APEX Insight: Startups like Kiwi, Germfalcon, jetLite and i-BLADES Smartcase are addressing the inconveniences that come with travel, such as germs and jet lag, and improving the passenger experience, from booking to BYOD.
Today’s degree of global mobility is beyond what we could have imagined a few generations ago, but the travel industry is far from perfect. Several solutions are already out there, coming from inside and outside the air travel industry. Should some of these be adopted at scale, our journeys would get cheaper, cleaner and more convenient.
Slashing prices: Kiwi. Despite its name, Kiwi is not from New Zealand, but rather a Czech startup that hunts down and delivers hidden cheap airfares. Founded as Skypicker in 2012 by two guys in a basement, Kiwi now has nearly 600 employees. One news outlet reckons a Kiwi’d flight would save passengers up to 28%, provided that their travel dates are flexible. One ingredient in Kiwi’s secret sauce is searching beyond existing airline partnerships: “Our unique combination algorithm allows our customers to combine flights from uncooperative airlines onto a single itinerary, often resulting in significant savings.”
Bashing bugs: Germfalcon. The intense level of air filtration in an airline cabin means the air is cleaner than urban legend suggests. However, the surfaces, such as tray-table latches, armrests and the unavoidable lavatory, can be rife with germs. Germfalcon patrols the aircraft aisle on a 20-minute mission, bathing each row in germicidal UV-C light. This technology is similar to that used by Boeing in its self-cleaning lavatory, which won a 2016 Crystal Cabin Award. Germfalcon hasn’t yet launched, but the company’s website says that several airlines have expressed interest; so microbes had better not get too comfortable.
Defeating jet lag: jetlite. While LED mood lighting is growing as a trend, jetlite takes it to the next level. As part of Airbus’ BizLab incubator cohort in Hamburg, jetlite uses existing cabin lights to reset passengers’ biological rhythms through the judicious deployment of warmer and cooler colors at key points in flight.
Watching more movies: i-BLADES Smartcase. This smartphone case has its own microprocessor and add-on attachments called blades, which deliver power-ups such as extended battery life, up to a terabyte of extra storage space and pre-loaded multimedia content. One of the blades is a fold-out Virtual Reality headset, which would allow passengers to eke immersive experiences out of their small screens. As BYOD (bring your own device) develops as a trend, passengers using the i-BLADES Smartcase won’t have to worry about downloading an airline-specific app or winning the seatback USB-port lottery, since the case provides an IFE portal and charger. The i-BLADES Smartcase will be available for Samsung Galaxy S6 users around September of this year.
Sci-fi Wi-Fi: Li-Fi. What if a light bulb could also transmit data? Li-Fi is essentially Wi-Fi via light transmission, and it’s quite real. The term was coined by Harald Haas, the technology’s pioneer, in a TED talk. Not only is it over two hundred times faster than the Wi-Fi we’ve grown to expect, it can be used in electromagnetically sensitive environments, such as an aircraft cabin, without mucking up any crucial instruments. The Li-Fi Consortium was launched in 2011, and the world got an early glimpse of Li-Fi at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2012. Last year, an Indian startup called Velmenni demonstrated Li-Fi in real-world office environments. The Visible Light Communications market could be worth $8 billion by 2020.