News roundup: Personalized flying, the electric car boom, TV production disruption

IBM’s take on this week in news

Tim Mossholder / Unsplash

This week:

  • Yoga studios. Kid play areas. Shared workspaces. All part of your future flying experience
  • It’ll all be electric by 2020, says Jaguar Land Rover at IAA 2017
  • Paris and Los Angeles get the 2020s Olympics. What happens now?
  • Hurricane Irma halts TV productions

By the numbers:

Yoga studios, kid play areas and shared workspaces: how’s that for a personalized flying experience?

As travelers increasingly abandon airline loyalty[1], more airlines are focusing on great choices and personalization to attract passengers — and keep them coming back. JetBlue added screens to the back of every seat a decade ago, and other customer-centric amenities have driven sales since then.

IBM asked 2017 Aviation Festival attendees about their biggest customer experience challenges over the next five years. Their answers? Personalization, according to 61% of those surveyed, with “relevant loyalty” at a much lower 14%. Customers simply aren’t as loyal to loyalty programs as they’ve been in decades past. Today they’re more interested in low fares than building a relationship with airlines, which seems to provide few benefits.

That coveted loyalty? It turns out there may be another way to achieve it: through a more personalized customer experience. Airbus subsidiary Transpose wants to create modular airplane designs that feature yoga studios, kid play areas and shared workspaces. On night flights, passengers will have more places to rest, and during the day they’ll have more places to work or play.[2] Passengers on Virgin America flights can sign into their Netflix accounts to stream shows to their mobile devices or tablets. Air France already offers more meal choices through its partnership with Daniel Boulud.

As an industry, airlines struggle to create meaningful connections with travelers post-flight, compared to other parts of the journey. That makes sense: most passengers want to quickly forget about their flight and make it to their next destination, whether it’s a hotel or home.

50% of travelers believe the best experiences are adapted to their preferences, so airlines are heading in the right direction when it comes to exploring personalization.[3]

It’ll all be electric by 2020, says Jaguar Land Rover at IAA 2017

The mood has turned electric at IAA 2017, where a major theme from opening day in Frankfurt is electric vehicles. Nearly all the main Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) announced ambitious plans to have electric variants over the next few years. BMW unveiled the design of the electric version of its popular Mini car and projected that electric vehicles will account for 15–25% of its sales by 2025.[4] Jaguar Land Rover announced last week that all its vehicles would be electric after 2020.[5]

So what’s powering this electric vehicle surge — especially since the entire category of EVs, hybrids and plug-in hybrids, is under 3 percent of all new vehicle sales?[6]

Governments around the world are embracing electric vehicles and pledging to end sales of combustion engines: India will go electric by 2030, and Great Britain and France will make the leap by 2040. The cost to produce electric vehicles will get cheaper, particularly batteries and power trains, especially if governments keep providing incentives.

And consumers might finally be ready. Once fearful of more expensive vehicles with limited range, car buyers are more aware of the benefits of electric vehicles and are driven by environmental concerns, lower longer-term costs, as well as cutting-edge technology, according to an AAA study[7]. More than 30 million Americans are likely to buy an electric vehicle as their next car, and the demand among millennials is high. And by 2030, 57% of vehicles produced each year will be electric.[8]

That’s not to say that everything will be electric. As Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said in Frankfurt, we’ll need a combination of electric, hybrid and combustion engine power trains. While various governments are making statements and policies related to vehicle pollution, the future growth of electric cars will depend on how the supporting infrastructure and technology develops, as it’s currently far from ready to support this electric shift. Battery range, charging stations and charging times will have a tremendous impact on the acceptance and growth of electric vehicles.

Building the Olympics

Now that Paris and Los Angeles have been confirmed as hosts of the 2024 and 2028 Olympic Games, the hard work of preparation can begin. Hosting a modern Olympics practically guarantees massive debt and cost overruns — the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro was estimated to have gone over by $1.6 billion.[9] The Los Angeles planning committee estimates the games will cost $5.3 billion. After the post-Olympics rush, cities often realize they’ve spent billions on infrastructure or transit systems people don’t need.

For Los Angeles, the Olympics may just spur the development of a world-class mass-transit system that helps vanquish its world-famous gridlock. And with 11 years until it hosts the games, Los Angeles has time to experiment and add the latest options in ride-sharing, autonomous vehicles and micro-transit. An on-demand shuttle bus service, for instance, could use algorithms to develop transit routes based on user demand.

Paris will host the games a century after its 1924 Games. The city already has a dense and well-developed public transportation system currently undergoing a large expansion. But it could use the Olympics as a way to regenerate city neighborhoods.

Governments can also leverage new technology to improve public safety. IoT security features or cameras could identify vehicles and objects that don’t belong in a given area. Technology can also improve the spectator experience. Sensors could instantly show where an arrow hits a target in an archery competition or provide real-time data about each punch a boxer throws.

Leaders work tirelessly to lure the Olympics to their city. Why? Because the Games mean big business. Hotels and restaurants fill up and the retail industry benefits. Prospective citizens who might move to the city can see how wonderful it is when they come to see the Games. And all of that puts a positive light on the city and infuses revenue into the government. 
Competition is fierce. To get host status, governments have to prove they can handle big crowds with both physical space and safe accommodations. They also have to show their public safety organizations are sufficiently staffed and ready to act in the event of an emergency. For large events like the Olympics, the federal government often gets involved to prepare for and prevent terrorism. While the potential rewards are big, so are the risks.

Hurricane Irma disrupts show production

The Walking Dead’s zombies are unstoppable. But they were put on hold when Hurricane Irma tore through the southeastern U.S. And that show wasn’t the only one in the region to stop production.

It’s an example of the far-reaching impact major storms can have: AMC’s The Walking Dead and upcoming drama Lodge 49 were among the shows hitting pause on production as Irma slammed Georgia, while Fox’s Star, The Resident and Marvel’s Gifted, CBS’s MacGyver and Valor, CW’s Dynasty and The Originals and BET’s The Quad also shut down temporarily.[10] Rolling production schedules mean that some programs may not make their air date and have to schedule re-runs while the production catches up.

The recent hurricanes may also have adversely impacted the bottom line of pay TV operators. Jeffries analyst Mike McCormack told investors that competition from OTT services poses the biggest threat. “We expect an especially weak quarter for video, and although partially storm-related, we believe changing behaviors will continue to weigh on overall video subscribers,” said McCormack. The analyst’s comments come the week after Comcast and AT&T reported that storm disruption and OTT competition would tamp down subscriber growth for the quarter.[11]

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