Published: 26 Jun 2019

Mark Bohun, Commercial Director at UKAS, explains how technology and consumer behaviour are influencing the way we perceive risk and assess the safety of a product or service.

The rapidly increasing digitalisation of industry and society is changing how products are manufactured, delivered, and consumed by the public. 

The fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0 as it has become known, is seeing the emergence of innovative information technologies to all areas of production. 

Technologies such as artificial intelligence, distributed ledger technologies, smart sensors, augmented reality, and next generation automation are changing business models and shifting supply chains.

Despite this shifting backdrop, consumer desire for quality, safety and sustainability remains intact. However, reliance on digital peer-to-peer reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor and Amazon to validate and seek reassurance of purchasing decisions has not been without issue or negative press coverage.

At the same time, we have seen some reports of an erosion of public confidence in traditional institutions established to provide assurance when issues such as the Volkswagen emissions scandal arise. 

Consumer behaviour

Technology and consumer behaviour are influencing the way that we perceive risk and assess the safety, security and performance of a product or service. This changing technological environment therefore provides us and the Testing, Inspection and Certification (TIC) industry with the opportunity to connect and interact more efficiently and effectively – it will reinforce our role as a ‘provider of trust’ in underpinning value chains, as well as being a propellant of new technologies.

As we move to greater connectivity, automation, mobile payments, and driverless cars, accreditation will underpin confidence in the life cycle of the systems and software that enable them to operate. Accredited conformity assessment will provide trust in verifying the information that is fed into these systems, as well as ensuring confidentiality of this information is handled in the right way.  

A study carried out by Long Finance and PwCconcluded that distributed ledger technologies (blockchain) would benefit from ‘voluntary standards markets’ in the areas of taxonomies and performance, data governance and liability, and commercial governance – voluntary standards markets being defined as a commercial system in which actual and potential buyers and suppliers of products and services rely on accredited conformity assessments.

Some accredited certification and inspection bodies have developed cloud-based systems to provide greater insight for customers and their supply chains.

A joint paperby BSI, the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment and Long Finance also recommended the development of voluntary standards to support Financial Services Regulation in areas such as anti-money laundering, capacity trading, central bank management, hedge funds, peer-to-peer insurance and lending. 

We are already involved in providing assurance in areas of information and cyber security, eGaming, digital forensics and software testing. Some accredited certification and inspection bodies have developed cloud-based systems to provide greater insight for customers and their supply chains. UKAS is following suit with the development a database to support supply chains and to have access to data and detailed quality performance KPIs on supplier, auditor and certification body performance.

We will also see greater digitisation in the way we manage our customer relationships through greater self-service, to digital platforms to support the management of their assessments. The analysis of data will also enhance our oversight of conformity assessment bodies through ongoing monitoring of competence and performance analytics. This path will ensure that accreditation, the TIC industry and other traditional quality infrastructure partners remain relevant and continue to be a provider of trust.

This approach will need collaboration between quality infrastructure partners here in the UK and with overseas standards makers, accreditation bodies, and representatives from the TIC sector. We would welcome your thoughts and the opportunity to collaborate.