Flights of Fancy– Check­ing out to­mor­row’s air travel ex­pe­ri­ence

What lies ahead for air travel may be found at the Fu­ture Travel Ex­pe­ri­ence to­day

Business Traveler (USA) - - INSIDE -

Tech­nol­ogy’s ever-wi­den­ing reach con­tin­ues to drive rapid – and sur­pris­ing – changes in the world around us. A host of new ca­pa­bil­i­ties such as ro­bot­ics, ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and aug­mented re­al­ity are al­ready here, and seem set to dis­rupt nearly ev­ery as­pect of daily life, in­clud­ing – and per­haps es­pe­cially – travel.

Travel in­dus­try trade shows are of­ten where we are in­tro­duced to the prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tions of the lat­est tech­no­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ments. One such re­cent event was Fu­ture Travel Ex­pe­ri­ence Asia EXPO 2016, held in Oc­to­ber in Sin­ga­pore. At events like these we can dis­cover ad­vances and in­no­va­tions – from bio­met­ric scan­ning to com­puter vi­su­al­iza­tion to the ef­fec­tive use of big data – that may change the way we fly in the near and dis­tant fu­ture.

CON­CEPT OABIN Air­bus has put a fair amount of time into re­search­ing fu­ture tech de­vel­op­ments for the avi­a­tion sec­tor. Its The Fu­ture by Air­bus re­port pub­lished back in 2010 looks at how the in­dus­try may look in the year 2050. A num­ber of the leaps for­ward in that re­port per­tain to mak­ing air travel more eco-friendly; how­ever the air­craft dif­fer­ent the pas­sen­ger ex­pe­ri­ence could be­come three decades hence. Per­haps most no­table is the man­u­fac­turer’s no­tion that tra­di­tional class tiers could one day be re­placed by zones based on in­di­vid­ual trav­el­ers’ in­ter­ests, rang­ing from hav­ing busi­ness meet­ings with peo­ple from around the world to ar­eas of­fer­ing re­lax­ation and ac­tiv­i­ties. The Vi­tal­is­ing Zone, for in­stance, would in­clude seats sur­rounded by a bionic struc­ture with mem­branes that could turn trans­par­ent at the wave of a hand, of­fer­ing panoramic views out­side the air­craft. In the In­ter­ac­tion Zone, touch­sen­si­tive pan­els could scan and down­load in­for­ma­tion about in­di­vid­ual pas­sen­gers, of­fer­ing them a be­spoke ex­pe­ri­ence rang­ing from vir­tual re­al­ity golf, ten­nis and base­ball to in­ter­ac­tive vir­tual shop­ping.


RO­BOTIC AS­SIS­TANCE In Oc­to­ber, SITA Labs - the tech­nol­ogy re­search arm of IT firm SITA -toured its au­ton­o­mous, self-pro­pelled bag­gage ro­bot in Sin­ga­pore and Hong Kong. Named Leo after the famed Re­nais­sance-era in­ven­tor Leonardo Da Vinci, the au­tom­a­ton rep­re­sents the com­pany’s look into the fu­ture of bag­gage Leo is de­signed to check in lug­gage, print bag­gage tags and trans­port two suit­cases at a time. Pas­sen­gers use the ro­bot’s ro­bot that close once bags are tagged and loaded, and can only be re­opened by the op­er­a­tor un­load­ing the bag­gage in the air­port. Thanks to its in-built ob­sta­cle-avoid­ance tech­nol­ogy, the if it gains trac­tion, could be a way to col­lect, check in, trans­port and load lug­gage with­out in­volve­ment from any hu­man other than the pas­sen­ger. Since the bag drop is done out­side, it wouldn’t even have to en­ter the ter­mi­nal build­ing.

Aside from its tour in Sin­ga­pore and Hong Kong, Leo has also un­der­gone trial runs at Geneva Air­port where trav­el­ers checked in their bags us­ing the ro­bot.

Mean­while, in Fe­bru­ary 2016, Ja­pan Air­lines be­gan tri­als of a new an­droid guide at Tokyo Haneda In­ter­na­tional Air­port, des­ti­na­tion and weather up­dates. Known as Nao, the ro­bot fea­tures voice-recog­ni­tion soft­ware and is able to com­mu­ni­cate in Ja­panese, Chi­nese and English.;

BAG­GAGE TRACK­ING Lug­gage brand Ri­mowa re­cently launched what it claims is the Tag. Built into the lug­gage, the tag al­lows trav­el­ers to check in their lug­gage re­motely us­ing an app on their smart­phone and drop it off at the air­port. Ri­mowa’s app will com­mu­ni­cate bag via Blue­tooth, which can be viewed us­ing the in-built E-ink dis­play.

with the ser­vice up and run­ning at Mu­nich and Frank­furt air­ports. How­ever, EVA Air also re­cently an­nounced they would be adopt­ing the tech­nol­ogy, with other in­dus­try play­ers cur­rently test­ing the so­lu­tion.


