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NEWS Last modified on April 12, 2019

New projects begin at San Diego International Airport's Innovation Lab

A second group of innovators have begun a 16-week accelerator programme to “field test” and develop their concepts in a real-world airport environment at San Diego International Airport (SAN).

The programme is hosted in the Airport Innovation Lab, located within the decommissioned Commuter Terminal.

The five entrants and their wide-ranging concepts are:

• AirporTour– testing interactive airport guides with audio tours; 

• Ciari Guitars, Inc.– offering a guitar kiosk featuring the world’s first and only foldable, travel guitar where travellers can play and/or listen to music while relaxing;

• HOHM, Inc.– providing high-tech sleep pods for travelers to rest in for 30-minute to four-hour periods in otherwise underutilised space;

• InnoTech Systems LLC– using autonomous robot guides to provide navigation through the airport and other travel assistance;

• Nuvve Corporation– pioneering vehicle-to-grid applications at airports with excess electric vehicle (battery-stored) energy sold back to the grid or buildings during peak demand times.

While the first group of innovators in 2018 was specifically focused on airport parking and easing the airport experience, this second group was not asked to focus on one or more specific areas.

“We wanted to try a ‘wild card’ approach this time,” notes Rick Belliotti, SAN’s director of customer experience and innovation.
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“This allows people to show us ideas we might not have thought of otherwise. Future opportunities will generally have more definition, but we also may want to offer wild card opportunities again, depending on how well this plays out."

The unique Lab was launched to reduce barriers for innovators to break into the aviation industry.

Its goals are to develop concepts that can enhance the passenger experience, improve operational efficiency, increase revenues and/or decrease costs.

The 3,500-square-foot space offers a functional mini-terminal area with ticket counters and a bag claim carousel, all without passenger or security concerns to work around.

“Our Innovation Lab was founded to develop new services and amenities that truly enhance the airport experience for everyone flying through San Diego,” enthuses airport president and CEO, Kimberly Becker. 

“We really feel good about the wide range of ideas this group of innovators is bringing to the Lab, and I look forward to the good feelings their innovations will create for our customers.”

After completing the accelerator programme, innovators may have the opportunity to further test concepts at SAN.

Ultimately, they could win a contract at SAN and/or gain entrée to other airports and analogous industries such as transportation centres, convention centers, shopping malls, and larges venues such as ball parks, theme parks and hotels.

In return for providing the space and the accelerator program, SAN negotiates a revenue share for a period of five to 10 years.

The first highly successful concept, AtYourGate, which delivers food and other retail items to passengers at their gates, is currently in place at SAN and five other airports.

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