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170 This chapter provides additional details on many of the various technologies and assistive devices and equipment mentioned in early chapters and that have the potential to improve accessibility and equity in air travel. Readers are also directed to Chapter 8, Wayfinding Technologies for Aging Travelers and Persons with Disabilities, in ACRP Research Report 177 (Harding et al. 2017) for additional information on the following: â¢ Accessible websites â¢ Mobile wayfinding applications â¢ Accessible help and call points â¢ Interactive kiosks â¢ Digital wayfinding directories â¢ FIDs â¢ Hearing loops â¢ Visual paging, and â¢ Mass notification systems. 12.1 Biometrics and People-Processing Technologies Many airports are implementing facial-recognition software that identifies people by analyz- ing their facial features obtained from digital images or video photograms. Recognition is based on comparing this data with the data available in huge databases. The process is completed in a fraction of a second. The concept of the biometric airport provides great support to Security and is a good way to speed up the flow of the passengers and clear bottlenecks. While passenger safety is of upmost importance, efficient passenger processing is also a priority. Once a match is confirmed between the facial characteristics and the passport, passengers would be allowed to proceed through all of the terminal checkpoints from curb to the cabin without stopping and showing travel documents. This matching process is known in the industry as single-token travel. For older travelers and people with disabilities, the promise of shorter lines is in itself a bonus. But having fewer documents to handle and a less stressful travel experience is also an advantage. However, in the literature on the following biometric trials, little is said about how well these new technologies accommodate people with disabilities, particularly those who may not be able to see where to stand or where to look or those who are lacking the biometrics being measured, such as retinas or fingerprints. Perhaps it is assumed that individuals with disabilities will simply be handled through a staffed, wheelchair-accessible lane and undergo old-style security checks. C H A P T E R 1 2 Information Technology and Assistive Technologies
Information Technology and Assistive Technologies 171 However, manufacturers such as Vision-Box are designing facial-recognition cameras to adjust in height to capture images of passengers of all sizes, including those using wheelchairs. U.S. Access Board guidelines under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires federal agencies to make their electronic information accessible to people with disabilities, state, âWhere provided, biometrics shall not be the only means for user identification or control.â However, they allow an exception for use of two biometric methods using different biometric characteristics. The same provisions with regard to biometrics apply to automated kiosks at U.S. airports under the regulatory requirements issued in November 2013 by the U.S. DOT. 12.1.1 Trials and Applications After first using fingerprint biometrics for access to the Delta Sky Club, Delta Air Lines announced the launch of the first biometric terminal in the United States. In cooperation with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, HartsfieldâJackson Atlanta International, and TSA, Delta passengers flying from Terminal F can use facial-recognition technology to check in at self- service kiosks, drop checked bags at ticketing counters, provide TSA agents with identification at Security checkpoints, and board a flight at any gate within the terminal. International travelers can also go through Customs for processing. After entering their passport information during online check-in, travelers will be prompted to look at the camera at any ticket counter, TSA checkpoint, and gate, where the system will compare the passengerâs face to their passport photo. Once approved, a green checkmark will alert the passenger to proceed (Pymnts.com 2018). Orlando International was the first U.S. airport to commit to using facial-recognition tech- nology to process both arriving and departing travelers. U.S. Customs and Border Protection developed the biometric entryâexit system to best accommodate the needs of airline and airport stakeholders without significantly disrupting operations. The system is essentially a small camera, or âfacial biometric capture device,â that can be installed at any airline or airport departure gate with little disruption to the flow of travel. With the goal of using this technology as a replacement for boarding passes, the technology captures the travelerâs facial image at the TSA checkpoint and compares the travelerâs image each time they go through Security or board a flight. Their image remains in an archive for 14 days before being deleted (Nensel 2017). U.S. Customs and Border Protection is testing biometric exits at 13 major U.S. airports and biometric entries at 10 airports, including HartsfieldâJackson Atlanta International, New York John F. Kennedy International, San Diego International, Houston George Bush Intercontinental, Houston William P. Hobby, Washington Dulles International, Las Vegas McCarran Inter- national, and Chicago OâHare International. Biometric entryâexit system testing is taking place internationally at Queen Beatrix International Airport in Oranjestad, Aruba; Abu Dhabi Inter- national in the United Arab Emirates; Shannon Airport in County Clare, Ireland; and Dubai International in the United Arab Emirates (U.S. Customs and Border Protection 2018). In 2017, JetBlue implemented a trial of face-reading technology to speed up the boarding gate process at Boston Logan International. This program does not require prior enrollment or registration. Travelers simply step up to the checkpoint camera, where their photo is taken and shared with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to match the image to a passport, visa, or immigration photo in the database. Once approved, passengers can proceed to their next touchpoint (Pickering, June 1, 2017). JetBlue has also implemented this technology at New York John F. Kennedy International and Orlando International. The screening technology has two heights, one of which is accessible for travelers using wheelchairs. Emirates Airline launched the worldâs first biometric path using facial- and iris-recognition technology at Dubai International. In its trial phase, clearly marked biometric equipment scans