CHIP SCAN­NER Scan­di­na­vian air­line SAS is in­ves­ti­gat­ing a num­ber of in­ter­est­ing new in­no­va­tions. Among the de­vel­op­ments, fully in­ter­ac­tive and vis­ual dig­i­tal walls in its lounges to pro­vide up-to-date flight in­for­ma­tion and al­low trav­el­ers to vis­ually ex­plore each in­di­vid­ual flight’s cabin lay­out in three dimensions; the first of its walls is set to launch this year at the air­line’s new Oslo lounge.

The air­line has also re­cently given iPads to all crew mem­bers that use data about cus­tomers’ pre­vi­ous trips to im­prove ser­vice on sub­se­quent jour­neys. The car­rier’s in­no­va­tion lab has also been look­ing into a near-field com­mu­ni­ca­tion (NFC) ring with pas­sen­ger in­for­ma­tion that can be swiped when board­ing the air­craft.

But eas­ily its most “out there” con­cept is us­ing a pro­gram­mable chip in­serted into a per­son’s hand. In much the same way one would scan a travel card for use on pub­lic trans­port, the chip would elim­i­nate the need for any phys­i­cal doc­u­men­ta­tion or de­vices what­so­ever. “This is not only on the con­cept draw­ing board, it is a re­al­ity,” said Eivind Roald, SAS’s ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent com­mer­cial at a me­dia brief­ing in Hong Kong. “Whether this will be the fu­ture or not, I don’t know, but it shows some­thing about what we are do­ing in our in­no­va­tion labs.”

Ad­mit­tedly such an “in­va­sive” and po­ten­tially con­tro­ver­sial in­no­va­tion would likely take a fair amount of time to gain mean­ing­ful trac­tion among trav­el­ers. SAS has yet to roll out even a scan-able watch, let alone a chip em­bed­ded un­der the skin, so it’s prob­a­bly safe to say this won’t be an in­no­va­tion we’ll see com­ing to the mar­ket in the im­me­di­ate fu­ture.

Avion­ics and IT com­pany Rock­well Collins, mean­while, an­nounced back in March 2015 that it was de­vel­op­ing a tool that com­bined its ARINC v MUSE and ARINC Veri­pax tech­nol­ogy with its Atkins Iden­tity Man­age­ment plat­form to en­able scan­ning us­ing trav­el­ers’ bio­met­rics. Fa­cial recog­ni­tion, as well as fin­ger­print and iris scan­ning tech­nolo­gies could match a per­son’s bio­met­rics with their pass­port and board­ing pass in­for­ma­tion, en­abling trav­el­ers to check in more ef­fi­ciently and board by them­selves. fly­;rock­well­

AUG­MENTED RE­AL­ITY When the aug­mented re­al­ity app Poké­mon Go launched last year, its pop­u­lar­ity took the world by storm. While the vast gath­er­ings of peo­ple play­ing the game in pub­lic have since largely dis­ap­peared, it showed the great po­ten­tial AR tech­nol­ogy has to cap­ture the pub­lic’s in­ter­est.

Re­cently, tech giant Google teamed up with San Jose In­ter­na­tional Air­port to test a new aug­mented re­al­ity tech­nol­ogy plat­form called Tango, which uses com­puter vi­sion to en­able de­vices to un­der­stand their sur­round­ings with­out the need for tech­nol­ogy such as GPS. This al­lows the use of lo­ca­tion-based AR apps that can be ac­cu­rate to within about a cen­time­ter, in­clud­ing a cus­tom SJC app that has since been tested by mem­bers of Google’s Project Tango team and Aisle411, the com­pany that de­vel­oped the app, at the air­port’s Ter­mi­nal B.

Mean­while, Bri­tish Air­ways demo’d the app ear­lier this sum­mer dur­ing the launch of its di­rect San Jose-Lon­don Heathrow route, en­abling pas­sen­gers to use the app for wayfind­ing, view­ing aug­mented re­al­ity dig­i­tal bill­boards with des­ti­na­tion in­for­ma­tion and search­ing for F&B op­tions based on their lo­ca­tion and time avail­abil­ity. Float­ing 3D im­ages were also vis­i­ble when us­ing the app, in­clud­ing a sur­real 3D shark swim­ming around out­side the air­port’s Shark Cage restau­rant.

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