Have Airlines Missed A Trick With Mobile Check-In?

Qantas Airlines Boeing 737-800 at sunrise
So airlines allow me to check myself in. Could they make flying more personal?

One of the recent changes the airlines have put in place, is the ability to check-in online or on your mobile phone. Clearly this has saved them a lot of money through streamlined processes and even reduced payroll.

The opportunity for airlines in streamlining the check-in process providing user self-service, however, is for them not only to save costs, but also to provide better service. There must be staff no longer required to handle the check-in process that could provide a more personal airport experience. But I haven’t found this to be the case. In fact, quite the opposite.

Personally I love self-service. I love being able to check-in 24 hours before departure (48 for International), choose my own seat, and cruise through the airport with minimum of fuss. At the very least this gives me more time in the lounge, or allows me to arrive at the airport later than before.

But apart from accelerating my journey through the airport, flying is still a chore most of the time, and it’s much worse flying domestic in the USA.

How about you? Is your flying experience much better now that you can check-in online? Do you find airline staff more personable? Do you look to get to the airport earlier to enhance your experience?


Ware Shark

Skully AR-1 (Image by Indiegogo)

The other day I attended a forum hosted by Standards Australia on the debacle that is Motorcycle Helmet standards here. The reason I attended was in the vain hope that someone in the industry, a manufacturer, standards writer, legislator, even distributor or reseller, was actually considering standards for new technologies. Rather than just trying to rationalise standards for old helmet designs.

Yeah. I was disappointed.

IMG_6795I did, however, meet the R&D lead for Shark Helmets. Which, as any of you readers of my blog know, is my helmet brand of choice. I’ve owned 4 Sharks, and the Explore-R is imho the most versatile, and best helmet available today.

But they need to beware. Because helmets, like every other industry, are currently being disrupted by technology. And like every other industry, the old guard tend to focus on current metrics and legacy competitors for too long. Not realising why their business is draining away until it’s too late. Just look at Borders, or Kodak (Although it seems Kodak have resurrected), even stalwart IT companies are being disrupted by start-ups.

Who should Shark beware? Not Shoei, Arai, AGV, or even Schuberth. But an as yet unlaunched helmet from a start-up, Skully Systems. When I mentioned this to said Research lead, he smiled indulgently, mentioned that they were looking into technology integration, and pointed out that the Skully AR-1 had yet to see the light of day.

Sigh. How many companies have done too little, too late?

Why wouldn’t a company with the resources of Shark (Shoei, Arai, AGV etc) develop even one helmet with integrated technology? With integrated audio, video cameras, and NED (Near Eye Display – also, incorrectly, called Heads Up Display)?

Why not partner with a bike manufacturer? Bundling the helmet, branding it, and integrating with the telemetry of the bike?

Why not even OEM for a technology company? Or form a JV?

The Skully AR-1 is a $1500 helmet, and when it’s released, I’ll buy one. Because my life is worth more than $1500, and every second I can keep my eyes on the road rather than flicking down to a speedo, or GPS, or rearview mirror, is another second I’m safer.

Actually $1500 is a good price. A high end helmet is already in the order of $700 – $900. Then add a GoPro for $500 (plus the ugly unsafe attachment), a Bluetooth Headset for $200 (with it’s own ugly, unsafe attachment) and you’re already there.

And Skully Systems isn’t the only, or even the first, start-up adding Augmented Reality and technology to a helmet. Just the most marketed, because they’re a Silicon Valley lovechild. There’s Livemap (out of Russia I think), BikeHUD from a garage in the UK. Recon Instruments have teamed with Oakley for their Airwave ski-goggles, Moto-X goggles is an obvious next step.

I know there are a lot of riders who buy the cheapest helmets they can. One of the beauties of riding is that it’s a lot cheaper to do 0-100 in 3 secs, or lean through mountain bends, or travel to inaccessible places, than owning a supercar, aeroplane, or 4WD.

But those that buy cheap helmets tend to hold on to them for years as well. They aren’t exactly the market that keeps a helmet manufacturer alive. No, the market that buys helmets are the newly licenced riders (90,000 in NSW every year alone). Not all of them 16 year olds on scooters. At least half are middle-aged, cashed up, and looking to get the best kit they can.

Of course, the millennials themselves are digital natives. For them, Augmented Reality is fast going to be as ubiquitous as TV is to us Gen-X’ers and Radio to Baby Boomers. When they have a choice, connection will be as compelling as breathing.

So get on board I say. And don’t OEM some tier 2 electronics company. Work with the leaders in the field. Work with Google, and Microsoft. Magic Leap, HPSony and Samsung (yes, I know VR is not AR, but Sony & Samsung want a piece of this pie). Partner with apparel manufacturers like Alpinestars and Dainese. Motorbike brands like Ducati (owned by Audi), BMW, Yamaha, and Triumph.

Now is the time to disrupt yourselves. Take your strengths of helmet manufacturing expertise, supply chain, distribution, and brand; and marry them to technology that enhances safety, increases comfort, and maximises enjoyment.

