SITA AIR TRANSPORT IT SUMMIT: Mobile phone functionality set for take-off
"Mobility [of connectivity for individuals] as a trend in travel is back," according to SITA's chief technology officer Jim Peters.
"We sometimes forget that around 1998, there was the first era of mobility with WAP (wireless application protocol) technology, which dropped away around 2001," Peters noted. "Now it's back, and Apple's iPhone has been instrumental by pushing the envelope with a usable web browser in your pocket."
A key upcoming area in mobile communications technology will be 'context'. "In the mobile environment, if you can find out where a person is, you can deliver more," remarked Peters as he explained 'context'. "The handheld device will be able to have an application related to GPS which will deliver content relating to where you are and what you might want to do next. For example, if you arrive at an airport car park and haven't checked in, if the application's running it may prompt you and ask if you want to check in at that moment, after which you'll get a barcoded boarding pass delivered to your device."
This technology is coming, Peters confirmed, but "it won't be tomorrow, as we have to walk before we can run". SITA's "walk" involves a pilot scheme with Malaysian Airlines. A new application will offer reservations, check-in, boarding pass, flight status, and more, delivered to a smartphone or PDA. Unlike many similar offerings from airlines though, SITA's application will not be a mini-version of an airline's website. "The data will come directly from the airline's mainframe," Peters added.
"Mobile services like this will be for higher-end mobile phones," Peters acknowledged, "in the same way that only those with a computer and printer at home or access to them in their office can take advantage of web check-in."
Provision of future mobile applications will not be the exclusive territory of big players like SITA, Peters admitted. "Watch out for smaller companies developing applications, particularly those set up by former airline IT people."
Bernie Baldwin, editor, Low-Fare & Regional Airlines/LARAnews.net