innovation in the air (part 2 of 3)

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This is the second of three posts based on an interview with Orange Business Services’ Thierry Hayes, head of the SITA-Orange Common Solutions Team, and Muriel de Beler, Manager of the Joint Innovation Program. See part 1 here.

Thierry and Muriel first spoke to me about using new near field communication (NFC) technology, which is bringing opportunities to a variety of industries. To support air travel, Orange and SITA have been analyzing how NFC-enabled applications can enhance the passenger journey. The first, most widespread use for NFC technology identified thus far for air travel has been user access control and digital boarding passes.

As the number of NFC-enabled smartphones grows (Gartner estimates that 50% of the world’s smartphones will have NFC capability by 2015, while global smartphone penetration is now at 10%), Thierry predicts many more travelers will be able to take advantage of their mobile phone to perform a variety of tasks, such as accessing controlled areas. France’s Toulouse-Blagnac Airport is premiering a solution this summer to provide access control—such as to the parking lot and premiem passenger lounges—to 50 of its frequent fliers, using BlackBerry® NFC smartphones.

easier boarding

According to Muriel, the next use for this contactless, NFC-based technology is digital boarding passes. Mobile boarding passes have been around since 2008, thanks to 2D barcode technology. An NFC-based digital boarding pass allows the pass to be safely stored on the SIM card and, unlike a 2D bar code pass, doesn’t require any special set-up or manual processing by the passenger (such as switching on the phone or retrieving the pass among the other stored messages). Even more convenient, the NFC-based pass can be read when the phone battery is dead.

Hopefully this means that we’ll no longer have to fish for our boarding pass when making a purchase in the duty-free shop; instead we’ll just wave our phone near the NFC reader.

Stay tuned for the next post in the series, where I’ll review how SITA and Orange are working together to develop services to facilitate travelers’ journeys with location-based services.

Katie DeTitta

I've spent more than 17 years in global telecommunications, and was formerly responsible for international social media activities at Orange Business Services. I enjoy making technology accessible to non-techies and I'm a strong supporter of flexible working.