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Innovation + integration = seamless travel?

Stephanie Taylor discovers that while there’s no lack of innovation in the air transport industry, the growth of new technology and new methods of communication need to come together in a coherent manner to really ensure all parties feel the benefits.

Quinn explained how one group created a game in which a certain airport (mapped virtually to reflect its real layout) was attacked by aliens and that the higher the scores secured by passengers, the larger their discount code for Starbucks was before their journey.

Joe Leader, CEO of APEX, said that live-bidding for a seat upgrade in-flight was another good idea, something which a company called SeatBoost are already offering at the gate for Virgin America flights from McCarran International Airport and flights between San Francisco and Las Vegas. Leader envisions a future where crewmembers could be managing auctions on-board through the in-flight entertainment system.

In other words, there are still ways in which we can engage with passengers throughout their journey. However, the conference quickly began to centre around the fact that to really improve the travel experience rather than complicate it (thereby giving passengers a case of analysis paralysis about where to get the best services and information), there needs to be a serious element of ‘application integration’. All these cool features need to live under one roof.

Maurice Jenkins, director of information systems and telecommunications, Miami-Dade Aviation Department, acknowledged this during his time on-stage, and suggested the airport’s API could be embedded into an airline app (or vice versa) and the two parties could revenue share.

It’s the same with connectivity. Until 5G service becomes available – which Jérôme Poulain, VP International of Orange Business Services, estimates will be from 2018 onwards – to deal with the 50% year-over-year growth in bandwidth usage (cited by his colleague Pierre-Louis Biaggi, VP of the company’s connectivity business unit) a hybrid approach would have to do. Orange Business Services believe this will be achieved through internet multiprotocol label switching (MPLS).

sita%20it%20summit%203Sebastien Fabre, VP integrated networks business line for SITA, re-iterated this point, saying different parts of the journey currently require different types of connectivity – there’s Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, cellular, etc – and that they all have different infrastructure and access methods. Especially difficult from a security standpoint, commented Fabre, is ‘roamers’ or, for example, pilots and crew who aren’t part of the local network and then sign in once they arrive at an airport.

His theoretical solution to this problem is the introduction of global standards in the Air Traffic Industry, common between airlines and airports, which will allow both local customers and roamers to stay connected securely. Challenged about how this would complicate existing Service Level Agreements, Fabre said SLAs will become optional in the face of global standards, which Biaggi added was the only viable way of bringing the cost of connectivity down in the air travel industry (ATI). These ideas formed the basis of another theme of the conference, collaboration between key ATI sectors and companies.

With the average person predicted to have over 10 connected devices with them by 2020, the sooner the industry can work together to tap further into a passenger’s needs (and thereby increase their propensity to spend) the better.

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