisure & Hospitality Top 20 reports over the past few years it could be argued that few types of innovation genuinely have a massive impact on their respective industries.

It is the case that there are lots of similarities with the innovations listed in each of the year’s reports even though they are from different providers. Starbucks has been included in all the reports as has Amazon, with the latter having had a number of different innovations ranked highly each year. While they are all clearly interesting in their own ways real ground-breaking innovations do not come along all that often.

Despite this there will always be a bit of hype. For years we had much talk about it being ‘the year of mobile’. In reality mobile has been with us in a big way for some years but we still today have various organisations making a song and dance about it. It’s happened, it’s with us and it’s a given.

Having said all this though we do have an interesting innovation that topped the list in the most recent Digital Leisure & Hospitality Innovations Top 20 report – the face recognition solution from Dutch national airline KLM.  What’s interesting about this particular innovation is that facial recognition carries a huge amount of trust and risk within it.

The KLM example is a major innovation that creates a seamless experience throughout the airport. It enables people passing through the airport to, in theory, not have to deal with any member of staff at all. To allay concerns it deletes all of the individuals’ data once the flight is over.

People need to be comfortable with such biometric-based solutions. KLM just requires the identification of a person’s face to enable them to pass through security and not to physically have their passport present.

The big question is: how open are the public to this sort of situation at a time when we have a number of privacy and security concerns swirling around? The recent Intel chip issue (which the company had supposedly known about for 20 years) enables people to hack into devices and access sensitive personal information. There are serious ramifications of this as it raises confidence issues in companies who are creating seamless experiences for customers – many of whom will be reliant on Intel technology.

Let’s hope we can trust it to deliver the goods

Trust becomes an issue even for those companies that have big reputations and in some cases generate fan worship. Apple is one such company. People allow it to do myriad things with their personal data in return for a high quality frictionless experience. But even it found itself in hot water recently over its batteries.

Under pressure, it revealed that in order to give its batteries a longer life the company had slowed down the operation of its phones. It had not been transparent and had failed to willingly tell consumers about this practice. The cynics accused Apple of slowing things down in order to prompt customers to make the upgrade to a new handset.

These examples raise the question of how far companies can go in terms of putting consumers at risk as they seek to give the consumer a better experience. In pursuit of delivering a fantastic experience and ease of use the question is how much consumers will put up with in terms of risks of breaches and other such issues. We could call this trust elasticity.

The fact is it can all be blown apart in an instant by information being stolen and money taken out of people’s accounts. Who can consumers ultimately trust? Apple and Intel could have stretched the trust elasticity too far with their recent travails. What will be the implications of this be in the future for these companies and for consumers. Are we seeing a shift in the balance of the trust equation?

The best innovations invariably need a level of trust between the customer and the company. There will no doubt be much to debate on this matter in the future.

Guy Chiswick, Managing Director, Webloyalty Northern Europe (@Webloyalty_Guy)