Category Archives: BIT

MPC Coming Soon to an Nearby Airport

By Caroline O’Reilly
MPC might not signify anything in particular now, but it could become the most popular three letters, after your airport’s code.

This afternoon during the conference’s press briefing, ACI-NA and Airside Mobile provided a sneak peek at Mobile Passport Control, a.k.a. MPC, which promises to help trim the amount of time spent waiting in line to clear Customs when entering the U.S.  A smartphone app similar in functionality to the automated kiosks currently available at O’Hare and Vancouver International airports, MPC will allow passengers to input their customs declaration and passport information and upload a photograph directly to CBP’s system.

“MPC will create a faster, easier experience for processing through Customs, which will really help travelers when they are tired and just want to get to their home or hotel,” said Hans Miller, Airside Mobile’s CEO.  “If you’ve ever used your phone to get a boarding pass or a movie ticket, you’ll feel right at home with this new process”

ACI-NA and Airside Mobile are working closely with CBP’s Office of Field Operations and Office of Informational Technology to put the final touch on MPC, which should be live by the end of the year.  Stayed tuned for future updates from ACI-NA on which airports will be in the inaugural class of MPC adoptees and when the app become available to travelers for both Android and iOS.

Google It: Your Airport Mapped

By Aneil Patel
Google Maps is the latest technology transforming the passenger experience at airports around the world.

Representatives of the Silicon Valley-based Google Maps presented an information session on its mapping project on Sunday morning at the Business Information Technology Seminar.

Indoor floor plans are seamlessly integrated into Google Maps as additional detail about the airport. The indoor details are automatically enabled when a user zooms in on your venue’s location, and the details fade away when the map is zoomed out.

Partnering with Google for indoor mapping creates a better experience for your visitors and adds detail to the way your airport is depicted in Google Maps, they said. Additionally, making the indoor map content available on Google Maps means an airport can display the indoor maps in your websites and apps via the Google Maps APIs.

  • Visitors can access the airport map directly via their mobile device while on the go
  • Visitors can switch between floors to navigate from their gate directly to baggage claim
  • Interior labels help travelers find their way to shops and restaurants located through the airport while they wait for their flights.

What is Cloud Computing?

By Aneil Patel
Cloud computing refers to the usage of a service provider to deliver technology services in a “managed fashion” over the Internet.

Five years ago…imagine your desktop/laptop and all of your portable devices are in sync up to the second and you are able to access all of your personal documents at any given moment.

Well the time has arrived, “cloud computing” is in full swing. How many of you currently use Dropbox? For those who are not familiar with Dropbox it allows you to create a special folder or download the Dropbox app on each of your devices, then synchronises so that all your documents appear in the same folder (with the same contents) regardless of the device it is viewed on.

Companies are seeing customers’ expectations, competitive forces, and the changing economics of computing and placing greater pressure on business and IT. All the session speakers agreed that cloud computing is not going to be a solution for everything in the IT world; however you must be willing to chase the latest and greatest.

Global cloud computing market is forecast to grow 22 percent per year through 2020. Cloud appeals to both business and IT, helping deliver value in new ways. Major benefits and opportunities include new revenue streams, faster service delivery, increased efficiency, reduced hardware cost and of course anywhere access.

Airports need to better understand the cloud technology, the benefits and the ongoing opportunities as each airport will have their own cloud computing version and objectives. Cloud technology is not just another “new” technology feature, but it is a business process. This will not be the last time you hear about could computing!

New Self-Service Practices Detailed

By Aneil Patel
The Business Information Technology Committee kicked off the with several IT Hot topics that have bubbled up in North America airports.

Paul Lawrence from Calgary Airport, our Host opened the first session with the Airline and Passenger Service Initiatives, which will be implemented in their new International Terminal, scheduled to be opened in October 2015.

In the new terminal Calgary expects to extensively provide self-service capabilities from the curb to the gate. For example, the use kiosks from checking-in and self-tagging, automated bag drop equipment, self-boarding for domestic and international flights. Most importantly from a customer satisfaction perceptive, Calgary will be implementing many of the new systems in the existing terminal first. This will help the airport work through process, application, and customer service issues to smooth out the transition into the new International Terminal.

McCarran's Samuel Ingalls describes his airport's new terminal.

