Air Apparent

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print

Mobility has come of age, but IT still struggles to manage a tangle of devices and systems. Best-practice organizations attempt to focus on the data rather than the device. See Also: Mobile Means Business and Five Ways to Put Mobility to Work

Air Apparent

A well-conceived strategy has lifted Delta Air Lines to greater heights. In 2006, the company unveiled the PAW units. An agent can position a full-service wireless workstation wherever it’s needed to speed check-in or handle other agent functions. These units, typically a computer on wheels, are frequently used to accommodate large groups.

Then, in 2009, the company introduced the agent handheld devices combined with mobile printers. They allow Delta Red Coats and other service agents to roam an airport and handle passenger check-in, flight information, seat assignments, standby lists, boarding, new itineraries and amenities. Agents also can use Motorola MC75 handheld devices to print hotel and meal vouchers on the spot.

Both of these systems provide the airline with greater flexibility—particularly at airports with limited gates and space. The PAW system has been especially useful for checking in tour groups and military personnel, who frequently show up unannounced. The PAWs and agent handhelds have decreased wait times by 50 percent or more.

“As the industry adopts more self-service technology, there’s a greater need to deploy innovative solutions that provide an alternative to standing in long lines for fullservice transactions,” says Delta’s Soulimiotis.

But Delta has also pushed heavily into the consumer arena with mobile technology. It introduced mobile boarding passes in 2008 and created a mobile check-in application for the iPhone in 2010. The e-boarding pass is scanned directly off the phone at the gate.

More than 30 U.S. airports now use the system, and Delta plans to expand it to 15 additional airports by early 2011. In the customer-facing arena, supporting multiple devices and platforms isn’t an option.

“We must support the devices that customers use,” Soulimiotis explains. The company used the Sybase Unwired Platform (SUP) to develop many of its capabilities. Aberdeen’s Borg says that, in many respects, customerfacing mobility initiatives aren’t fundamentally different from employee-facing initiatives. There’s an overarching need to provide users with the digital tools to accomplish their tasks faster and more efficiently.

Moreover, the line between corporate interaction and customer-facing activity is blurring as data flows to field agents and others who interact with customers directly— often through mobile devices.

Disjointed and disparate mobility initiatives within an organization undermine success, he says. When different departments and operational centers create their own mobile services and tools without regard for what other groups are doing, that drains budget and IT resources, and creates technical and practical difficulties—while ratcheting up security concerns. “Mobility needs to become part of a core IT infrastructure, and it needs to be planned and managed centrally,” Borg says.

This article was originally published on 2011-01-28
Samuel Greengard is a freelance writer for Baseline.
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