Ad tech, blockchain and travel

Ad tech, blockchain and travel – a new area for disruption (or not)

Industry first alert! “The very first blockchain-based auction for advertising inventory” is taking place and involves a travel media business selling space on one million printed-at-home boarding passes for a major airline.

AdEx Network describes itself as a “a decentralized ad network” and has linked up with Ink Global, a travel media business with interests ranging from hard-copy inflight magazines to targetted ads on travel documents, apps and websites.  It works with more than 20 airlines worldwide.

Ink says that passengers look at their “[printed] boarding passes at least four times” making it “one of the most effective media spaces”.

A Medium blog post from AdEx explains that the auction “will be executed on the Ethereum network via the AdEx mainnet exchange…” and while AdEx is handling the auction, Ink and the unnamed airline “will have final decision in accepting or rejecting bids, as well as all advertising creatives.”

The post makes some bold claims, with AdEx saying the tie-up is “a huge step forward in the reshaping of the online advertising landscape”.

Marketing materials posted onto the AdEx homepage are equally bullish, with claims that AdEx will “disrupt the existing online advertising landscape and address its significant problems: advertising fraud, privacy and consent to receiving sponsored messages, etc.

And there is an animated YouTube video summarising what it does

The extent to which blockchain can be truly disruptive is still the subject of much debate. At a tnooz-hosted session at WTM London earlier this month, Kevin O’Sullivan, lead engineer at SITA Lab, suggested that blockchain could have as big an impact on B2B as the web had on B2C, although that is unlikely to start happening until at least five years down the line.

Ad tech could be in the blockchain firing line as it is a B2B function which relies on a series of intermediaries. AdEx Network seems to think that digital advertising can operate without the intermediaries and that its blockchain-based exchange is a viable alternative.

The tie-up with Ink is an interesting first step but there is a world of difference between producing a snazzy YouTube video and building a successful business using a technology which, let’s face it, currently has significantly more use cases than case studies. Although it might be worth noting that people were probably saying similar things in 1996 when a business called Microsoft Expedia Travel Services debuted on the web.




Indian passengers using technology to skip queues at airports

Indian passengers using technology to skip queues at airports: SITA survey .

As India’s passenger growth is choking key airports in the country, air passengers are resorting to technology to skip queues and minimize their travel time, shows a 2017 SITA Passenger IT Trends Survey, a global survey released by IT provider SITA and co-sponsored by Air Transport World.

“While the use of technology among Indian airline passengers remains high at check-in (87%) and booking (52%), 2017 saw tremendous growth in other usage points in the journey. The research showed “While the use of technology among Indian airline passengers remains high at check-in (87%) and booking (52%), 2017 saw tremendous growth in other usage points in the journey. The research showed while adoption remains low, self-bag drop usage climbed to 21% from 12% in 2016,” shows the survey, conducted across seven Indian airports, representing 71% of passengers in the country.

Passengers are also demanding new mobile services with 83% saying that they would definitely use flight  updates on their mobile. And they would use their mobile for baggage services too: 82% would report mishandled bags and 79% would track their bags in real-time. This comes as no surprise with more than one billion Indians using at least one mobile device in 2016 of which 300 million are using a smart device, the survey adds.

The research also shows 54% of passengers would rather opt to use self-bag drop than go to an airline check-in counter, compared to 33% globally and well ahead  of current usage.

“This is good news for the industry as it provides airports and airlines the opportunity to fully benefit from technology to speed up the journey and drive operational efficiencies, helping them meet the demands of rapidly growing passenger numbers across the country,” Maneesh Jaikrishna, Vice President Indian Subcontinent, Eastern & Southern Africa was quoted in the release.



Those Captive Shoppers have just been “Duty Freed”,

Those Captive Shoppers have just been “Duty Freed”, so is this the final death knell for inflight Travel Retail?

“Very soon, you won’t have a trolley going down the aisle in the plane. You order with your mobile phone, and it goes straight to the cabin crew, who will deliver the food to you. That’s already happening in the next two months, and we’ll be giving each of our cabin crew a mobile device very soon.”