McCarran International Airport, recently open Terminal 3 and Samuel Ingalls shared the new terminal key features. Just a few interesting facts (non IT related) the new terminal is 2 million square feet and has 8 miles of roadway. McCarran T3 has over 200 kiosks for self- tagging and boarding passes only, with two bag tagging kiosks share a scale. The tags are printed inactive and are only marked active at passenger matchup tag to ID. Ingalls stressed lobby agents should teach passengers and not do the bag tag attachment themselves, otherwise its defeating the objective of “self-tagging.”

Terminal 3 really stands out from the rest, by having self-boarding gates and over 1,200 dynamic signs. Self-boarding is a fairly new concept in North America and airlines are still exploring best practices. For example at McCarran, JetBlue normally use only one of the two self-boarding gates, if they use both gate they end up with a longer line and congestion on the jet bridge. Most impressively are the 12×3 stacked – 46-inch monitors at each gate, with advertising and promotions, flight status, weather and each sign has the backdrop of the destination city.  The installation cost of dynamic signs will be recouped by advertising revenue.

To App or Not? The Question Remains

By Tom Smith
Airport apps.  They sound sexy and cool. An airport with its own app appears so cutting edge.

But is an app the right strategy for your airport?

The topic of airport apps and wayfinding was explored in the June Centerlines and at the recent Marketing and Communications Conference in Sacramento.

At two-plus years into the world of airport apps the trend is still fuzzy and business plans remain to be proven.

An airport faces three decisions when exploring the world of airport apps and mobile wayfinding.

  • Decision one – develop a mobile version of the airport’s website.
  • Decision two – develop your own branded airport app.
  • Decision three – defer to a third-party app.

As part of an on-going Airport Cooperative Research Program paper on airport social media trends, a survey has found that of the 280 airports surveyed only 21 percent currently have a mobile website. The advantage of making an airport website smartphone-friendly is both the cost and the ability to control the information without a lot of technical know-how.

(Time out for definitions: A mobile website is a website that has been adapted for easy viewing on a smart phone or other mobile device. An app is a software application or program that needs to be downloaded and installed on your device.)

For example, Dallas-Fort Worth and Montréal chose to develop mobile sites before diving into airport apps. Montreal’s strategy is to grow the site and continually add new functionality and links. The airport now gets 100,000 to 125,000 visits per month on their mobile website.

The first mobile website that DFW rolled out was primarily text-based, like many mobile websites. It has since been re-designed extensively using icons and colorful graphics.

Phoenix Sky Harbor won the best website award in the recent Marketing and Communications Contest with its mobile website design. It too relies on icons to help guide users through the site.

In their presentations, Montreal and DFW both said they are now exploring the next step – building their own app sites.

The key advantage of an airport-owned app site is that an airport has greater control of the site and can extend its brand.  From a user perspective, an app has greater flexibility and functionality than a website, especially with its geo-location features.

A major problem with an airport-owned app is that few people may know it exists. A local traveler may be familiar with it and may have seen the local ads. However, a connecting traveler may miss the notices within the airport and never use it.

Minneapolis-St. Paul thought it had the best solution in 2010 when it paid to have its own app developed that would be part of the goHow network. The deal held out the possibility of sharing a revenue stream from advertisers.

In the end, the MSP site has generated about 24,000 users per year and not any revenue. The goHow network has been limited to less than a handful of full airport partners. In a deal that was implemented earlier this month, the network has been re-branded as FlySmart as new corporate partners become involved.

Third party airport apps run the gamut from those firms that simply harvest information from an airport’s website to those that develop a relationship with the airport. These firms provide free apps on most platforms and attempt to make their money through advertising and coupon deals.

There are more than a handful of these firms now distributing their apps. Two years ago when ACI-NA had its first airport app panel at the Marketing and Communications Conference in San Diego, one app maker predicted that within a year there would be a be shake-out and he speculated that Apple, Microsoft and Expedia were considering launching their own airport apps or buying one of the existing firms. It has now been two years and everything remains the status quo.

GateGuru, which has the highest profile, noted in its presentation in Sacramento that it now works with airports to update their databases as frequently as monthly. It has a program to provide coupon or discounts to various concessions within an airport.

While a third-party app may put an airport on the map at no cost, the airport has no control over its image and loses any branding opportunity. However, the third-party app is going to exist in the market place whether the airport cooperates or not so it is probably in the airport’s best interest to work with those third-party apps with a national reputation and a large user-base.

So what is the best strategy? Talk with your peers to see what is working best for them. An O&D airport could probably get by with a mobile website; however, it may make more sense for any airport with a substantial amount of connecting flights to thoroughly explore all the airport app options.