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Middle East aviation sector eyeing wearables, new tech for growth

Middle East aviation sector eyeing wearables, new tech for growth

Investments are pouring into areas of IT that can facilitate check-in, bag drop/collection and entertainment

The aviation industry in the Middle East is investing heavily in new technologies to improve operational effectiveness and the overall passenger experience.

Investments are pouring into areas of information technology that can facilitate check-in, bag drop/collection and entertainment, according to SITA’s president of Middle East, India and Africa Hani El-Assaad.

The specialist aviation technology company has several clients in the region including Emirates, Abu Dhabi Airport, Qatar Airways and Saudi Arabian Airlines.

According to SITA’s 2015 Airline IT trends survey, the majority of airlines globally – 86 per cent – expect that the ‘Internet of Things’ will deliver clear benefits in the next three years. More than one third – 37 per cent – have allocated a budget to it.

The survey also showed that IoT investments will be focused on check-in, bag drop and bag collection.

“With the rising popularity of smart gadgets, such as smart watches, smart glasses, fitbits and smartbands, the aviation industry is experiencing a new wave of gadgets culture featuring wearables and apps,” said Assaad.

“Airlines and airports are exploring the opportunities it can offer.”

SITA Lab, the company’s technology research team, has conducted trials of Google Glass and other wearable technologies at several airports. This year, the company joined hands with Quebec Airport on a trial basis to provide alerts to the airport’s operational staff via Apple Watches.

By linking passenger mobile and wearable devices to the industry’s IT infrastructure, airports and airlines are beginning to gain unprecedented insights into passenger flow and behaviour.

“The implications will touch everything from sales and customer service to operations and asset management,” Assaad said.

Government regulation, slow adoption by passengers and staff training are some of the main challenges towards implementing new technologies. But Assaad is confident that these factors will not impede growth in the sector.

“We will see smart glasses, watches and bracelets used by passengers to check-in and navigate their way through the airport while staff use the technology to provide better service and timely information.

“In time, maintenance staff will access complex information to service planes quicker and we can even picture a day when passengers will get through airport check points with a wave of their wrist and a biometric verification done by a bracelet or watch,” he added.

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