SITA & Sovrin Make Inroads Toward Lifetime Electronic Identity/Passports & Cosmic Girl to Install PAC High Speed Connectivity System

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If there is one word that aptly describes the future right now it is change. Strangely, the Coronavirus has been on of the biggest drivers we, as change receivers, have seen in recent decades. However, the shift in lifestyle as a result of this pandemic will both facilitate and accelerate some major changes for all of humanity. Frequently, unexpected disruptions result in dynamic shifts that drive both economic and political change, which lead to dramatic lifestyle changes. More importantly, if humanity does not or cannot adjust to a global crisis does it represent an evolutionary step backwards? Over the past 100 – 200 years, we as a species have learned how to quickly address potential changes that threaten our existence, which has resulted in an increased life expectancy, rapid rates of population growth and population density. For example compare the duration of the Bubonic Plague (peaked in Europe between 1347 – 1351 killing an estimated 25 million and still exists today) to the duration of the Spanish Flu pandemic (1918 – 1919 estimated to have infected 500 million or 1/3 of the world’s population and to have killed roughly 50 million). At the time of the Spanish Flu there were no influenza vaccinations. If you read articles that describe the circumstances, conditions and preventative measures taken during the Spanish Flu they could be describing today’s newspaper articles about measures to battle COVID-19: no vaccine to protect against influenza, no antibiotics to battle or treat secondary infections, isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, use of disinfectants, limitations on public gatherings, citizens were ordered to wear masks, schools, theaters and businesses were shuttered and bodies piled up in makeshift morgues. Does this all sound eerily familiar?

The first flu vaccine was developed in the 1940s and soldiers fighting in WW11 were the first to receive vaccinations. Today an annual flu shot is widely available. Society no longer panics or is driven into isolation during the annual flu outbreak – even though it kills thousands every year. And COVID-19 will most likely follow the same route. But the real question is how much time will this take and what path do we take in the interim?

In recent days and weeks are are beginning to see what the path forward may look like:

TRAVEL – An increase in LOCALISM is not only obvious during these times, but the question is: What impact on lifestyle and travel will be brought about by the future of medical demands and safety needs? While the value of not being influenced by a neighbor’s health are important where people spend most of their time (home & work), the changes that improve the safety and security of future lifestyle will be part of the future changes. This means your future work and travel may have new baselines and tools. For example, your next job visit just may be designed to give you less time near workers, but improve tools to facilitate better connectivity and communication. Similarly, airplane travel will have to change equivalently. If the demand for “6 foot spacing between humans to prevent contagion” is a passenger demand, the price of travel and the design of the aircraft interiors will probably have to change. The other change will be the printed materials in the seatback pocket: the safety brochures and the magazines are touch points that are impossible to clean and harbor germs and bacteria – in other words: high cross contamination points. These items will need to be quickly migrated to electronic formats. Additionally, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see seat fabrics that are antibacterial and easier to clean than the cloth fabrics of many aircraft seats in today’s jetliners. Passengers may well demand and/or expect many of these safety measures to be put into place in the near term.

IFE – And while we are on aircraft travel, IFE and entertainment solutions will probably have to change as well. For example, embedded IFE systems with touch screens or control PCUs will need to be better sanitized between each flight segment – this will take time. Moving forward to next generation systems, the industry may look toward voice or motion control options instead of touch screens or PCUs, making for quicker plane sanitization and less contact points between airline customers. No doubt, inflight entertainment itself will need to be refocused to deliver subject matter to meet new requirements of passenger desire and need, content that matches on-ground entertainment competition, increase subject matter that focuses on health related communication, travel focus on new/safe travel destinations, and on and on. Finally, as travelers carry better audio/video quality delivery devices on products like personal computers and entertainment hardware, aircraft entertainment and communication hardware and content will probably eventually need to be improved to compete – but our industry has been talking about this for years. In the near and long term, this will also increase the demand for wireless inflight entertainment systems transmitted to passengers’ own electronic devices (streaming content, safety briefings, etc.).

COMMUNICATION – And while we are discussing IFEC, airlines will, no doubt, see a need for improved communication and relationship requirements with travelers. Why? As passenger interaction with their family and audio/video connectivity increases, the other world of interaction with airline ticketing, airport cost and experiences, crew interaction and aircraft interfaces will need some adjustments. Change to make the experience better, more helpful, and a better interface with lifestyle based on the impact of COVID-19 issues – and it certainly needs to be safer to use. Who knows, localism just may be the best and safe solution for travel needs in the short term? Also, there is much talk about the need for contact tracing and retaining that information for upwards of 30 days. From an airline perspective, this is where AI and Big Data need to come into play. For the past few years our industry has been addressing the concept of the seamless travel experience, where a passenger will be able to use whichever frequent flyer portal they prefer across alliance members. The resident IFEC systems would be able to recognize that traveler, know there preferences, etc. This type of connection with the passenger before, during and after the flight has the potential for greatly facilitating the requirements of contact tracing.

TRAVELER NEEDS -Presently, what the traveler needs most is confidence and assurance that the travel process is as safe as it possibly can be from a health safety standpoint. The airports, airlines and possibly the hotels need to work in tandem to increase their processes and communication to build back the travel industry. The need for clear requirements regarding the traveling public need to be established: temperature tests, immunity cards, airport procedures, etc. Communication regarding the sanitization efforts both on the ground and in the plane: what is being done to assure the health of those that are traveling. An increase in the number of self-check-in kiosks, as well as, self bag drops, are required. Also, baggage claim needs a procedure to allow for social distancing and a luggage sanitization process – we all know what a zoo this process currently can be! Boarding procedures, mask wearing, etc. all need to be communicated and it would be most helpful if there were some consistency across the airlines and airports on a global scale. The more consistent and familiar the process is for the passenger the quicker the build up of the industry will be.

