As someone who has worked at SITA for many years, I understand a fundamental truth about the company: our role is to shape and transform the air transport community through our technology expertise. To achieve that success in a competitive market SITA has to go above and beyond. All the time.
There are certain aspects of SITA which really stand out to me as definitive, consistent examples of this. First and foremost, my colleagues’ unrivalled and recognized expertise in air transport IT and communications. Second, SITA’s symbiotic relationship with the whole air transport community. Our job is not only to respond to the needs of the industry, but also to help shape the industry and drive it forward. SITA has repeatedly proven itself to be an innovator, shaping the future of IT in our industry. That has largely been because of our willingness to venture into new territory and not being afraid to run ambitious trials. Smart Path™, which we launched this week at the Passenger Terminal Expo (PTE,) is a perfect example.
It is about the creation of a secure travel token based on a biometric check when the passenger first arrives at the airport. It allows the passenger to move through each airport touch point - check-in, bag drop, security access and boarding - with only a facial scan, so the passenger never needs to present their boarding pass, passport or other travel documents. Unlike other offerings, ours can be easily integrated into the existing airport infrastructure and airline and government systems, so it is quick and easy to deploy.
All innovative technology has to be thoroughly tested to iron out any teething problems. Smart Path™, for example, was put to the test at a major airport hub to make sure it worked perfectly.
Collaborating with airports and airlines to realize the full potential from new solutions is essential to enabling truly transformational technology.
Our work with Miami International Airport, one of our key innovation ‘partners’, is another example of what can be achieved with collaboration. The airport is a member of our customer advisory board and often undertakes trials with SITA Lab. It’s no surprise the airport was one of the first in the US to offer self-service kiosks at passport control and more recently became the first airport to launch a location-aware app which exploits beacon technology. Innovation is exciting when it can change the way of doing business delivering real benefits to the passenger and other stakeholders.
What challenges do we face today?
Having the airport industry together under one roof at PTE has been a good chance to gather opinions on what the industry feels to be its biggest challenges. With IATA’s baggage resolution looming, baggage tracking is an obvious one. How can we trace all baggage end-to-end? What technology innovation will allow us to do so quickly and cost-effectively?
It has been very clear from the start that the community of airports, airlines, ground handlers and suppliers will have to work together if we are to meet the resolution’s requirements. SITA has been happy to proactively contribute given our unrivalled experience in baggage management.
Just yesterday, we announced that SITA and Lufthansa have worked together to develop the next-generation WorldTracer® system, an easy-to-use baggage tracing technology which will transform the way airlines repatriate mishandled baggage.
SITA is also working directly with IATA to develop new baggage tracking capabilities to help implement Resolution 753. In fact, we have tasked SITA Lab to carry out trials to test various new technologies. We don’t yet know the outcome of course. We do know our challenge is to produce innovative technology to deliver tangible community benefits through improved collaboration and information sharing. Our first-hand experience from these trials will put us in a better position to deliver more value back to the community.
SITA’s ability and willingness to go above and beyond is the thing that has kept me challenged and excited for nearly two decades. In fact, it’s why so many people stay at SITA long term and why we retain such an amazing team of experts. While innovation and progress involve constant change, our purpose remains steadfast: we are here to serve the air transport community and to create success together.