Home' Asian Aviation : AAV Sept 2014 Contents AsianAviation | SEPTEMBER 2014 35
a smartphone, less than 5% use mobile check-in,
Near-field communications is no longer the
"in" technology being explored. On the ground,
the technologies which offer most potential, if
presentations at the event are anything to go by, are
iBeacons and wearable devices.
iBeacons use Bluetooth Low Energy and geo-
fencing to trigger the display of location-relevant
information on devices including smartphones and
tablets. Beacons have a range from 2m to 100m
and cost just US$10 each. The technology has
been incorporated in Apple's iOS7, allowing airlines
to use the technology to provide passengers with
directions in airports, provide guidance on walk times
to gates, lounge access and boarding alerts via their
smartphones and tablets.
SITA has launched the Common-use Beacon
Registry to provide the air transport industry
with a single point of contact for common-use
beacons. A common-use approach is fundamental
to the technology's success, SITA believes. "The
technology is interesting but we need to manage
it properly," says Francesco Violante, SITA chief
executive officer. The registry provides information
on the exact location of beacons and allows airlines
and airports to share beacons to provide location
information and provide personalised services to
passengers via apps, which passengers need to
SITA has tested the technology with a number
of airlines and airports, including Dallas/Fort Worth
International Airport and San Francisco International
Airport in conjunction with American Airlines, London
Heathrow with Virgin Atlantic and Shanghai Hongqiao
International Airport and Copenhagen Airport.
The pilot project at Dallas/Fort Worth with American
is the largest airport deployment to date, with 100-
plus beacons throughout the airport's Terminal D.
American believes beacons offer huge potential to
improve the passenger experience. "It's all about
keeping the customer happy. Beacons tell you where
you need to be and what's around you," says Phillip
Easter, American's director of mobile apps.
American has been trying to provide indoor
location services for a long time, says Easter,
adding that beacons do the job far better than
WiFi. Concerns of passenger overload of beacon
alerts should be allayed by the fact that passengers
need to opt in to the applications and can opt out
at any time so they have control over it, he points
out. There will need to be some constraint when
it comes to app development, concedes Kevin
O'Sullivan, lead engineer at SITA's research and
development unit, SITA Lab.
In addition to passenger applications, American
has identified operational uses, including baggage
handling and airport vehicle applications, with
beacons bridging the connection between operations
and passengers. "We're excited about their use for
bags, planes and customers," concurs O'Sullivan.
Following a 180 day beacon trial at DFW,
American is fine-tuning the customer experience
through beta tests with a small group of customers
ahead of launch to the general public this quarter
and expansion to additional hubs, says Easter.
SITA expects at least 10 airports to proceed with
beacon programmes over the next 12 months, with the
technology suitable for airports of all sizes. "Everybody
has their eye on beacons", says O'Sullivan.
Wearable technology, like Google Glass, is
also attracting considerable interest from airports
and airlines after initial trials. Copenhagen Airport
has completed a two-month trial of Google Glass
in conjunction with SITA Lab. Two passenger
handling agents at the airport used Google Glass
for troubleshooting, translation and communication
services. The feedback was positive, resulting in a
superior passenger service, according to Renaud
Irminger, director of SITA Lab.
"The feedback from our passengers and service
team has been overwhelmingly positive," says Marie-
Louise Lotz, director customer care, Copenhagen
Airport. The airport is now looking at how it could
efficiently introduce wearable technology.
Integrated with airport systems, Google Glass
could be a powerful tool, predicts Irminger.
Trials have highlighted issues with the technology,
however. In particular, the devices require improved
scanning capability, battery life, robustness
and reduced heating during operation before
widespread adoption, says SITA. SITA believes
its role is to demonstrate how the technology
can change the passenger journey and airport
operations and prepare the industry for when the
technology is ready for widescale use.
Following a well-publicised trial in conjunction
with SITA at London Heathrow, Virgin Atlantic is
already planning regular use of Google Glass, Craig
Kreeger, chief executive officer of the airline told
The use of Google Glass by cabin crew onboard
aircraft could be the next development, with SITA
having a proposal for such usage with an airline.
One airline which would be keen to use Google
Glass for in-flight service is Saudia Arabian
Airlines, with Abdulrahman Al Fahad, vice-president
marketing and product management saying: "The
minute Google Glass is available for in-flight service
we would like to use it."
The latest technology being tested by SITA Lab
is biometric wearable devices, including Bionym's
"The feedback from our passengers
and service team has been
director customer care, Copenhagen Airport
Copenhagen Airport is now looking at how it can
use wearable technology after a successful trial.
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