That’s what Air Asia’s Tony Fernandes says in a recent article; AirAsia is pulling out the stops to become a “digital airline”, in The Malay Online. He is also quoted saying, “AirAsia is to become a digital airline at the forefront of experimenting with new technology”. Apparently, he doesn’t want our money any more either, or at least, not our cash, “On going cashless in-flight, cash “slows down everything”.

Captive is usually on the tip of every Travel Retail tongue. You will rarely find an article or a whitepaper about Travel-Tech revenue issues that doesn’t use the concept of “the captive consumer” as a reason for increased sales. But, do these so-called imprisoned Travellers really spend, in fact, they’ve never spent that much! So why will they suddenly spend more, when they are free to connect to the world at large?

Since the year dot, only around 19% of Travellers enter an airport Duty Free store and buy, (according to the Dufry CEO) and less than 1.5% of Flyers actually buy such products on the plane, (says John Garner of DFASS, the inflight retail concession giant), and these were the captive ones!

Now, take away the Cart, add inflight Wi-Fi and remove the readership from the paper version of the inflight magazine*, whilst training your Crew to take orders on a tablet, rather than sell face to face and what have you got?

In modern times, inflight Travel Retail (excluding Catering) is primarily a Fragrance, Cosmetics, Watch and Jewellery business, with some impulse gadgets bolted on. Tourists will buy tobaccos or liquors (if available on Charters), but in reality, it majors on easy-to-carry Brands, based on impulse and Crew engagement.

Take these conventional methods away by becoming “too millennial” and you then run your Retail Store strategy through Consumer thumbprints on their phones, or a poke at the seatback screen, but will you really sell more?

I bet if you asked Christine Martin, inflight retail’s leading Crew Training and Consultant in the field of airline sales, she’d tell us that Crew engagement and product knowledge is the main factor that influences the sales performance from that Cart in the aisles. It’s no coincidence that her “iSpy” (Inflight Sales Person of the Year) forum, where Flight Attendants hone their sales skills, has acquired world renown in the Industry for more than a decade.

By taking away that Bar Box, floating by after dinner and before the movie or sleep and what do we get?

Are we now going to dive for our smartphone to order that perfume, watch or those earbuds and where does this leave the correlation with the inflight Mag, almost always picked up right at the end of the runway? Or, how many Tourists returning on Charter flights will continue to think, “I may as well use-up my foreign currency and buy a gift for myself”?

Meantime, those Avionics Firms are all pushing hard with inflight connectivity. We are all yet to read one of their Ivy League market studies or whitepapers (related to Consumer Behaviour and new revenues), that doesn’t claim potential huge shopping revenue growth because the Passengers are captive on board. Many airport retailers, (those who only collect just 19% of Consumers), are also infected with the same glass-half-full thinking.

If the current Captive Consumer doesn’t buy, why will he suddenly buy more when he gets his digital Freedom? Methinks not… he is going to his phone to do what he normally does and those nimble thumbs are going to find Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter or likely a Guide to his destination, with shops and offers galore.

It seems that none of this muddled Airline digital stampede lends itself to increasing that 6% inflight retail share very much. In fact, it is lending itself to the abolition of unnecessary weight, inventory and traditional on board selling techniques.

All of which are no longer “captive” at all, but escaping into cyberspace at 35,000 feet, to a Store that best understands partnerships, easy delivery and the best concept of all…. the lowest prices!

And perhaps, once all those inflight digital thumbs start dancing their way to The High Street, Airlines might just decide that they are better off with Galleys full of Food and Drinks, dump their Duty Free and just acquire virtual revenues from all those Stores on the ground.

*Ink Publishing are the Global leaders for inflight magazines and have substantial evidence of high readership numbers. Many of these Publications include the Duty Free catalogues and price lists.


Thank you to IM Smith for sharing

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IATA Holds First Annual Aviation Data Symposium

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) held its first annual Aviation Data Symposium (ADS) last week in Miami, Fla.

The event brought together more than 400 delegates from airlines, airports and technology providers to discuss how to unlock the value of big data in order to improve safety, security and profitability within aviation.

“Big data is transforming our industry,” said Charles de Gheldere, director, travel intelligence, IATA. “New aircrafts are basically data centers, generating terabytes of data; passengers are connected with their watches, with their phones and other devices — there are sensors everywhere. Artificial intelligence is here, machine learning is here.

