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Growing demand from airlines for mobile applications

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SITA, the specialist air transport IT provider, has outlined its vision of the future of mobility in the industry as the 2009 Airline IT Trends Survey reveals that 78% of airlines intend to adapt their Web sites to work on mobile phones by 2012.

The airline-owned company also announced the creation of a Mobile Workforce Innovation Focus Group to define industry requirements for a common-use context aware platform at airports to boost the efficiency of airside operations and reduce flight delays through the improved provision of mobile solutions to airline and airport staff.

In support of industry demand for mobile phone applications, SITA has demonstrated a mobile Web application it is trialling with Malaysia Airlines which could deliver mobile phone check-in and other functionality to Web-enabled smartphones. The demo application is supported by a rendering engine which provides consistent formatting for the different screen formats of these phones.

Jim Peters, SITA Chief Technology Officer, said: "This research development, combined with the arrival of 100% Bar Coded Boarding Passes next year, could create the necessary impetus to make mobile phones an essential travel tool for flight booking, check-in and boarding."

According to the 2009 Airline IT Trends Survey, 38% of respondent airlines do not provide any mobile services as they see no clear business case yet and only 20% currently offer mobile phone check-in.

Peters said: "The Airline IT Trends Survey shows that only 15% of airlines have optimised their Web sites for mobile phones. Our approach in SITA Labs is to develop a common platform to maximise the use of mobile phones as a travel tool. Our prototype interface works via the mobile device's Web browser, and we 'mobilise' rather than simply miniaturise the airline Web site for the convenience of the passenger eliminating unnecessary content."

When it comes to airline workforce mobility, the survey shows that 51% of respondents plan to deploy data-centric mobile solutions at key hubs, and 37% are waiting to do so pending the availability of sufficient wireless access coverage at airports.

Announcing the creation of a Mobile Workforce Focus Group, SITA's Vice President for Innovation, Technology and Research, Greg Ouillon, today said: "The biggest drawback of existing mobile solutions today is the difficulty of adapting them to meet the real-time needs of workers in the airport environment and the cost of deployment.

"The key to success is contextual information, adapting information delivery dynamically, to completely transform airport business processes especially for key on-the-ground staff such as turnaround dispatch teams and maintenance engineers."

SITA's approach is to deploy a common-use context-aware platform at airports to support multiple mobile application scenarios (including passenger management, baggage processing, aircraft turn-around and airport operations). Working with Appear, the leader in context-aware software infrastructure, SITA has deployed a live pilot of a mobile workforce solution for line maintenance with the Portuguese airline TAP. Other pilots are also getting under way.

Ouillon said: "Managing unexpected events which are the main cause of aircraft delays is a significant challenge for airlines as it impacts both customer satisfaction and their bottom line. Providing the common-use platform to the industry to deploy context-aware mobile workforce solutions will enable a significant shift in operations at airports with real-time reporting, pro-active decision making, cost savings, and enhanced customer service."

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Tags: sita  airports  airport  airlines  mobile web  airline