App’tly Noted


While preparing for our yearly sojourn to AIX in Hamburg, we began to think of what would be needed on the trip in the way of new apps for our portable devices that would be relevant and make the experience a bit easier. Let’s see, an app at the airports(s), an app or two in the plane for communication and possibly sleeping or game-play diversion and of course an app about Hamburg. We won’t go into the options here but this got us thinking as good little App Pupils: How big is this app ‘thing’ and why on earth are we thinking about device apps when an exciting trip is in the offing?

Rule Number One: If an app will get you through an airport and on or off an aircraft quicker or easier, it is probably a good idea. Further, and in general, if apps make the flight experience better we will try them. That may seem strange because we spend so much money and time on flying, but the flying experience is not really enjoyable anymore… at least not in economy! Perhaps we are willing to download and use device apps that have the potential to improve it… or at least, provide a diversion that keeps us from thinking about the “experience” while we are enduring it. At this juncture, we can’t help but think about dentistry’s Novocaine, but we digress. One can only guess that if the experience were better we would want it to last longer and would not look for apps to mask or improve the event.

Which brings us to the demand and usage of mobile connectivity. We read recently that “13 million passengers used Mobile OnAir last year – 65% used if for mobile data, which includes email, social media updates and surfing the Internet, 31% used it for text messaging, and 21% used it for phone calls, which includes listening to voicemail, we were told by a SITA/ONAir spokesperson, Charlie Pryor. He went on, “Basically, think of how people use their phones normally; with smartphones, the calling element is just another app. And people use their phones in the same way on a plane as they do on the ground.” Next, Mr. Pryor went on; “There are two OnAir products that provide passenger communication. Mobile OnAir is a mobile phone network. It works in exactly the same way as international roaming: you turn on your phone and start using it. The cost is included in your regular bill, as with roaming. So no, you don’t need any specific subscription – provided of course you have roaming enabled. You can use your phone for whatever you want – emails, social media, text messages, calls, reading the newspaper: the list is endless. Internet OnAir is Wi-Fi and to use that, you need to sign-up and pay with your credit card, just like any hotspot. Mostly: there is a growing trend for airlines to provide it free of charge. Again, you can use it for whatever you normally do on the Internet.”

Obviously, apps are well used and to prove a point, airline connectivity apps, developed in this case with SITA, are a big deal, and getting bigger. The company noted; “SITA OnAir is celebrating another successful year with 13 million people taking advantage of Mobile OnAir in 2014. The inflight mobile phone service, Mobile OnAir is now flying on 15 airlines worldwide. Over the year, 37% of passengers flying OnAir-equipped aircraft connected to the inflight network. They went on; “The demand for mobile connectivity has never been higher, with 80% of passengers carrying smartphones. In 2014, mobile data was the most popular service, used by 65% of the passengers who connected to OnAir’s onboard mobile network; mobile data includes email, social media updates and surfing the Internet. Text messaging accounted for 31% of usage and phone calls made up 21%. Many passengers use Mobile OnAir for all three activities, as people do on the ground. Over the coming years, mobile data usage will continue to grow, driven by smartphone penetration. Voice also remains an important service, especially for business passengers.”

The issue of flight connectivity brings us to one point we noticed while reading about apps and their use on personal devices – flying is becoming a “personal experience,” at least in the world of airline and airports – here is one document passage, again developed by the folks at SITA: “The ‘connected passenger’ has become a reality, with 97% of airline passengers carrying at least one personal electronic device. But global usage rates indicate passengers have been slow to adopt new airline and airport mobile services when traveling. Deeper analysis however, shows that some industry players are bucking the trend and achieving high levels of usage. This is according to The Future is Personal, the latest industry report from SITA, the leading global IT provider to the air transport industry. It combines SITA’s global research with commentary and cases studies from airports and airlines that have focused particularly on using mobile services to improve the passenger experience to great success. SITA’s industry insights are based on in-depth research directly with more than 6,000 passengers; carried out at 106 airports across the world that handled 2.35 billion passengers last year and with airlines that together carried more than half the world’s passenger traffic. The research shows airlines have made significant investments in mobile services over the past four years as smartphone adoption surged and the majority now enable passengers to buy tickets, check-in and access flight information via smartphone apps. Meanwhile half of the worlds’ airports also provide flight information via apps.”

Yes, apps are useful, but are they being used? SITA says; “Still global roll-out and adoption is proving to be slower and more complex than was anticipated. Half of passengers are keen to use their mobiles to find their way around the airport, access lounges or the aircraft, provide identification at checkpoints, or make payments. The reality is though, that despite these and other services, including mobile check-in and boarding passes provided by airlines, 24% of passengers have not yet used travel apps at all on their journey.

