2011 was a good year for SITA Lab. We concentrated our efforts in three key themes: Social networking, near field communications (NFC) and WiFi indoor location.
In April we launched, with Malaysia Airlines, the world's first airline booking engine integrated with Facebook .Called MHbuddy,this uses your social graph to let you see if any of your friends are on a flight when you're making a booking and to see where they are sitting as you check in. It remains to be seen if social becomes established as a new distribution channel, or if all other channels just integrate with social as standard. But it certainly opens up new promotional opportunities.
Near field communications (NFC)
SITA Lab worked with Orange Labs to conduct a research project on NFC, using an NFC-enabled phone as a boarding pass to automatically open security, airline lounge and boarding gates. NFC is still an evolving space with multiple implementation models. We chose to implement a solution taking full advantage of the secure element on the SIM card and over the air deployment from a trusted service manager (TSM) to the device. The project was a success and we now have a dedicated NFC demo room in our Geneva offices.
NFC holds much promise for simplifying the journey and IATA is looking closely at this technology. Our project has identified the need for standards to drive forward the use of NFC and we look forward to working IATA on this in 2012.
Contact the Lab if you would like to arrange a visit to the NFC demo room in Geneva.
WiFi indoor location
This was a significant project for us in 2011. We looked at two key use cases - using WiFi for airport operations and using WiFi for passenger navigation. In cooperation with Copenhagen Airport we launched two applications. One is the world's first indoor augmented reality application for passengers to find amenities near them. The other is a dwell time analysis platform that gathers statistics on how much time people spend in various parts of the airport and can identify the most common routes passengers take through the airport. The platform is generating enough rich and detailed new information for Copenhagen's Central Analysis team to keep them busy through 2012!
With Dallas Forth Worth Airport we did a WiFi RSSI site survey of the airport (known as WiFi signature or WiFi fingerprinting) and developed Binnacle, an Android application that can use this data to determine location and allow the phone user to navigate between any two points in the airport. Binnacle will of course highlight airport amenities and services to the passengers as they pass them.
The recent launch of Google Maps v6.0 validates the importance of indoor location. The entry of Google into the airport space raises many questions about how will they play and will they play nice, per their "do no evil" mantra. Indoor maps, navigation and location based services based on geolocation offers a multitude of new ways to interact with the traveler and just as many ways to potentially monetize that interaction in some way. I recommend, airport operators and airlines need to be aware of how this ecosystem develops and make sure they don't give up all the potential revenue opportunities up to 3rd parties.
In addition to the above projects, the Lab also found time to win the inaugural TNooz THack event held in London with the voice-controlled booking engine - booking made so easy even a child could do it (believe me! Watch the video). The Lab was also awarded the CAPA 2011 IT Innovation Award together with Malaysia Airlines, which recognized the innovation model we have established and a sequence of successful projects - MHmobile, MHkiosk, MHbuddy, MHdeals.
Stay tuned to this space for more exciting developments coming up in 2012.