Since I was a kid, I have always been intrigued by Japan. Not that I was a huge fan of Manga, crazy robots or any other characters, but I always perceived the country as a mysterious far away land full of discovery. Back in 2014, I am super grateful that I had the opportunity to visit. It is truly a beautiful place. The seamless confluence of technology and the environment, the lights, the food, the culture, the history and the architecture stay imprinted in your mind forever. But at this point (before you think I have lost the plot), you may be asking what Japan has to do with mobility, green skills or, for that matter, Web 3.0.
One of the most intriguing experiences in Japan is boarding ‘shinkansen’ trains. In plain English – bullet trains. They are a breathtaking marvel of technology, and a beauty to look at, but not only. Once the train leaves the quiet suburbs of Tokyo, you can feel the train pressuring you against your seat as it accelerates forcefully to 300km/hr into the lush Japanese countryside. The analogy is intriguing. Like passengers on that train, aerospace professionals are being propelled into a digital future which, like ‘shinkansen’, needs to be in confluence with our environment and social fabric.
The mobility industry’s sustainability and digitalisation need to be developed as one. And at the core of that development lies the professional’s knowledge and skillset. Specifically in this case, green skills.
One of the most recognised definitions of green skills was composed by Cedefop in 2012, as “the knowledge, abilities, values and attitudes needed to live in, develop and support a sustainable and resource-efficient society”. Thus, technical knowledge on environmental challenges is not enough. Other cross-cutting expertise needs to be developed by the aerospace professional which complement environmental knowledge and allow him or her to take sustainable decisions, or use resources in an optimal way. This, in your train of thought, will turn you to the digitized world of tomorrow – Web 3.0.
Web 3.0 is becoming a reality which will not only affect any learner’s professional life and lifelong learning. It will affect the knowledge and skills he or she will need to develop, but it will also affect learning using digital technology. In my 2 years as co-founder of RAVEN, we have paced ourselves through multiple depths of technology, and are already looking at new ways of learning which might have sounded like science fiction a few years ago.
For those who do not know what Web 3.0 is, a short explanation beckons. Today, we are still using web technologies invented decades ago which are significantly limited by design. The web protocols we have today were designed for connecting pages of information across a network of nodes, a flat, 2D infrastructure – not people, places or things across the world. The first computers were able to digitize numbers. Next, computers were able to digitize text – word processors were born – which allowed us to edit, save and share text files. The digitisation of words also allowed the creation of hypertext, leading to the creation of the World Wide Web, or Web 1.0. Next, came the digitisation of media. Accelerating mobile technology allowed media to be captured and shared at amazing scale and pace, which led to powerful network effects in the digital space – Web 2.0. Today, we are at the dawn of the Web 3.0 era.
The Web 3.0 era will not be defined by any single technology, but by an integrated stack of technologies which will utilize Spatial (augmented, virtual and mixed reality), Physical (IoT, Wearables and Robotics), Cognitive (Quantum Computing, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence) and Distributed (Blockchain and Edge Computing) computing technologies in a holistic approach (Source: The Spatial Web, Rene and Mapes, 2019). All these technologies will have a profound impact on how we achieve sustainability in the aerospace industry within our operational environments. They will affect every stratum of every organization, both sides of their balance sheet and their carbon footprint. Importantly, they will impact the way tomorrow’s professionals will learn, including how they develop their green skills.
The Future of Digital Learning
The classic way of approaching computing systems is via a three-tier architecture: Interface, Logic and Data. Digital learning is following, but lagging behind, the evolution of the Web. At RAVEN, guiding the air mobility industry on the right path to digitalised learning is our raison d’etre. The industry is still emerging out of a Web 1.0 model, where digitized learning is delivered in a one-way fashion utilizing web portals and centralized servers. RAVEN will provide for the transition to a Web 2.0 mode of learning, enabling social and immersive learning to leverage network effects. But we are already looking ahead to power a Web 3.0 approach to aerospace learning – with sustainability as a core cross-cutting skill which underlies every learning experience.
At the spatial interface tier, AR and VR headsets, smart glasses and haptic devices to visualize, speak and touch digital content and objects to immerse the learner into the remote digital aerospace environment. With high fidelity devices, the learner will be able to interact wholly or partially with environments which would normally constitute unacceptable hazards and risks if they were to be simulated in the physical world. Metaverse solutions will allow for the seamless transition of aerospace professionals across the globe from physical to the digital world of learning – wherever they are. This could include metaverse classrooms, or wider learning environments where the learner would be able to construct personalized learning experiences through micro-purchases.
At the physical interface tier, sensors, wearables and robotics will allow Web 3.0 processors to see, hear, touch and feel physical objects. The boundaries between the digital and physical world will become ever more blurred. Wearables may allow the real-time transfer of environmental data during on-the-job training, for example. IoT sensors will allow platforms such as RAVEN to detect the learner’s physical presence at a learning experience to register attendance, or allow it to integrate with other physical objects used in the learning experience.
At the cognitive level, computer solutions will mimic human thought processes and allow for the simulation of professional experiences for learning purposes. Quantum computing will have a staggering effect on the processing power of the future, allowing technologies such as AI and machine learning to have a profound effect on how we learn. For example, skill building solutions such as RAVEN will utilize machine learning and artificial intelligence to be the professional’s workplace companion and simulate given scenarios.
All these technologies will continuously reference distributed data. Blockchain and distributed ledger technology will allow for its secure, immutable and transparent storage. They will also allow for the shifting of data ownership to the end user. The benefits in the highly regulated mobility industry are evident. Blockchain will allow the storage of digital certificates, the immutable validation of data, and the transparent storage of data for use in quality systems. It will allow for the execution of smart contracts to achieve greater efficiency and better effectiveness in adopting more sustainable solutions.
Aviation has emerged from its darkest days, and significant challenges lie ahead. But if we are to ensure the industry’s survival, we need to embrace new, innovative, digital solutions which may be different from our archaic, traditional approach. Especially in the world of digital learning. Sustainability has become an over-utilized word. But we must remember that sustainability is multi-faceted. Yes, the environment is one side of it. But the other two legs of the stool are economic and social sustainability. A successful three pronged approach will only be possible through the use of technology, and by embracing the Web 3.0 solutions of tomorrow.