As the industry shows signs of a limited recovery, many hope science, and specifically, advancements in medical technology (Med-Tech), will play a key role in ensuring cleanliness and safety to help the travel industry recover.
Most pundits will agree that without extensive testing and contact tracing, controlling the pandemic is a challenge. Of course, a vaccine is the best solution for the pandemic, but realistically, a vaccine will not be ready for widespread use for many months. Therefore sterilization procedures and health monitoring efforts are essential now to help revive the travel industry.
A few weeks ago, Shashank Nigam, CEO of SimpliFlying, asked me to participate as a mentor in their new Launchpad initiative. I applaud Shashank and his SimpliFlying team in taking a proactive stance on helping the airline industry recover, with the goal to provide solutions that can be implemented today. The team at SimpliFlying took a rapid response approach to this effort focused on four key areas critical for airline recovery: Sanitation/Cleanliness, Touchless Travel, Ancillary Revenue Opportunities and Contact Tracing. Every few weeks, a new batch of companies present to a group of airline and airport executives. The first batch focused on Sanitation/Cleanliness and presented their solutions last week. My interaction with the first batch of Launchpad startups presentations reinforced the fact that the industry needs to look at solutions for sterilization and cleaning that exist outside of the travel industry, often used in places like hospitals, shopping malls and office buildings.
Most of the 1st batch of Launchpad startups use some sort of cleaning method (UV light, robot cleaning, sensors) to clean surfaces and monitor supplies. One startup stood out that could have a major impact on all sectors of the industry, and I wanted to highlight it here. The company is V-Shield.
Rather than approaching the problem from a surface cleaning perspective, V-Shield is a personal virus protection device. V-Shield uses slow release CI02 nanocrystals to create a concentrated sterilizing vapor that is effective up to 1m (0.5m radius) and provides 30 day continuous protection . V-Shield can be worn as a clip or installed in the seat back. The product is already approved for use by the FDA.
But is V-Shield the magic bullet the industry has been waiting for that will trigger a return to the skies? When being questioned by the airline evaluation team, the CEO of V-Shield admitted that V-Shield alone may not be sufficient and that other cleaning methods as well as wearing a mask while traveling should also be followed So, it is not a magic bullet, but equipping every flight attendant, passenger, seat and boarding area with Vi-Shield could go a long way to calm nervous travelers and provide an additional level of protection. The demand for V-Shield as you might expect is high and it takes some time to produce the units. I encourage other sectors, particularly the corporate travel industry to evaluate the use of V-Shield for their business travelers.
Another promising tech comes from Israel. A team at Ben-Gurion University has designed a one-minute breath test to tell whether someone has coronavirus. The test is currently being evaluated by the FDA. Once the firm receives FDA approval breath tests could be seen in public as soon as September.
Another interesting Med-Tech solution announced recently is the use of the Oura ring where researcher claim the device has been successful in recognizing Covid-19 symptoms up to three days in advance with 90% accuracy. If its good enough for the NBA why not business travelers? This is also relates to my April post on the new relevance of wearables.
The reality of the current pandemic is that the travel industry can not wait for a vaccine to be widely distributed. The pain and suffering in our industry is real and if we don’t implement solutions in the interim, the traveling public will continue to be reluctant to fly. Hopefully the combination of extensive sterilizing techniques in all public areas, the mandating of facemasks on board and the implementation of innovative solutions such as V-Shield and the one-minute breath test will help the industry recover faster while we all await a vaccine. I look forward to learning about additional SimpliFlying Launchpad solutions in the remaining three focus areas and I again want to commend Shashank and his SimpliFlying team in providing real value to the industry during these difficult times. Here is a link to all the companies reviewed in the batch; I appreciate being included in the process.