Fix This: Thimus Turns to Biometrics to Tackle the Unreliability of Passenger Feedback


Image: Marcelo Cáceres

Sometimes it takes an outsider to pinpoint a pain point in an industry that’s set in its ways. In this segment of “Fix This,” we look at Thimus’ solution to a perennial industry problem: the unreliability of passenger feedback.

When asked “How was your flight?” people often supply a broad response that fails to identify precisely what contributed to making the experience either a pleasant or poor one. “A lot of times the individual is uncertain as to what elements have occurred. Especially in interviews where people have negative feedback, they’re unable to quantify at what stage things didn’t work,” says Mario Ubiali, co-founder and CEO of Thimus, an Italian company that specializes in collecting neurological and biometric tools for the analysis of real-life experiences, products and services.

Tasked by Boeing to analyze the passenger experience of Italian leisure carrier Neos, Thimus outfitted test subjects with eye-tracking glasses, electroencephalography headsets and galvanic skin response systems to monitor eye movement, brain activity and micro-sweating.

“We were collecting data because we wanted to define neurologically the perceived comfort of airline passengers. Then we cross-correlated the data to all the factors in the design of an airline cabin,” Ubiali says, adding that their findings trickled into decisions around the mood lighting system, meal trays, seats and seat pitches of Neos’ three Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.

“This data taps straight into the preconscious emotional and cognitive process people go through.” €” Mario Ubiali, Thimus

Thimus gathered information that showed at which stage of flight passengers were most relaxed, engaged, stressed or frustrated, or had to deploy a lot of cognitive resources, and created an emotional timeline of each passenger’s journey. “A good example of [a trigger] is the in-flight entertainment system, which is sometimes not very user-friendly,” Ubiali notes. “How does that impact the traveler? Is it creating frustration? Can the interface be changed or improved?”

The research helps companies identify stressors that could be induced by frustrations such as a difficult-to-navigate user interface,€¯or undesirable light settings or sounds. “This data taps straight into the preconscious emotional and cognitive process people go through and eliminates the bias that you usually have when you ask people to describe their experiences,” Ubiali says.

“Fix This” was originally published in the 9.1 February/March issue of APEX Experience magazine.