Anybody who has experienced long queues at an airport counters will appreciate the latest technological evolution in electronic check-in: The SMS boarding pass.
Not that long ago, the commercial aviation industry was a slave to inefficient check-in procedures, bound to paper boarding passes and time-consuming practices that affected customers and airport personnel. Online check-in was eventually introduced to expedite the entire process. Airlines set-up kiosks on-site where customers can print out their boarding pass themselves with minimal assistance.
Airlines toyed with remote check-ins later on, either through email or WAP-based methods. Some companies, such as Lufthansa, already use SMS check-in services but customers who choose to do so will require mobiles with Internet access and any download costs incurred will be charged to the user.
Budget Australian airline, Jetstar, wanted to employ a similar SMS system, but was wary of the need for Internet-enabled mobiles.
“We initially started looking at WAP, but based on telco figures that were released, only around five per cent of all citizens use that service,” Jetstar CIO, Stephen Tame, said. “If we did that, we would be disenfranchising the majority.”
The company approached several IT suppliers but settled with Melbourne-based Sissit Group to develop the technology five months ago. The result was the Sissit Group Universal Scanner, which will be implemented across Australia and New Zealand by Christmas.
The IT vendor’s CEO, Aaron Hornlimann, along with number partners that have worked in airport immigration, established the business around 18 months ago. There is currently three staff, including Hornlimann, at Sissit Group but, through contracting, more than15 people have worked with Jetstar, the IT firm’s biggest client so far.
Under the agreement, Sissit Group is not permitted to sell the technology to Jetstar’s domestic competitors in the country and across the Tasman. But a number of international airlines in Asia and the Middle East have already expressed interest in picking up the scanner hardware and software.
Since the product interprets alphanumeric codes by taking pictures, it is not restricted to working with mobile phones and paper boarding passes. While there is a keen interest from the aviation industry, Sissit Group’s young CEO, who is in his early 20s, has plans to take the technology beyond that vertical.
“We want to adopt the system into other markets,” Hornlimann said. “It can be used in theatres, concert venues and parking houses and we have a strategic partnership with [perimeter security specialist] Magnetic Automation to do so.”
Sissit Group also has other unrelated projects in the works.
“We are working on other things such as image processing and object detection for airports that can pick up human signatures to ensure people are not in restricted areas,” Hornlimann said. “You can say we are specialising in the computer vision field.”
A planned trial of the SMS boarding system will begin at Melbourne Avalon Airport in four weeks and a domestic rollout is expected by the end of the year.