If you don’t, the avalanche of disruption will happen, and history books will remember your rise and fall. Or maybe they won’t.

 (Disclaimer: I work for HP, although not directly with Aurasma. My opinions are my own)

My iPad, My Surface, My Galaxy–Thoughts for the CTO

Project 2012: Day 286

There is no doubt that mobile technology will revolutionise computing in the same way personal computers did. Already 52% of knowledge workers across Asia-Pacific and Japan use 3 or more devices for work.*

You’ll agree that PC’s didn’t do away with mainframes, or mini-computers (I consider Unix & Enterprise Wintel servers as mini’s). But they did provide access to Information Systems to a far broader enterprise audience, not to mention small business, and consumer users.

In the same way, it’s unlikely that tablets and smartphones will entirely do away with PC’s. At least not any time soon. But they do provide affordable computing to a far broader enterprise user.

The biggest issue that an average enterprise CIO/CTO faces is the enterprise applications you have to support, that simply don’t run on anything other than a (Windows) PC. There are broadly four options for these applications:

1. Do Nothing (continue to invest in the PC platform)

There may well be applications where this strategy makes sense. Especially where applications have dependencies on legacy technologies.

Understand that every tablet requires remediation for PC applications. For iOS (iPad), Android, and Windows RT (Surface), all applications need to be replaced, or entirely redeveloped on a compatible platform. Even for Windows 8, the Presentation Layer or User Interface needs to be rewritten to benefit from Live Tiles, Touch, the Metro Interface and other technologies.

This strategy may have the lowest investment in the short term. But the reality is that rapidly your business is falling behind in not adopting mobility, and supporting the rapidly changing market & workforce with modern tools.

2. Virtualise Applications Using Remote Terminal Technologies

This is tantamount to option 1, with the benefit of being able to deliver applications to alternative platforms. Again, this a viable strategy where you have applications with a heavy interdependency on legacy systems (much like mainframe applications).

Depending on the application, and your user footprint, this option may be more expensive than simply staying on a PC platform. So it’s important to understand the lifecycle of the application, whether you intend to retire it, rewrite in a more modern platform, or replace it. If the lifecycle of the application is longer than the introduction of tablets, virtualising could be a good interim step that allows you to benefit from mobile platforms.

3. Commission Native Mobile Applications

This is already happening on a wide scale. It’s not only new opportunities and start-ups that are developing hundreds of thousands of native applications, but enterprises. Whilst the initial development was aimed at B2C, many ISV’s are beginning to look at B2B applications too.

Ultimately, as mentioned above, your chosen mobile platform isn’t relevant when it comes to native applications. All of the platforms require dedicated applications written to run successfully. Whilst it is true that .NET developers are more likely to benefit from the Microsoft Development Platform & libraries, there is far more to mobile development than language & syntax. Developers have demonstrated over the last 5 years that they will quickly adopt new languages and development platforms to exploit more lucrative markets and feature filled devices.

With this in mind, Microsoft no longer has proprietary lock-in for devices. For those applications that will benefit from porting to a tablet device, your strategy should look towards device features and functionality, as well as a vendor dedicated roadmap.

4. Re-architect To Run From The Cloud

In time most, if not all software will be delivered as a service. Whether this is via a browser or a native application will be determined by the ongoing functional development of mobile devices, and the bandwidth of ubiquitous connectivity.

For now, there are significant benefits to develop native applications, mostly to benefit from intermittent (loose) connectivity and features not readily available to a browser based application, e.g. camera, gyroscope, compass, GPS, etc.

Very few PC based applications currently deployed in an enterprise have these requirements. Although there are significant benefits to analysing where new features can benefit enterprise applications. E.g. an insurance claims application would benefit from access to a camera & GPS.

Even so for the vast bulk of the enterprise, applications can be architected to run from the cloud via the browser. This approach satisfies a number of enterprise challenges:

  • Single Sign On and Enterprise Authentication can be consolidated to a single directory
  • Secure access to applications is easily controlled by role, network, and device
  • End-user device platform is unrestricted** Users can use a device fit for purpose
  • Feature upgrades, and security patching are no longer constrained by enterprise wide client deployment
  • Location & time are no longer factors for access to applications. This enables direct access for remote workers, partners, and even customers. Less re-entering of data, less latency in business processes
  • Cost of delivery is much reduced, and correlated to actual usage of the software

Platform Independence

For most large organisations, it’s likely that your strategy will include a combination of the above. The best approach then is to move to platform independence, which for the first time is becoming an achievable aim.

The three platforms vying for adoption are still relatively new, although the 4th generation iPad is still the platform vendors are trying to catch. There is simply no device that matches it for features, battery life, weight, and engineering quality. But reconfiguring the enterprise to benefit from mobility is likely to take a number of years. So, plan for n+1 or n+2 generations from now.

My take would be to push as much into SaaS as possible, and purchase the most appropriate tablet or smartphone for the role. Perhaps even allowing staff to bring their own devices (BYOD).

