London mayor Boris Johnson has tasked the financial technology (fintech) community with building delivery drones that alleviate the capital’s congestion problem.
He presented his challenge at a fintech launch in Singapore during his six-day tour of South East Asia.
Fintech firms are more commonly known for creating payment transfer platforms and contactless payment solutions but that didn't put Johnson off.
Speaking to an audience of fintech entrepreneurs, he said: “We have a problem, folks – all this internet shopping is leading to a massive increase in white van traffic dropping this stuff off - 45 percent it’s going to go up in London in the next seven years. That’s going to be terrible for congestion in our city and doubtless the same will be true of Singapore as well.
“I look out at this brilliant audience here today, bulging with ideas, and I ask you possibly to solve it. We need a solution … Is it, as I hope, going to be drones? I want to be controlling an app that enables my shopping not only to be click and collect … I want my own personal drone to come and drop it wherever I choose.”
Tech firms such as Amazon and Facebook are already working on their own drones, with the former trialling them at a research and development facility in Cambridge.
While in Singapore, Johnson and a cohort of industry representatives have been busy banging the drum for London’s fintech scene. For example, the mayor used the trip to announce that fintech firms in the UK capital have raised £342 million in 2014, more than any other year on record.
Passion Capital’s Eileen Burbidge is also on the trade mission along with representatives from 26 tech companies including money transfer service Azimo, e-commerce firm Shopitize and Inspired Mobile.
While meeting the nation's startups, Johnson was given a demo of an app called Vieweet, which allows a shopper to browse a store online by virtually walking down aisles and looking at products on the shelves.
Johnson told the audience that the app offered a solution to his family buying the same food all the time, leading to a surplus of value chickpeas.
Vieweet co-founder Domenic Versace said: “Online shopping is largely about picking things off a list. It doesn’t really engage the consumer in the same way as actually being in a shop. What we’re trying to do is bridge that gap.”