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Airport Companion – Connecting 64 million people

January 18, 2017


shutterstock_408313891 [Converted]A recent article in Passenger Terminal World looked at the practical application of interconnected mobile solutions and how to gain the best return on investment across the entire aviation ecosystem.  Let’s take this one step further and look at what some may say would be utopia within the industry as well as essential to manage the size of operation noted in IATAs 20-year forecast.

With its multi-functional operation, dynamic pace and ever growing passenger demands it’s fair to say the aviation ecosystem has its challenges. However, challenges = opportunities and for aviation IT specialists and solution innovators the aviation ecosystem is a fantastic playground to test ideas and to take on the challenge of improved efficiency, exponential passenger growth, expanding airports and more fights to more destinations.

To give an idea of the size and scale of the playground, the 20-year forecast from IATA states;‘In 2015, the world’s airlines safely transported 3.5 billion people and 51 million metric tons of cargo. They accomplished this with a workforce of nearly 10 million people managing a fleet of 26,000 aircraft averaging 100,000 flights a day over a global network of 51,000 routes.’ I think you’d agree this is an impressive playground.

In addition passenger numbers are forecast to double to 7 million by 2034.  It’s not ‘aviation science’ to connect this increase with an increase, over the same period of time in flights, bags handled, fleet size, routes, people and of course the size of the operation required to handle this.

So what might utopia look like?
shutterstock_421524469 [Converted]We know that mobile applications already play a huge role in the end-to-end operation;we know what’s available today and what is in production for release into the marketplace in the short-term.  You’ve probably read about the benefits of single sign-on giving access to multiple applications from a single mobile device based on job role with systems sharing data from a centralised source. The focus here of course is workforce mobilisation and collaboration which is paramount to enhanced end-to-end operations throughout the ecosystem.

Taking this one step further and what may be seen as utopia by some, is the combination of mobilisation and collaboration with system deployment – how quickly we can achieve mobilisation and collaboration on a global scale.

shutterstock_422516284 [Converted]Let’s say for example you could download a single application, for arguments sake let’s call it ‘Airport Companion’, from the Apple Store or Google Play in seconds to your mobile device – just like you do with any other App.  You’ve now got, through the Airport Companion App,instant access to arrival and departures information, FIDS data, PRM activity and requirements, passenger stats, baggage data, load balancing information and plans, service capture, resource availability– the list goes on.  All from one App all from one sign-in.

Now consider every employee across astations ecosystem from airport employees to airlines and ground service staff all download the Airport Companion App at the same time.  Then imagine employees at the arrival detestation download the App.  You see where this is going – instant deployment from station to region and global– nearly 10 million people would be connected within seconds all using the same platform, all sharing data to help enhance and improve operations on a global scale.  Utopia maybe. But not an absolute impossibility.

I wonder if on Christmas Day 1990, when Tim Berners-Lee set up the first successful communication between a Web browser and server via the Internet he saw his utopia.  Or, if 25 years after the WWW was launched to the public he envisaged connecting 3 billion people around the world.

Connecting 10 million people across the worldwide aviation ecosystem doesn’t seem so farfetched now; in fact the concept of the Aviation Companion almost seems like child’s play in a complex playground. Of course we could take this to the next stage again and connect all direct and indirect aviation employees, circa 64 million, including retail, customs, border control etc.

In addition to the speed of deployment software innovators would surely also look at opportunities to improve the applications with a focus on ease of use for employees and benefits to the passenger.

Airport Companion could provide different levels of access based on job role and access rights – read only for information purposes or read/write allowing the employee to interact with live data and operations. One example could be to update your FIDS data on the fly, change your airports digital advertising boards with the latest marketing campaigns, or even updating every screen with a special announcement, all whilst grabbing a coffee and using just your app.

Many reports throughout the industry cite passenger satisfaction as the most important metric for improvement within the ecosystem –why wouldn’t they – after all they do pay the bills.  Some of the key areas highlighted that passengers remember about their journey are the timeliness of check-in, the services offered prior to boarding, flight delays and bag retrieval at their final destination.  More recently we know that demand has grown to include more control over their journey. You could say a passenger’s utopia is a calm, functional and aesthetically pleasing environment that reduces the stress of international travel.

However, no matter how pleasant the environment, if waiting times are excessive, bags are frequently misconnected and flights are delayed, chances are the passenger is not a happy traveller.

We could connect the passenger, giving them the control they want,by providing on-demand accurate timely information sent direct to their personal mobile devices.  We can take this one step further by providing directions to their gate, what facilities and retail stores are on route, suggestions/advertisements dependant on the passenger profile – all possible in our utopia through the Aviation Companion App.

Chris Beling, Director, Zafire Aviation Software shares his thoughts on this “A technology company with the right resources and structural plan to combine knowledge and innovation with a foresight for the future can achieve utopia.   This clear vision where the aviation world brings technology to the masses, is easy to deploy and shares the costs to make system deployment totally flexible is not that far away.  No one wants to pay for apps which just provide information but in app purchases which add real operational benefits will become the standard.  Optimising resources, turning aircraft, dealing with issues, sharing information which will stream line operational processes and control costs will all eventually lead to a greater passenger experience and deliver,even exceed, expected service levels.”

Following on from Chris’s comment above it would appear that forward thinking technology companies are already working on the foundations and delivering customers benefits. With the adoption of mobile applications now accepted as common practise in the industry these frameworks are already supporting deployment across the entire ecosystem with collaboration, mobilisation and deployment as the cornerstones of the framework of the future.

Is the utopia illustrated here achievable? It would appear so.  Do we have to wait 20 year? It would appear not.

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    Zafire specialise in developing and implementing software for the Service Management and Aviation industries. We’ve been at the forefront of our industry for over a decade, providing software solutions to some of the world’s biggest organisations.

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