Andy Rainforth, Managing Director delves into the shifting norms and how it plays a role within society as we know it.

I recently overheard two people bemoaning the fact that ‘young people’ couldn’t tell the time from a wristwatch and couldn’t even calculate change from a bank note. Cue audible gasps and rolling of eyes. “Oh, the youth of today”.



I have to admit, that my first instinct was to silently agree about this terrible state of affairs. But then when one considers that the majority of under 30s – dubbed the Millennial Generation – think of a dial-faced wristwatch as formal attire, rather than for telling the time, the situation is perhaps more a reflection of shifting ‘norms’ rather than declining standards.

I have a terrible confession to make – I can’t shoe a horse. I can’t make a candle or whittle wood into anything vaguely useful. 150 years ago I would have been a fairly hopeless member of English village society. Thankfully evolving technology has eliminated my shortcomings (well these ones at least) and the flicking of a light switch is now a ‘norm’ in almost all societies.

The astonishing mass adoption of the smartphone over the last 10 years and the mobilisation of the internet onto hand-held devices has facilitated a staggering shift in consumer behaviour. The ‘smartphone generation’ would argue that strapping a time-piece to the wrist when you have your entire calendar always at your fingertips, is a thing of the past.

And let’s consider the criticism of not being able to calculate correct change. How long will it be before mass adoption of contactless payment from smart and wearable technologies render small change a thing of the past also?

For those of us in technology led businesses, the ability to recognise shifting norms can be an important insight – and a product or service doesn’t need to be hugely ahead of its time or wildly different – it can often be those innovations that are seen as an incremental step change that is the most disruptive. Timing is also key in technology-driven shifts. The capability must be matched by the desire of the market; people must be ready to make the change.

Consider Uber. It’s a relatively small step for consumers to try the service and those early adopters inevitably become marketing evangelists as the benefits of the model are so powerful compared to the traditional taxi and private hire offerings.

When I was a small boy I predicted a cash-less future and a handheld device for communicating across the planet. Before I am considered a visionary I should balance this with my predictions for personal Jet-Packs and Leeds United winning the FA Cup again– neither of which look likely to happen anytime soon. But as a bit of a dreamer, I consider how shifting norms could impact the future of people movement and security in public and private buildings.

There is an interesting paradox where businesses and individuals strive to be more efficient, quicker and have greater productivity, but in a world of increasing physical security and greater regulation in the workplace, both of which can traditionally stifle these aims – how will the two be married?

Imagine someone unlocking and opening a workplace door from their smartphone (without having to remove it from their pocket) and the building being intelligent enough to trigger a chain of events to increase both their productivity and safety. The elevator is called and people are ‘grouped’ and delivered to their destination floor. Perhaps the heating, ventilation, and lighting are turned on in the appropriate office or a PC is powered up at a workstation, ready for our worker to arrive. Their smartphone or fingerprint becomes a universal ‘key’ that was used for printing, cashless vending, task and project billing, or a dozen other daily routines and activities – every time slightly increasing the speed or efficiency of each of these tasks. And of course this process is used to control access to relevant parts of the building or campus – letting the good guys in and keeping the bad guys out.

At the end of the day, our employee uses their smartphone or wearable technology to leave the premises, reversing all the power-up activities and recording their time worked and the appropriate shift allowances.

The impact on energy saving, waste reduction, operating efficiencies and HR/payroll administration effort are obvious, but perhaps the most existing part is that this step change is driven by a simple behavioural shift of the consumer, or in this case the worker. Workplace ‘interactions’ with numerous internal systems would be as simple as paying for a cup of coffee – just wave your smartphone at it. This is not the business of tomorrow; it’s the Grosvenor customer of today. We deliver people management and security solutions to forward-thinking companies globally by creating smart environments for Access Control and Human Capital Managements.

This is not the business of tomorrow; it’s the Grosvenor customer of today. We deliver people management and security solutions to forward-thinking companies globally by creating smart environments for Access Control and Human Capital Managements. Join the discussion on Andy Rainforth’s Linkedin page and share your views on this exciting topic here.