Building for Innovation – FTE Europe Innovation Labs & Digital Transformation Round Table with WOW Air, Heathrow Airport, LocusLabs and SITA

During the FTE Europe Innovation Labs & Digital Transformation Round Table, which took place two weeks ago, FTE, together with co-founders of HackHorizon Kristy Hart and Kostadin Kolev, brought together some of the biggest players in the airline and airport space to share their experiences and views on how to build innovation initiatives for the future. Participating in the Round Table were: Sveinn Akerlie, CIO, Head of WOW Labs, WOW Air; Chris Annetts, Retail and Service Proposition Director, Heathrow Airport; Jack Loop, Director, LocusLabs; and Renaud Irminger, Director, SITA Lab, SITA. Here, we provide some of the key discussion points that came out during the session.

Sveinn Akerlie, CIO, Head of WOW Labs, WOW Air, opened the discussion by depicting the current state of the industry. He said: “We recently made additions to our fleet with the new A320s. These are cutting-edge aircraft, but they still use floppy disks.”

So, here comes the question, how big travel organisations can innovate and be less hindered by legacy technology?

Most travel players are encumbered by legacy systems  

To try and tackle the challenge of legacy in travel, companies need to use APIs as a force multiplier to accelerate the pace of transforming the way things are done. This has a huge potential upside as airlines and airports obtain much more data and knowledge about their customers than other industries.

In the case of SITA Labs, which was established by SITA board members in 2008, the aim has been to break the mould. In the last nine years, SITA has built 80 projects, 12 of which have now been taken up and fully integrated into the business.

Renaud Irminger, Director, SITA Lab, SITA, commented on the importance of iterating fast and testing new ideas to solve the big challenge in the industry. “You need to digitise because otherwise you can’t make changes in real time.” Industry players need to move past legacy tech and have a basic digital infrastructure they can iterate and build even faster. This is what is currently happening with the rapid digitisation of boarding passes – paper becomes the enemy.

As a new airline, WOW Air has found it easy to set up structures that are better geared towards being innovative. Most airlines tend to get “stuck in the spiderweb of legacy”, as Akerlie explains, “and therefore, we need to keep nimble to avoid the danger of falling into the same trap.”

WOW Air is working in two-week sprints and adopting a lean methodology to build and test new concepts and projects that it believes will add value to the airline. However, this is not a small feat, even for a new airline, as it has had to completely rebuild its PSS twice in the last five years so it can maintain its ambitious development cycles.

One thing that being a new player has allowed WOW Air to do is to bring new people in who are not weighed down by the perceived limitations of the industry. The brute force of the start-up or outsider mentality to do something just because it’s the right thing to do is what often gets the job done.

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No Download Required! Houston Airports Debuts World’s First Airport Wayfinding Technology

Finding your way around Houston’s airports is as simple as checking your smart phone now that a new way-finding technology launched on the Houston Airport System’s award-winning fly2houston.com website Friday, June 30th.

July 6, 2017

HOUSTON — Finding your way around Houston’s airports is as simple as checking your smart phone now that a new way-finding technology launched on the Houston Airport System’s award-winning fly2houston.com website Friday, June 30th.

Working with San Francisco-based company LocusLabs, George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)—click here to navigate—and William P. Hobby Airport (HOU)—click here to navigate—are the first airports in the world with the turn-by-turn wayfinding technology that doesn’t require downloading a separate app to smart devices.

Passengers can easily access the interactive map technology from any device or browser, whether the device is mobile, desktop or tablet. The easy navigation tool provides “transit path” directions that will take the user from their originating point to their destination with the most direct and efficient path possible. LocusLabs has named this product “LocusMaps Online.”

Both graphic and text directions are provided and each step of the path has turn-by-turn points listed, as well the estimated “walking time” it will take to walk to the destination. As important, it offers searchable navigation, with location information and search terms for points of interest including gates, ground transportation, ticket kiosks, shops, restaurants, security checkpoints, and more.

“For the Houston Airport System, the accessibility of this new technology is as exciting as being chosen as pilot airports for its launch,” said Kathleen Boyd, Head of Marketing for the Houston Airport System. “The fact that there is no app necessary — that travelers at our airports can use it simply by going to fly2houston.com on their smart device — offers another powerful and valuable tool to our customers, who already use our passenger journey-focused award-winning website to find a wide variety of information and services on a daily basis. It is another step towards meeting our strategic objective to “Make Our Passengers Happy.”

The fly2houston.com website has earned accolades from industry leaders and customers since its re-imagined makeover a year ago. This new technology enhances its passenger journey-focused approach with faster and easier feed updates, providing users with more real-time updates on airport services and amenities as well as up-to-the-minute updates on the airport footprint and points of interest information.

Airport maps are some of the most-visited pages on the fly2houston.com website, and with the new technology providing precise navigation throughout both airports — as well as a search engine that can provide information on shopping, dining, gate location and more–this ground-breaking technology advances the Houston Airport System’s goal of providing the most complete and useful information possible to passengers at both airports.

”We are proud to partner with Houston Airport System, whose innovative thinking is bringing IAH and HOU passengers the optimal digital travel experience in whatever channel or app they may be using,” says Campbell Kennedy, Co-Founder and CEO, LocusLabs.

Launched in 2015, LocusLabs is a San Francisco-based company that provides the platform and tools that enable devices to be location-aware on a micro level. LocusLabs is going a level deeper than existing mapping solutions by not only mapping places, but also people, products, and things, using technology that scales. LocusLabs’ mission is to provide global venues, enterprises and brands a digital platform to communicate, share and manage everything about their physical space.

To access these navigation tools, visit:

George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH): http://iahmaps.fly2houston.com

William P. Hobby Airport (HOU:  http://houmaps.fly2houston.com

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All Airports Need to Have This App

Houston airports have rolled out a handy tool for enjoying the preflight experience.

If you’re dashing through one of the two major Houston airports to catch a connecting flight and you’ve got no idea where to head next, rest assured—there’s an app for that. And it’s free.

The app, dubbed “Maps Online,” serves up turn-by-turn directions inside George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and William P. Hobby Airport (HOU). According to a recent story in the Houston Business Journal, the wayfinding tool resides on the Fly2Houston.com website and does not require users to download a separate piece of software.

The technology debuted this week and works on mobile, laptop, and tablet devices.

Specifically, once users input a destination, the new app offers both graphical and text directions, along with step-by-step instructions of where to head next and estimated travel times. If you log on from a mobile device, the estimated travel times will update in real time, depending on your pace.

The HBJ story adds that a search feature will help users locate certain points of interest, including individual gates, places to catch ground transportation, ticket kiosks, and security checkpoints.

Put simply, the app will function like Google or Apple Maps, only inside the airport. The technology isn’t made by one of those big tech companies; instead, it’s the brainchild of a Bay Area–based startup named LocusLabs. The company specializes in indoor wayfinding tools. Houston airports are the first worldwide to offer this iteration.

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