DHS Funds Airport Navigation App that Guides You from Check-in to Gate

It also allows federal agencies to send messages to passengers in real time.

The Homeland Security Department is investing in technology that helps air travelers navigate airport security and gives federal agents a direct line of communication with passengers.

The agency’s Science and Technology Directorate awarded a nearly $120,000 contract to LocusLabs to adapt their airport navigation application for Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The smartphone app would give passengers real-time location information and guide them from curb to gate using Google Maps-style directions. It would also let agencies immediately get in touch with everyone at the airport.

“This platform becomes a basis for a whole segment of smart building applications, like visitor wayfinding, asset tracking [and] staff dispatch,” said LocusLabs CEO and co-founder Campbell Kennedy told Nextgov. Instead of relying on physical signs and personnel to direct passengers, CBP and TSA can use the app to communicate through maps and personalized push notifications, he said.

The system would also help manage the flow of traffic through each segment of the airport.

Wait times at security and customs checkpoints are notoriously inconsistent, so planning for air travel requires a decent amount of guesswork, Kennedy said. But by analyzing GPS information and data feeds from Homeland Security, the app can calculate accurate wait times and point travelers to the fastest lanes to prevent them from clogging certain areas, he said.

The tool will also provide handicap-accessible routes and details on airport restaurants and shops, said Kennedy. And if it looks like you might miss your flight, it’ll even let you know to pick up the pace, he added.

The award came through the Homeland Security’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program, an in-house startup incubator that invests in technologies with national security applications. Kennedy said the company will spend roughly six months building a working prototype with CBP and TSA, and then launch a pilot program at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Separately, LocusLabs is also piloting an augmented reality navigation tool at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and London’s Heathrow Airport, according to Kennedy. By tapping into people’s smartphone cameras, the app would overlay directions and other helpful information directly their screens, he said.

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Air Travel Industry Taps Into Micro-Moments for New Ancillary Revenue Opportunities

Find Your Way There
One clear micro-moment is in the booking phase: When someone books a flight, the opportunity presents itself to offer a hotel or rental car deal. Messaging is key here, both visually and in writing. Travelaer worked with Finnair to revamp the airline’s booking engine, empowering it to include hotel bookings and ancillary sales. “We started working with Finnair in 2016 and built upon all of our experiences working with stopovers and Icelandair for almost six years,” Slone says.

Travelaer learned how important the visual aspects of the process were to the traveler, and developed accordingly: “We combined a mapping element that is connected to the booking widget to display the customer’s itinerary and timeline on the map, so that customers could visualize what they were booking before they ever leave the booking widget.”

“Maps and augmented reality are the perfect canvas to surface contextualized information; they allow passengers to explore where they want to spend their time.” – Campbell Kennedy, LocusLabs

The term “customer journey” has reached buzzword status in the online retail community, but travelers are on a physical journey, too, opening up the opportunity for offline touchpoints. Advances in indoor mapping technology have provided new opportunities for reaching travelers in a rush: Five minutes is enough time for that cup of coffee from the café you didn’t even know was there. “In today’s world, where consumer experience is king – the experience era – it’s imperative to offer a great experience to increase customer loyalty, which inevitably leads to increased sales,” says Campbell Kennedy, CEO and co-founder of LocusLabs, an indoor wayfinding startup. “We also know that when passengers are less stressed, they spend more money, according to a recent SITA study.”

Like Travelaer, LocusLabs works closely with mapping technology, albeit at a different scale: “Since maps and augmented reality are the perfect canvas to surface contextualized information, offers or vouchers, they allow passengers to explore their options to see where they want to spend their time,” Kennedy says. “And often, time is money.”

Kennedy cites security queues as a squandered opportunity for airports to further engage their customers, adding that it would pay off if travelers knew exactly how far they were from their gate, which would in turn mean knowing how much time they have for shopping or a second drink at the bar. “The entire in-airport portion of the journey is largely missed,” he says. “Today’s airports have mostly physical signage and storefronts with almost nothing in the way of digital. However, look at all the people staring down at their phones next time you’re at an airport!”

TripIt Will Now Tell You How Long It Takes to Get to Your Gate

Not sure how far around the bend Gate 22 is? You no longer need to live in uncertainty.

If you’re one of those people who hesitates in the airport by an Auntie Anne’s, unsure of how far your gate is—and unsure about what food options lurk beyond—then have we got news for you: An update to the TripIt app, released today, now lets travelers see the distance between two specific points in an airport and get step-by-step walking directions for the shortest route between them.

Specifically, the app update includes enhanced airport maps that show charging stations, ATMs, restrooms, dining options, and more. Got a tight connection? The app will also show you how long it will take to move from terminal to terminal or gate to gate, and adds directions for the most direct route—think of it like Google Maps, but for an airport concourse. Enter your itinerary, and airport maps will be available for each leg of your trip under the app’s “flight details” tab.