TRAVELER RISK AVERSION: Some airlines, like Lufthansa, are promoting bookings through December 31, 2020 by offering the ability for travelers to change their ticket one time with no change fee regardless of class of service or ticket type. The rescheduled travel must be for the same route and be completed in 2021. This offer provides the traveler with some assurance that their money wont be wasted if there is a 2nd wave, etc. We expect other airlines to take this route as well.

Lastly, let me finish by saying that the path forward for the airline industry will only be successful through knowing your passenger demographic and better communication with that passenger. This also applies to the IFEC supplier and airline relationship as well. As always, communication is the key!


SITA (this week’s image)

SITA has stepped up its commitment to developing a permanent digital identity for air travel by becoming a Premium Donor of the Sovrin Foundation, the international non-profit organization focused on the advancement of self-sovereign digital identity.

The Sovrin Foundation is a decentralized, global public utility for self-sovereign identity. Self-sovereign means a lifetime portable identity for any person, organization, or thing that allows the holder to present verifiable credentials in a privacy-protecting way. These credentials can represent things as diverse as a passport, an airline ticket or simply a library card.  SITA’s expanded role is key to speeding up the development of a permanent digital identity accepted by governments, airlines or airports globally for use during air travel yet ensuring privacy and protection of the user’s digital identity.

SITA has successfully deployed its Smart Path technology at airports to streamline the departure process through the use of a single biometric token, where a passenger’s face is their passport at each step of the journey across an individual airport – from check-in to boarding. However, the shift in focus in the next few years will see Smart Path integrated with self-sovereign identity, controlled by the individual and usable across governments, airports and airlines, streamlining the travel process even further.

Gustavo Pina, Director of the SITA Lab, said: “We expect in the coming years that the development of a universally accepted digital identity will replace the traditional passport. This will allow travel across borders with any airline or airport while ensuring that you, as the passenger, remain in full control of your identity while providing actionable, trusted data only to appropriate parties such as border agencies.”

“The benefits include a reduced arrivals infrastructure, providing new opportunities to increase existing airport throughput by design and not expansion. Our work with the Sovrin Foundation will play an important role in unlocking that potential.”

Having joined the Foundation as a Founding Steward in 2018, SITA will now take a more active role in supporting Sovrin in the global adoption of self-sovereign identity.

Phil Windley, Chairman of the Sovrin Foundation Board of Trustees, said: “SITA continues to lead the discussion around the adoption of self-sovereign identity in the travel industry. The Sovrin Foundation provides the ideal forum to drive this agenda forward both with the fellow Sovrin Foundation members across the wider economic spectrum but also with key stakeholders in the air transport industry such as IATA, ICAO and Airport Council International.

The Sovrin Foundation seeks to transform the current broken online identity system which is open to misuse and fraud. Using self-sovereign identities could lead to lower financial transaction costs, protect people’s personal information, limit opportunity for cybercrime, and simplify identity challenges in a variety of fields including travel, healthcare, banking, IoT and voter fraud.

In addition to its engagement with the Sovrin Foundation, SITA is working with governments, airlines and airports to develop and deliver the benefits of travel using a permanent digital identity.


Panasonic

Panasonic Avionics Corporation (Panasonic) has been selected by Virgin Orbit to provide inflight connectivity for its airborne rocket launch platform. Panasonic’s latest generation high speed inflight connectivity system has been installed on Cosmic Girl, the modified Boeing 747-400 that serves as the carrier aircraft for Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne system. Virgin Orbit is currently undergoing final rehearsals for an orbital launch demonstration expected soon.

The inflight connectivity service will enable Virgin Orbit to monitor the health of the launch system over land and sea. The high bandwidth capacity of Panasonic’s connectivity network will ensure Virgin Orbit’s mission control center can quickly and easily communicate with the rocket prior to launch.

Ken Sain, Chief Executive Officer of Panasonic Avionics Corporation, says, “Virgin Orbit is set to deliver an exciting step forward in satellite launching technology, and we are thrilled to support their vision with our inflight connectivity.”

“Panasonic Avionics’ proven inflight connectivity services are used by airlines around the world to provide operational connectivity for not just passengers, but aircraft and their systems, and we look forward to supporting Virgin Orbit by providing a critical live link between air and ground.”

Virgin Orbit builds and operates the most flexible and responsive satellite launcher ever invented: LauncherOne, a dedicated launch service for commercial and government-built small satellites.

LauncherOne rockets are designed and manufactured in Long Beach, California, and will be air-launched from Virgin Orbit’s modified Boeing 747-400 carrier aircraft – allowing it to operate from locations all over the world in order to best serve each customer’s needs.

“We designed LauncherOne to be more mobile and flexible than any other platform out there, and that’s required us to implement innovative, cutting-edge solutions throughout the system. We’re grateful to Panasonic Avionics for their support — helping us keep eyes on our flight crew, Cosmic Girl, and the rocket as we fly out to our launch point. We’re certainly looking forward to having this technology in action during our upcoming launch demo,” said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart.


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