“Data-driven organizations will take this industry to the next level. The sky is the limit.”

Representatives from airlines, airports and even data-driven companies outside of the aviation industry were on hand to discuss topics broken into four educational tracks – technology, safety and operations, passenger distribution and sales and airfreight data.

IATA announced it would hold another ADS in 2018. The second annual event will take place June 27-28 in Berlin.

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PAM – The world’s first and only passenger concierge

Meet PAM. The world’s first and only passenger concierge.

PAM will guide passengers, create a better experience and help airports make more money” Contact us for a demo. Your own airport concierge to provide all passengers with up to the minute information about flight time, gates, delays and more. Developed by MEXIA to also integrate Queue Wait times, marketing offers and continued engagement even when passengers leave the airport. Easy to use without any App download.



Happy Thanksgiving From Airport Benchmarking

On your way to see your loved ones for the Holiday whe wish you a Happy Thanksgiving

You can download our mobile app Airport Advisors (ios and Android)  and tell us how where

airports’ services at this time of the year…

Android download here :

Ios here :



AI taking off at airports today?

By utilising AI, airlines can provide passengers with a more seamless and personal experience.

The term “Artificial Intelligence” is applied broadly to many diverse types of computing problems and solutions. Today’s technology, combined with immense data feeds, means we have reached a tipping point that enables new types of AI applications, such as autonomous vehicles and secure, biometric verification systems. It is these technologies that have the potential to have the biggest impact on how people get on and off planes, and how airlines get planes in and out of airports, within the next couple of decades.

Imagine arriving at the airport in your self-drive car, having your bag collected by a robot, presenting your biometric (probably your face) to a camera to get yourself through all the check points and boarding a plane. The planes are already pretty much flown by computer (fly-by-wire), in many ways the future is now.

SITA, the global IT and communications provider to the air transport industry, revealed some interesting research on artificial intelligence in a recent report: SITA 2017 Air Transport IT Trends Insights.  Predictive tools using artificial intelligence and cognitive computing are likely to be adopted by half of airlines and airports over the coming five to ten years. Specifically, over the next three years, 52% of airlines plan major AI programs or R&D, and 45% of airports will invest in R&D in the next five years. However, a few front runners are already trialing predictive modeling, machine learning and data mining. These efforts are mainly focused on initiatives that will provide passengers with more relevant information about their journey to create more seamless and personal experiences.

On time

One area of real interest is flight disruption. This is a huge cost for the air transport industry – estimated at US$25 billion – so there is a strong desire to remove as much uncertainty as possible. The causes are many, with weather being a major culprit. Airlines and airports are focusing on technologies that will make them more responsive when faced with issues in their operations. This will enable them to improve their performance and customer services.

Airlines in particular are looking at how technology can help minimize the impact of disruption on the passenger experience and their business. Over the next three years, 80% of them plan to invest in major programs or R&D into prediction and warning systems, which rely heavily on AI.

On line

Another technology that is catching the attention of the industry is chatbots. Today, 14% of airlines and 9% of airports use chatbots, for example KLM, British Airways and Avianca. The SITA 2017 Air Transport IT Trends Insights shows however, that there is significant appetite among air transport CIOs to embrace this technology over the next three years. By 2020, 68% of airlines and 42% of airports plan to adopt AI-driven chatbot services.

These computer programs, that mimic human conversation, can help with customer queries, do check-ins and book flights. A machine taking your reservation via voice commands has already landed.

In fact, AI is already embedded into all kinds of different areas and aspects of the airport operation and experience, from the new biometric systems using facial recognition, to cameras that can “see” and tell you things like queue times or detect operational incidents that need attention.

And more AI is coming as the air transport industry faces the challenge of significant growth. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), passenger demand is expected to double over the next 20 years resulting in 7.2 billion passengers traveling in 2035. To manage this growth, the industry will rely on technology and AI will become more prevalent. It will be part of the fabric of the industry, from building smarter planes, to using autonomous vehicles at the airport, smarter air traffic control and flight operations, and recovery from disruption. It will be in the hands of both staff and passengers, with bots and APIs feeding apps on smartphones. It will be in the airport’s infrastructure to analyze video in real time for issues, for biometric screening and for boarding systems.

