The 2014 Air Transport IT Summit officially kicked off at yesterday's welcome drinks and buffet dinner in the exhibition hall. Amid the SITA and sponsor demo booths was the constant hum of networking between hundreds of delegates. The SITA Lab's wearable computing demo was a big hit as delegates tried on the Google Glass and SmartWatch used by Virgin Atlantic staff in an award-winning pioneering pilot.
Today, the summit started in force with four Industry Insight Sessions:
Airline IT Trends - the overview
The first session of this year's summit addressed the results of the annual Airline IT Trends Survey. Nigel Pickford, SITA's Director of Market Insight, got the ball rolling by stressing that the survey's results confirm airlines are looking to move self-service into new areas. While the majority of airlines already offer self-service solutions for check-in, they are investigating options for baggage drop-off as well.
I used my time on stage to discuss the limitations of mobile technology - especially as they relate to passenger preferences and technology.
The panelist discussion that concluded the session was lively and informative. Kerem Kiziltunc of Turkish Airlines, Richard Clarke of Travel Technology Research and Paul Behan of IATA joined Nigel and myself on stage to discuss the key findings of the survey. Max Kingsley-Jones, Editor of Airline Business, did a great job moderating us and keeping the discussion moving forward.
Catering for smarter travelers - but what will they be consuming? And wearing?
Shashank Nigam, CEO of SimpliFlying, started the panel discussion by stating, 'The connected traveler now brings the living room onboard'. As passengers share their experiences - the good, the bad and the ugly - airlines and airports need to prepare. This means being where the passengers are; for example, Air New Zealand is the largest airline on Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site, to reach Chinese passengers. Shashank stressed the importance of having a social media team that cuts across the organization - not just Marketing, but also IT, Ancillary Revenue and Customer Service.
Paul Behan of IATA and Allison O'Neill, VP of Passenger Solutions for SITA, discussed how best to respond to passenger and industry trends. They concluded that flexible systems are required to engage with passengers and innovate for the industry.
A revolution in the air - improving the flying experience
The third session addressed the opportunities and challenges related to the connected aircraft the connected aircraft. David Stewart of ICF International pointed out that the technology advantages go beyond the passenger experience. Indeed, the connected aircraft will drive greater operational efficiency, in flight and on the ground. Mary Kirby presented an overview of providers and models in the current in-flight connectivity market. Abdulrahman Al Fahad of Saudia discussed the challenges of providing in-flight internet access to passengers - especially for carriers coming from countries with internet usage rates above 50%. Ian Dawkins of OnAir considered the long-range view, looking at 2020 and what the benefits of in-flight connectivity will be, including personalization of services and experience.
The capacity for innovation - tomorrow's airport experience
The final Industry Insight Session addressed kiosks, wearable computing and beacons. Maurice Jenkins of Miami International Airport showed how Automated Passport Control (APC) kiosks have reduced average process time to 37-90 seconds. Jim Peters, CTO of SITA, took the stage wearing a set of Google Glass and proceeded to show their potential in the air transport industry. Jim also talked about beacons and SITA Lab's work at airports to establish a Beacon Registry, where airports can register their beacons (see the video below). Finally, Phillip Easter of American Airlines concluded the session by speaking up the huge opportunities for wearable computing among airline staff.
Later this evening, delegates will be treated to a cocktail reception and gala dinner, where awards will be given to SITA Members celebrating 50- and 60-year anniversaries.
Then it's off to bed to prepare for tomorrow's plenary sessions, which promise to be just as informative and exciting. Watch this space for a roundup of tomorrow's activity - or, better yet, follow along in real-time on Twitter, using #ATIS2014.