Cloud is more Hyped than the Dot Com Boom…

Car Cloud

“Cloud is more hyped than the Dot Com boom!”

It’s a quote I’ve heard recently, and perhaps you too believe this might just be the case. Of course it’s only in IT that it counts right? Your average man in the street doesn’t care where they access their information….

There is no question that “Cloud” is hyped. Every vendor has a story, a roadmap, and is hiring professionals to help market, sell, and hopefully, deliver on the cloud promise.

“Dot Com-esque” though?

As with many of these technological shifts, people are looking in the wrong place. Back in the early 2000’s WiFi was touted as the next best thing. There was a similar flurry of vendors developing roadmaps and hiring professionals. Companies like Cisco and Compaq developed architectures that showed CIO’s and CFO’s impressive ROI and productivity gains. Internal IT staff became equally vocal about security risks and threats to the business.

Today of course, it seems the entire discussion is moot. My kids open their laptops and expect to be online. They are. Even when we’re driving across the veldt in South Africa. I haven’t worked for a company, or at a client office devoid of WiFi for over 6 years. Why? Well because every laptop and mobile device comes with WiFi as standard.

As laptops were refreshed, and people started connecting to their information at home, via open networks in an adjacent building, or at a local coffee shop, the productivity gains became compelling enough to convince organisations to implement WiFi. Compelling enough for hotels, airports, and coffee-shops to use it to drive additional revenue.

Didn’t we see similar trends with the adoption of mobile phones? Initially the domain of executives, then consumers picked them up, suddenly enterprises were managing fleets of mobile phones.

What about Internet access, Social networking trends, and more recently Smartphones?

The lessons here:

“Business people are consumers too.”

So what does this foretell about the Cloud in the Enterprise? I see two trends driving enterprises to the cloud:

MobilityLarge Growth

The first is mainstream mobility. As applications walk off the desktop and out the front door of the organisation, there is less need for that expensive infrastructure and back-end server room. Also, as people get access to new services not available in the office, they will adopt them. An interesting retail example here is Amazon vs Borders – The Amazon smartphone app allows you to scan a barcode and purchase an item directly from Amazon. This means that the Amazon “shop front” is in every one of their competitors stores!! eBay has similar functionality in their apps.

That’s genius! But the point is, if your customers can purchase goods and services from anywhere, even your competitor stores, you’d better have the systems in place to cater for that. Make no mistake, mobility enables this practice, but cloud computing is essential to sustain it competitively.

Is the same true for enterprise value chains?  If your staff could access critical systems away from the office, would more work get done? If they were no longer tied to a desk, would it be more cost effective to pay for sw by usage, and bypass the headache of access control?

Questions to ask:

  • Describe your value chain?
  • Where is there friction, or opportunities to give people access to information closer to the work?
  • How does licencing cost, infrastructure lead times, or location of access exacerbate this?
  • Is your IT department a cost or profit centre? A business enabler or blocker?


The second is software vendor investment.

Better SoftwareSpeak to anyone in the know, and they’ll define Cloud Computing as three essential tiers: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS); Platform as a Service (PaaS); and Software as a Service (SaaS). Right now there’s a lot of promise to start the journey to the cloud by shifting current infrastructure to IaaS providers; porting current internally developed applications to PaaS providers; and replacing some purchased applications entirely with SaaS.

But make no mistake, ultimately this is a SaaS play. As ISV’s come to grips with the annuities, and low cost of sale of a subscription model, they will divert more development into niche enterprise systems. Already you can start virtually any business by providing your staff with a laptop and a phone. Then simply rent email, CRM, accounting, call centre, manufacturing and delivery services. If, say, you’re a local News provider, and you could rent access to an enterprise scale, tier-1, multichannel editorial system and take on Fairfax or News Ltd, wouldn’t you? More to the point, if you’re one of the 2 companies in the world that develop such systems, wouldn’t you want to increase your market size, not to mention ongoing revenues with such a service?

An example of this is MYOB committing $90m to cloud computing R&D. When they turn on full functionality, every accounting firm, small business, and CFO will seriously consider this service. Quite apart from the reduced cost, is the removal of all of the current accounting software headaches – tax table and software version upgrades, closing accounts for month end runs, and the inherent business risk of systems failure.

Do you think Business Units will be prepared to wait for 6 weeks, and pay for servers, switches, and storage, when they need a marketing campaign, or to provide a new online customer service? Especially when they can simply rent the service they need for the time they need it?

Questions to ask:

  • How much does licencing, staff, and infrastructure cost per application?
  • Are there Cloud Services already available that provide the same functionality?
  • If there was an earthquake that took out your office, how long before your core systems were online again?
  • Is Data Sovereignty and Privacy really an unresolvable issue? (Like WiFi security was mooted to be)
  • What is any migration cost likely to be?
  • Are your SW vendors seriously considering Cloud Computing solutions, and if so, what is their roadmap?

Bigger hype than the DotCom Boom


If you’re in IT, what does your career path look like? Have you really considered how cloud is going to change everything?