On the ground

At the airport, AI can be used to manage robots for a wide range of functions from information/guidance robots, to check-in, immigration and porter robots, to airport operations and security. They can be equipped with face recognition, they can understand spoken language, print or show information on screens, scan passports and boarding pass, process visas, and show people the way. And they can be used to integrate airport, airline, government and security systems.

SITA has already taken steps in this direction with the creation of two passenger service robots. One challenge facing airports is the management of peaks and troughs in passenger flows, especially when passengers arrive at the airport. KATE, SITA’s robotic check-in kiosk, makes use of both WiFi and geo-location technology to navigate autonomously to busy areas of the departure hall, without the need for cabling or other fixed attachments. These robotic kiosks will also automatically return to their docking stations when they are low on power or need to be resupplied with boarding passes or bag tags. These abilities enable airport staff to focus on customer relationship management rather than spending time on procedural checkpoints, creating potential to smooth the passenger journey.

Leo is SITA’s self-service baggage robot that can check in and collect passengers’ bags when they arrive at the airport and process them for flight. It is a very easy process for passengers: a simple scan of a boarding pass and Leo will look after the rest.

AI, augmented by robots, can also support flight operations, facility management, baggage handling and cargo operations, while also being present behind the scenes in airport operations. Robotic arms already work with humans to increase efficiency and reduce chronic injuries in many sectors. There is no reason why air transport should be any different. Autonomous dollies, for example, can transfer bags and equipment between the terminal building and aircraft. AI can also reassign gates when necessary, and co-ordinate ground crew to accommodate schedule variance and service interruptions.

Working Together

Across the air transport industry, there is a need to retain, store, clean, process, curate and make accessible all possible data.   This brings us to the concept of collaboration and sharing data. Progress will be made if everyone involved is prepared to share. SITA, which is owned by the air transport industry, is in the unique position at the center of the airline and airport community and has the potential to leverage this data for the benefit of all stakeholders. Already SITA’s research teams are exploring new ways of using and managing data.

AI has a great future as a key enabler for air transport, to make it more efficient and improve the passenger journey. With the global shift towards self-service and the increase in passenger demand, AI in at airlines and airports can only take off further.

Jim Peters, CTO, SITA 

Image Credit: Robert Stearns / Pexels

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Heathrow Airport to enhance the customer experience

Heathrow Airport partners with AOE for OM³ Suite to enhance the customer experience.

Heathrow will strengthen its digital services and infrastructure to create a simple process for the 300 brands to share their products with customers, leading to greater choice within the current Reserve and Collect service. To turn vision into reality, Heathrow is collaborating with some of the world’s best technology partners to deliver these innovative solutions.

London Heathrow Airport has announced that it will launch AOE’s OMas a significant step in transforming the airport’s digital experience. The announcement is further proof of the accelerating momentum that the OM3 suite has generated in the aviation industry, coming shortly after Auckland Airport and AOE announced a similar partnership.

OM³, or Omnichannel Multi-Merchant Marketplace, is a comprehensive suite which multi-retailer venues such as airports can use to digitalise their non-aviation revenues, thus providing their customers a unified and seamless online and offline experience.

Heathrow will strengthen its digital services and infrastructure to create a simple process for the 300 brands to share their products with customers, leading to greater choice within the current Reserve and Collect service. To turn vision into reality, Heathrow is collaborating with some of the world’s best technology partners to deliver these innovative solutions.

AOE CEO Kian Gould comments: “Our OM³ Suite continues to build momentum for Heathrow and we are especially excited to be part of Heathrow Airport’s strategy to digitalise their entire business model to benefit both passengers and employees. As one of the world’s most important airports, Heathrow is at the forefront of the aviation industry, continuously innovating to improve its offering. Our goal is to be a long-term partner in this effort to enhance the passenger experience.”

Heathrow has a long-term vision for digital transformation, and AOE will provide an omnichannel platform that will integrate seamlessly with the existing infrastructure. In addition to providing a sophisticated, convenient on- and offline shopping experience, the OM³ Suite will ultimately integrate with numerous additional features including loyalty programmes, lounge access, parking and VIP services. Another feature of the platform is the capability to provide passengers with real-time information, helping make the most of their time in the terminals.

