Column: The World according to IT and me.. So… Apparently something happened in June
Author: Paul Saunders, Solution Manager, Flatirons Solutions
If you’ve been living under a rock over the summer, you may not have realized that we now live in a different world from the one we knew back in early June 2016. Every so often, a generational event changes the socio-economic environment to which we have become accustomed. I am of course referring to the global phenomenon that is Pokémon Go. Airline crews are now uniquely positioned for global dominance of the Pokémon ecosystem. Already, crewing rosters and takeoff performance systems are being adjusted to ensure aircraft and crew are optimized for Psyduck and Squirtle interactions!
Not really… I’m actually talking about Brexit (British exit from the European Union – EU) and what it means for the future of aerospace IT. Whatever might be your political take on Britain voting to leave the EU and the aftermath on the UK’s political and economic landscape, one has the overwhelming sense that historians will regard the referendum and its outcome as a watershed between different eras.
Bearing in mind how heavily influenced the UK economy is by the European Union, it is reasonable for the aerospace IT industry, which has very strong ties with the UK, to wonder how Brexit will impact the future. The biggest problem with answering that question is uncertainty. No one actually knows how trade will be affected. The ‘Remain’ campaign painted a picture of pessimism, whilst ‘Leave’ campaigners were optimistic for a very bright future. The wording of the referendum was a highly simplistic ‘in’ or ‘out’ question; nothing about the degree of integration with the EU post-Brexit. Norway and Switzerland have been used as examples of non-EU countries that have free access to the European single market. However, this access comes at a price, which includes bi-lateral freedom of movement across borders. The control of borders was one of the primary influencers for the Brexit vote, so the question of free trade and freedom of movement are among the primary issues facing aerospace IT.
Software vendors and their customers rely on their staff being able to work anywhere within EU. Many UK companies have offices and partners in Europe and vice-versa. Although this situation will not go away post-Brexit, the current status quo will very likely be challenged with additional layers of red tape, new arrangements for employment law, work permits and even research grants to be managed differently. On the flip side, trade and movement between the UK and areas outside of the EU may be simplified and encouraged by new agreements that can be negotiated once the UK exits the EU.
Perhaps the greatest concern for aerospace IT will be the ability for airlines to invest in IT. The weak pound and economic uncertainty has seen several airlines downgrade their revenue forecasts. One can assume that this may lead to IT projects being postponed or cancelled as a result. The counter argument here is that companies may invest their way out of economic downturns and use the opportunity to prepare for the future.
At the time of writing, the UK has just appointed a new government. Theresa May, the new Prime Minister, has stated that the UK will not start the process of exiting the EU (triggering negotiations under EU Article 50) until a negotiation position has been decided and that is unlikely to be in 2016. One thing is clear; it will be several months yet before anyone can claim to know what Brexit will mean for aerospace IT.
I’m old enough to know that these things have a way of sorting themselves out in a way that is a lot less stressful and painful than folk might imagine. I’m also young enough to know that, if I am feeling post-Brexit anxiety, I can always go out and hunt for Pokémon. In fact, I must dash, as apparently there’s a Pikachu lurking at the end of my street.
Or at least that’s how it seems in the world according to IT… & Me!
Paul is a technology specialist who has been working in aviation IT since 1998 with expertise in software design and mobility, having worked on apps used by pilots and engineers. In the adoption of emerging technology in aerospace, particularly mobility, Paul is a visionary and geek. He joined the TechSight/X team in 2013 where he serves as a global product manager spearheading flight operations, engineering services and mobile solutions.