Image Courtesy : http://esa.int
For those who panic when faced with long queues at airports or juggle an armload of reading material while boarding a flight, there is help at hand. Several technology applications are now being developed to ease travellers’ woes ranging from location -based apps to kiosks that load favourite reading lists onto personal devices as well as wearables that help airlines identify and usher passengers swiftly onto a plane. Geneva based aviation technology provider SITA has launched a global beacon registry for airlines who want to communicate with passengers as they enter an airport. The beacons, coin-sized transmitters that can communicate with mobile devices within a radius of 100 feet, bypassing a telecom or Wi-Fi network, identify the location of the passenger and send regular updates.
This can range from information in change of boarding gates, estimated walk time to a gate and alerts about boarding. The airport shops can also send offers to their smartphones. We have launched the SITA Common-use Beacon Registry to give the industry a single point of contact, observed Jim Peters, Chief Technology Officer, SITA, at the annual Air Transport IT Summit, held in Brussels last month.
With it, airports can control and share the meta data – the exact location of a passenger. For the technology to work, a passenger has to install the mobile app of an airline. Handset makers like Apple have integrated technology to accept beacon signals on iO7 based iPhones and iPads, while pilots have also begun with smartphones that use Google’s Android.
About 525 airports globally, use SITA’s technology for baggage handling or airport management. International airports at cities such as Dallas, San Francisco, Shanghai and Copenhagen have already started installations. Beacons will significantly improve the passenger experience, but to do so they must be consistently deployed at all airports, observed Phil Easter, Director, Mobile Apps at American Airlines.
However Indian Airports are not expected to adopt the technology anytime soon., as there is still greater need to let other airports experiment with it. Only after beacons have proved stable to an airport will we install in Indian airports, stated JM Jolly, General Manager (IT) at Airports Authority of India. A number of other tech innovations are going to ease air travel in coming months. To easen up the load of a passenger, SITA has manufactured kiosks which can load any amount of newspapers and magazines on an iPad or smartphone as soon as a passenger places his or her boarding pass on the machine.
Meanwhile, technology has started replacing immigration officials at some global airports. Airports such as Miami, San Diego and Boston have installed automated passport control kiosks. A US resident can swipe his or her passport at the kiosk. The ATM sized kiosk takes a picture, fingerprints and hands out a receipt to the passenger. It has shortened queue times at airports from 2 hours to two minutes giving agents enough time to query suspects, according to Ray Batt, director, government solutions for SITA.
A few startups are also developing technology to ease air travel. Toronto based startup Nymi makes watch-sized wearables, that can synchronize with the unique heartbeat of a passenger. Virgin Atlantic is planning a pilot with Nymi devices. ‘We will get to know the profile of a passenger wearing Nymi as he or she nears an airport. For premium passengers, we can receive them outside the airport and proceed them swiftly to board the plane, claimed said Craig Kreeger, CEO at Virgin Atlantic.