With the greater use of apps, we wondered a bit more about who develops them. In our discussions, Mr. Pryor noted: Apps are typically developed by airlines and airports; SITA provides developers with access to the relevant API data, through” He noted further that he had some interesting data on an airport app from Cork airport (Ireland) that we wanted to know a bit more about so he connected IFExpress with Kevin Cullinane and he answered the following airport app questions about which he had some interesting data on Cork Airport, Ireland:

Q. How many downloads of the Cork airport app to-date – Android… iOS?
A. There have been close to 10,000 downloads since its launch and the Cork Airport App currently has a 4* rating in the Google play store. It is also rated in iOS – the App is up to 29th place in the free iOS Apps in the Travel category in the Irish iTunes market. Nearly half the users are using iPhones to access the site.

Q. Why do passengers use it?
A. It is the essential guide to the full range of services at the Airport. It includes features such as live arrivals and departures information, car park booking, integrated maps and details of all of the retail and catering outlets within the terminal. The app also includes links to airport shopping services with all the latest offers from The Loop. It provides current weather details at Cork Airport, as well as live weather reports for all destinations. Cork Airport has also added bus and coach departure timetables to the App. The update makes it even easier for passengers to plan their journey to and from the airport.

Q. The App is called?
A. CORK Airport (Official) available to download for free on both iTunes and Google Play

Q. Why should travelers download the app?
A. The free Cork Airport app is the essential guide to the full range of services available at the airport. In addition to the new flight-tracking feature launched in January, the app features live bus and coach departure times, live arrivals and departures information, car park booking, integrated maps and details of all of the retail and catering outlets within the terminal. The app also includes links to airport shopping services with all the latest offers from The Loop. It provides current weather details at Cork Airport, as well as live weather reports for all destinations.

Finally we note, this business about apps and inflight connectivity got us thinking: Who is in the game? Noting that in the US, the government prohibits voice calls, we found an interesting study done at Stanford focusing on Gogo but talking about the worldwide competition, and, the study is worth a read. Here is what they say about inflight connectivity competition:

“Indeed, the main competitors on the market are OnAir, VIA SAT and Aeromobile. OnAir, a fully owned subsidiary of SITA, originally incorporated as a joint venture with Airbus is based in Switzerland and has operations internationally. OnAir is focused either on airlines but also on cruise ship since 2005. In 2014, they had equipped 22 airlines. They are offering to flyers an Internet connection of 56 Kbit/s and provide OnAir services with an integrated GSM. Recently they have equipped the innovative plane Solar Impulse.

Via Sat is an American company making 1 Billion Sales. They are specialized in global satellite services for government, commercial aircraft and cruises.

Aeromobile, part of Panasonic, is based in UK, since 2010 and generates 2 Million USD of revenues. Their technology is based on a component of Panasonic’s Global Communications services.

Honeywell Aerospace, the largest manufacturer of aircraft engines and avionics is based in the US, generating 31 Billion USD Revenue is acting in many segments of aviation. On a bigger scale, they have the objective to lead the market in a near future with an innovative Wi-Fi Satellite connection.

In conclusion, we are encouraged to note that Brazil is the leader in travel app usage (probably because of the dreadful telephone system), so noted a recent SITA release – “SAO PAULO – 5 March 2015 – More airline passengers in Brazil carry a smartphone than in other parts of the world. The SITA-ATW Passenger Survey reveals that 85% of passengers in Brazil carry smartphones compared to the global average of 81%. A significantly higher percentage of these passengers use apps from airlines, airports and travel agencies compared with passengers from Europe, Africa and the Middle East, making Brazil’s passengers among the most connected in the world.” The release went on to say: “When it comes to booking their flights, passengers in Brazil are also picking up their smartphones and tablets faster than their counterparts in other parts of the world. Some 43% of them regularly use their smartphone to book flights, this compares to the global average of 31%. In Brazil, 42% take advantage of the larger screen and regularly use tablets to book flights. This use of mobile technology is set to continue to rise – when asked which channels they would use more for tickets and services, if all equally available, 60% of passengers said smartphone apps and 53% tablets.”

Apps are here to stay and if the recent announcement of the Apple Watch has any influence and bearing on the situation, via GPS, one app on it will display your itinerary information when you near the airport. Make no mistake, wearable apps are next!

This Just In: IFExpress received a copy of the VT Miltope Press Release of their new nMAP2 – IEEE802.11ac Multifunction Access Point, featuring Cognitive Hotspot Technology. The company states that is is in the process of delivering its latest wireless product. And yes, it will be their “main focus” at AIX. More later…

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