Chris Annetts, Retail and Service Proposition Director, Heathrow Airport, adds: “We have a long-term vision to deliver a seamless digital experience for all our passengers, both inside the airport and in the comfort of their homes. This partnership with AOE is the next step towards building seamless end-to-end experiences for passengers and enabling us to interact with them more efficiently for an enhanced and memorable journey.”

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How is automation changing airport security?

Consider the last three times you went through airport security. How long did you wait in line? Did you take your shoes off? Was your laptop and tablet in your bag?

Chances are, you’ll remember different experiences at each instance. That’s because airports around the world are going through a massive digital transformation, altering their fundamental designs and core technology to accommodate a rapidly growing rate of annual travellers.

The aviation industry is investing heavily in enhancing the checkpoint to improve speed, safety and the overall passenger experience. This influx of advanced, interoperable systems has made automation at the checkpoint not only beneficial, but also necessary for airports of the future.

Smarter security
In today’s continually heightened threat climate, safety is always first and foremost on the mind of airport managers. Every day threats are changing and becoming more sophisticated – so it’s critical that the technology used to identify these threats is consistently becoming more advanced.

One way to enhance this process is by reducing manual handling, and promoting standardization and automation. Today, many airports are requiring that passengers use bins to send all of their bags, electronics, jackets, etc. through the scanner. The standardized size enables the system to focus on one square area, and more efficiently identify potential threats, rather than trying to differentiate between several items pushed together. Each bin is also tagged with an RFID chip, which allows it to be easily identified and tracked once a potentially dangerous item has been identified.

Experts in the security industry are constantly working with TSA, ECAC and other regulatory bodies to improve detection algorithms and capabilities in an effort to enhance security. As these algorithms and regulations evolve, you can expect to see more security lanes capable of identifying a laptop without it being taken out of a bag, and, eventually, the ability to identify and analyse liquids.

Saving time and money
A universal truth of the travel industry is that everyone wants to move faster and spend less. The emergence of new technology is enabling both. Today, some airports are even able to maintain standards of five minutes or less from the time a passenger enters security zones until they leave.

One of the primary reasons this is possible is because airport security experts have redesigned the flow of the security checkpoint. Now, with automated machines once a passenger pushes their belongings on to the conveyor, passengers are then free to walk through security without waiting for the people around them.

In the screening process, detection algorithms identify potential threats and divert bags off of the main conveyor for further inspection. Remember the RFID tags? Now, when an alarm sounds on a bin, it can be taken to any number of systems all connected to the same network to be scanned and searched. This enables security operators to simultaneously clear several bags, and avoid an inevitable bottleneck.

By automating the process, every step is tied together – and that translates to money. The cost per passenger is lowered because more people are processed per hour, with the same amount of security personnel and fewer necessary lanes.

A better passenger experience
As is true in every industry, there is a chain reaction that follows modernization within individual airports and airlines resulting in a battle royale to win over passengers.

Imagine this – you need to fly from Sydney to New York and either direction you fly around the world will be within an hour or so difference in flight time. What makes your decision? For most travellers, it’s the amenities.

With 25+ hours of travel, passengers are looking for the most comfortable airline and the airport where they will have a more relaxing layover. As a result, more airports and airlines are investing heavily to improve the passenger experience, from artificial intelligence technology in customer service and mobile updates to automated boarding procedures.

The checkpoint is no different. If passengers have the choice between two relatively equidistant airports, they will be less inclined to choose the one where they know the security check will take longer. That’s why airports are implementing technology that allows the passenger to leave belts and shoes on, leave laptops and tablets in bags, and move through the checkpoint as efficiently as possible.

With the increased security threats around the world, airport managers are constantly trying to balance the effectiveness of technology with the overall happiness of the passenger. More advanced, automated systems are the answer. You can expect to continue to see enhancements at the checkpoint and beyond, that provide travellers with increased functionality, higher standards of security and less time spent waiting.

By Rapiscan Systems’ Lauren Presley, senior director of product management; and Hooman Shakouri, senior director of global marketing

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