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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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Houston airports debut first app-free indoor mobile navigation

Dive Brief:

  • George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport in Houston began providing an indoor navigation service to help smartphone users find their way to gates, ground transportation, ticket kiosks, shops, restaurants and security checkpoints, according to a press release by the airport system. The turn-by-turn wayfinding technology developed by San Francisco’s LocusLabs doesn’t require a separate app download to work on smartphones, the first of its kind in the world, per the press release.
  • By visiting the website fly2houston.com on a mobile browser, a traveler can see a map of the airports that indicates a user’s location with a blue dot. As a person walks around, the navigation tool provides live directions on the quickest way to reach a destination inside the airport. It also shows the estimated time needed to walk to the endpoint.
  • The Houston Airport System, which runs the facilities, said airport maps are some of the most frequently visited pages on the fly2houston.com website. George Bush Intercontinental Airport is the 14th busiest in the U.S. and 43rd busiest in the world with 41.6 million passengers a year, according to Airports Council International. William P. Hobby Airport had 12.9 million visitors last year.

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FTE in Amsterdam: 20 solutions that can improve the airport experience today

LocusLabs helps Heathrow become ‘single source of truth’

LocusLabs, whose high fidelity indoor mapping and location platform is already used by the likes of American Airlines, United, Lufthansa, DFW and JetBlue, has now announced a pioneering partnership with Heathrow Airport. Heathrow will leverage LocusLabs’ location-as-a-service platform to power location services for its passengers via digital signage and touchscreens in the terminal, across digital channels including Heathrow.com and HeathrowExpress.com, and via its mobile apps.

“When I spoke at FTE Global in Las Vegas last year, I talked about joining all the dots, in order for Heathrow to become the single source of truth. This is exactly what we’re doing with LocusLabs,” explained Chris Annetts, Retail & Service Proposition Director, Heathrow Airport. Heathrow’s work with LocusLabs will benefit the airlines, and their customers, who fly from the major London hub, as they will be able to easily integrate the airport maps and various other services into their own apps and other digital channels. In fact, Delta, American and United have already finalised the integration.

“This is not just about the maps though,” said Annetts, who is a member of the ‘FTE PaxEx & Ancillary Think Tank’, which will launch its vision at FTE Europe and FTE Ancillary (26-27 June, Dublin). “We are integrating beacons, data on retail, products, services and so on. The next phase is to build the personalisation so Heathrow and our airline partners can build up profiles with the permission of our passengers.” This, he explained, will bring about myriad customer experience and retail benefits. Campbell Kennedy, Co-founder and CEO of LocusLabs, added: “This really is a great story of us co-creating an ecosystem, and creating a win-win-win for everyone involved.”

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LocusLabs Lands $3.5 Million Series A by Silicon Valley Daily

SAN FRANCISCO — LocusLabs, an indoor mapping & location platform in the travel industry, has landed a $3.5 million Series A round and has brought its indoor Street View-Like technology to over 70 airports worldwide. Investors in the round include SITA and Acorn Pacific Ventures of Silicon Valley.

LocusLabs’ platform launched in late 2015 and is already fueling millions of airport passenger experiences in over a dozen of the world’s largest airline and airport apps including American Airlines, United Airlines, Lufthansa, JetBlue and Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, and most recently launching with Delta’s FlyDelta app. The platform for mobile, web, and on-premise integrates a rich location experience into existing applications boasting 90 million combined downloads and growing.

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LocusLabs Funding News: SITA invests in dynamic mapping start-up LocusLabs

Investment to help SITA deliver new geo-location technology to airports and airlines
SITA, the air transport IT provider, has completed a strategic investment in dynamic mapping company LocusLabs, helping drive innovation for the benefit of the entire industry while supporting SITA’s own investment in innovation.

The investment also supports SITA’s continued focus on developing and delivering common-use geo-location technology which allows passengers to identify services using location. This solution, which merges mapping with a wide range of location data, allows airports and airlines to use the same dynamic maps and data but tailor them to their own requirements.

This additional funding will help LocusLabs further enhance its mapping capabilities, which is already in use at several major international airports as well as by airlines.

Jim Peters, Chief Technology Officer at SITA, said: “SITA has a clear focus to fast track innovation on behalf of the air transport industry and provide new technology that makes air travel easier at every step. These investments complement our own research and development at SITA Lab, by investing in complementary technologies that add value to our overall portfolio.

“LocusLabs is a perfect example – its geo-location capability adds real value to SITA’s cutting-edge airport app and opens new possibilities to enhance the passenger experience using location.”

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