Application programming interfaces (APIs) and mobile applications empower passengers on their day of travel and keep all stakeholders on the same page, or screen.
Jim Peters, CTO, SITA
We all know the connected traveler wants information, which sounds simple enough. But when you take into account the different types of information, from all the different sources and different owners, it gets very complicated very quickly.
For travelers, though, it’s easy. They want information when they want it, where they want it.
This need for information has led to the creation of thousands of travel apps. In fact, if you search ‘travel’ on iTunes App Store, you’ll find 17,000 apps with the word ‘travel’ in them. Obviously, this isn’t sustainable. It’s not going to work over the long haul – and Apple and Google know it.
What if, instead of having an app, you downloaded an experience? An experience that includes your flight, your hotel, your restaurants, your tourist spots, your business locales – everything needed to create your travel experience. What would that look like?
That may indeed be where we’re headed with APIs, but it’s not going to happen tomorrow. In the meantime, there are incremental steps being taken that can help the air transport industry overcome some of its most pressing challenges around data and the use of all these apps.
One step is called ‘deep-linking,’ which means exactly what it says: linking from one app to another, or to the Web. Apps are typically seen as walled gardens; you can’t go outside them. But the concept of deep-linking is changing that, and it’s creating a new level of collaboration in data sharing.
One worry that may prevent widespread adoption by airlines is “If I link to another provider’s app or website, will the user come back to me?”
The answer is: Yes. They will come back, and they’ll stay on your app as long as the content is useful to them. So airlines will have to give up a little bit of branding in order to adopt a new level of collaboration, but this will allow the passenger to move from app to app to get all the necessary information they need when they need it.
We can’t invent the data, and we can’t invent the specs, but we can provide the platform for all interested parties to come together and address the data problems that are out there.Arnaud Lambert, CEO, CHAMP Cargosystems
As I said, the industry has pressing challenges around data and how it’s being used. If you’re curious, go into the iTunes Store and look at the reviews for those thousands of travel apps. It’s easy to locate the challenges: just look at the one-star reviews. Unfortunately, there are plenty of them.
Examples include: “It gave me the wrong data. I can’t use it.” “Waste of time. Not up to date.” “Just use the Web instead.” And “Works fine until flights get delayed, rebooked or the gate changes.”
All of these go back to data issues – especially around flight information. There’s a good reason for this. The data has three main stakeholders: air traffic control, the airline, and the airport. It’s a big challenge to get them all on the same page – or, the same screen.
Air traffic control notifies the airport and airline of a flight delay, but the app is updated only by the airline. Do the right staff have access to update the app on the go, so the passenger receives it when it’s needed and not 10 minutes later, when it’s too late?
A key opportunity is to have a neutral service provider, like SITA, help to aggregate and broker the data. There are two pieces in creating such a data brokerage service: standards and APIs.
You have to create standards for how the data will be shared, how it’s disseminated. SITA is working with IATA and ACI on this. They’ve made some strides; they have the Airport Community Recommended Information Services (ACRIS) and the Aviation Information Data Exchange (AIDX).
There’s still work to be done, but we’ve made a start. The best news is that IATA and ACI are collaborating. It’s a great step that the main governing bodies for airlines and airports are going to each other’s meetings.
APIs are what allow airlines and airports to push information to users – both passengers and personnel. Not only can they push information out, but thanks to location or proximity-based technologies like beacons, they allow information to come back to the cloud where the data is stored and sifted.
This allows for real-time analytics and business intelligence – keeping everyone on the same page or screen – air traffic control, airlines, airports, and the passenger.
SITA’s community API platform, developer.aero, supports the app ecosystem. It includes both customer-facing and workforce APIs. There’s a lot of data that could move back and forth between them.
We can’t invent the data, and we can’t invent the specs, but we can provide the platform for all interested parties to come together and address the data problems that are out there.
A good example of an API in action is Etihad’s use of SITA’s BagJourney API for end-to-end bag tracking, from check-in to the destination airport.
BagJourney unlocks huge amounts of industry baggage data that passes through SITA’s global, fully-managed baggage message and distribution service, BagMessage. This information can then be shared as needed with Etihad Airways’ crew and airport staff.
Robert Webb, the airlines Etihad Airways’ Chief Information and Technology Officer, cites the ability for Etihad to “follow guests’ bags through every stage of their travels, which helps reduce mishandling and delays.”
BagJourney is a great example of how APIs can harness huge amounts of industry data for the benefit of passengers. Our new BI services for passengers are another (see A new era of intelligence). They underline the advantages of an industry-neutral data aggregator, such as SITA.
Of course, it’s a role suited to SITA as an industry-owned organization with an exclusive air transport focus.
We can provide scale too: most travel apps are issued by airlines who are our core customers. And, we can leverage developer.aero and the SITA ATI Cloud infrastructure, processes and know-how to truly empower passengers through APIs.
Launched in 2012 by SITA, developer.aero is a development resource for the air transport developer community and other interested parties. It provides a range of powerful APIs to stimulate technological innovation in the air transport industry.
Developer.aero offers all the data and tools to build complete passenger and aircraft solutions across the travel journey – planning and booking, airport operations and security, baggage, aircraft connectivity, and in-flight cabin and cockpit operations.