Skift Take

Lots of user adoption needs to take place before this passenger of the future can actually get through the airport faster.

One of the best parts of participating in the SITA IT Summit in Brussels this year was the chance to get to know the brains behind tomorrow’s travel tech.

And to take a closer look at the hot gadgets; betting on which will die an untimely death and which will become the next must-have travel accessory.

For the hot-tips, we turned to the crème-de-la-crème of the Jet-Set IT Crowd: the fun guys at SITA Lab. These intrepid tinkerers show no fear when testing Way-Out-Wearables (WOWs). That’s our acronym, but you get no street-cred in aviation if you can’t come up with a few letters to replace the big words–while managing to make people wonder what you’re talking about.

The WOWs we saw at the SITA Lab display included Google Glass and Glass Clones (don’t get us started!) and smart-watches (so-so) and vampire-tech bracelets called Nymi. You heard right. Vampire-Tech. SITA Labs says Nymi could make travel and retail much easier–if you have the heart for it.

The biometric bracelet Nymi, SITA Lab explains, uses the same technology which allows vampire bats in Monrovia to identify their favorite horse to drain–yes, vampire bats are connoisseurs and finicky, they won’t just drain any old nag. All you have to do is place your finger on the Nymi micro-sensors long enough for the bracelet to identify your unique electrocardiogram signature. After that, you’re set to go anywhere you like.

SITA Lab is conducting preliminary trials, to evaluate whether Nymi could help you clear security and board the aircraft at unmanned gates. Receivers will be able to find you, track you, allow you to check-in to your flight, and, in theory, you could use Nymi to pay for all that Duty-Free booze which helps fund airport expansion. Perhaps you could use it one day to buy Chinos at the GAP at the Terminal; but that application is still way out in the future-of-possibly-never.

SITA Lab Tech Wizards (SLTWs) tell us this is a highly reliable biometric identifier–because a horse’s (and person’s) ECG signature is unique. It is as unique as the fingerprint (used by the latest iPhone, which took only a handful of days to hack); and iris scanners.

Yes, there’s always the risk that some clever hacker will figure out how to crack the chip on the Nymi that stores your unique heart signature as an ID. SITA assures us that it is almost certainly probably highly unlikely. Each time you remove the bracelet, you have to reactivate and authenticate it.

Whether you’re doubtful or enthusiastic you have to agree: Wearable tech is a thing and biometric ID is happening. Beacons will offer you $10 Coupons for Baby Back Ribs at Chilis–via an app you forgot you installed after too many margaritas. There’s no standing in the way of progress. (Why would we want to when it gives us so much good material to work with?)

You’ve got to admire the vision and courage of the jet-set airport IT Crowd, especially those who finally admitted this year that NFC might not have been the thing-to-end-all-things (as attendees of previous SITA Summits thought). And their slightly-delayed consensus that Blackberry tech may not have a future. This is just some of the stuff we learned from the really cool IT peeps at this year’s SITA Summit.

SITA points out that you have to expect many failures, along the path to finding the winning solution. Truer words were never spoken. If it weren’t for the folks willing to try something a little crazy for kicks–in the hopes of achieving a dream–then none of us would be flying in the first place.


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Tags: sita, wearables

Photo credit: A many wearing a demo Nymi wearable. Nymi

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