172 Innovative Solutions to Facilitate Accessibility for Airport Travelers with Disabilities travelersâ faces and retinas as they walk through a virtual aquarium-like tunnel in Terminal 3. In the future, the airport plans to install similar pathways so passengers can simply walk through the terminal to check in for their flight, clear immigration, enter Emiratesâ lounge, and board flights. During the trial, only first and business class passengers were invited to participate and were required to sign a consent form to allow their biometric data to be stored (Levant News 2018). London Heathrow unveiled plans for a 2019 rollout of new biometric services to streamline the journey from check-in to takeoff. The project is set to be the largest deployment of biometric products to date and is expected to reduce the average airport journey time by up to a third. The facial-recognition technology will allow travelers to seamlessly go through every stage of the departure journey (Symonds 2018). Australian airportsâalong with the help of the governmentâare making efforts to replace passports with biometric controls across the country. They are working on gathering and main- taining data by collecting individualsâ fingerprint-, iris-, and facial-recognition data. The system is expected to cover 90 percent of passengers this year. 22.214.171.124 Implementation More than 100 airports throughout the world have implemented technologies aimed at bio- metric recognition of personnel and passengers. These are not just one-time initiatives or tech- nology assessments, but rather real solutions to two problems that coincide at many of the worldâs airports: growing passenger demands and more stringent security requirements. In a recently released IT Trends survey, SITA found that 57 percent of passengers prefer biometrics to passports and boarding passes. Those already using the technology were four times more satisfied going through Security and rated it an average 8.4 out of 10 in customer satisfaction. SITA also concluded that once people understand what biometrics are used for, what the benefits can be, and that the data are managed securely, they will be comfortable shar- ing their information. Implementation of biometrics can be time consuming and sensitive. It must include many stakeholders, including government, Customs and border agents, passengers, airport and airline authorities, and firms to manage and access data. Factors to consider are the number and flow of passengers and the budget at a specific airport. How the system accommodates customers with disabilities of all types should also be considered. 12.1.2 Vision-Box Kiosks, eGates, and Nonstop Seamless Gateway Facial-recognition kiosks from Vision-Box are designed to automatically adjust in height to accommodate even travelers seated in wheelchairs or scooters. The automated border control kiosk shown on the left in Figure 12-1 features a fingerprint reader, passport control, and choice of language; the one on the right features boarding pass and passport scanners, as well as a Trace EZ Access keypad and headset jack. Vision-Boxâs biometric eGates were tested at Aruba Queen Beatrix International Airport and at New York John F. Kennedy International Airport Terminal 4 as part of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection biometric exit trial. Upon request, they offer the option for a wider lane to accommodate travelers using mobility devices. In 2017, Vision-Box debuted their nonstop Seamless Gateway, which captures an image of each approaching passenger and matches it against a data envelope already gathered on the passenger that includes biometric and biographic details (Figure 12-2). Amsterdam Schiphol Airport was the first to test this contact-free technology, which can be ordered in a wider size to accommodate mobility devices.
Information Technology and Assistive Technologies 173 Figure 12-1. Vision-Box automated border control kiosks with fingerprint reader (left) and boarding pass and passport scanner (right). Figure 12-2. Vision-Box nonstop Seamless Gateway.
174 Innovative Solutions to Facilitate Accessibility for Airport Travelers with Disabilities 12.1.3 CLEAR Biometric Screening The biometric identity verification system CLEAR uses fingerprint- and iris-identification technology to accelerate TSAâs document-verification procedure (Figure 12-3). Once at the air- port, travelers registered as CLEAR members can go to dedicated lanes where a CLEAR Ambas- sador will help the traveler scan their fingerprint or iris along with their boarding pass. The camera in CLEAR kiosks is capable of adjusting its field of view to take images of travelers in wheelchairs and those of short stature. Members are only required to submit one type of bio- metric data (their fingerprint or an image of their eye), so travelers with degenerative vision loss and those with upper-body limitations can also use the kiosk. When travelersâ identity is verified, they are taken to the front of the Security screening line where TSA agents review their boarding pass, with no need for the traveler to present their photo ID. CLEAR is currently developing biometric boarding passes so that travelers can pro- ceed through Security without ever showing a boarding pass. 12.1.4 Biometric Bag Drop Even when passengers tag their own bags, they typically must go to an agent to drop them off. Delta Air Lines instituted a biometric bag drop at MinneapolisâSaint Paul International that skips any bottleneck. Passengers can quickly and easily check their bags with a secured system, processed by a machine equipped with facial-recognition technology that matches customers with their passport photos through ID verification. Trials have found that self-service bag drops have the potential to process twice as many customers per hour. At MinneapolisâSaint Paul International, travelers with bags to check stop at the updated check-in kiosks, then head to the self-service bag drop machines, where they scan their boarding pass and put the bags on the conveyer belt. The machine quickly weighs the bag and submits it Figure 12-3. CLEAR kiosks at Minneapolisâ Saint Paul International Airport.
Information Technology and Assistive Technologies 175 into the system. Car seats, golf clubs, and other oversized pieces are processed through a special lane with an agentâs assistance. Most passports worldwide contain a chip that serves as a digital version of the passport infor- mation, along with a high-resolution, tamper-proof photo. As the passenger scans their passport at a kiosk, the machine uses various authenticity checks (e.g., microprint and security threads, special ink and paper, seals and hologram patterns, and geometric settings) to ensure that the passport is valid. Once retrieved, the software compares the printed picture on the passport with the informa- tion stored on the passport chip to make sure it is valid and has not been tampered with. In the final verification step, the kiosk checks that the person presenting the passport is the rightful owner by taking a picture and comparing it with the photo on the chip. Once all points have been verified, the kiosk prints the baggage tags for the passenger, who tags each bag before dropping it off with the airline. With the help of this visual verification, the burden of ID verification moves from airline employees to a computer, thereby reducing human error. In addition to the self-service bag drop trial, Delta is pioneering other innovative customer solutions that include radio frequency identification baggage handling, real-time bag tracking via the Fly Delta mobile app, and more efficient automated screening lanes. 126.96.36.199 Implementation The biometric bag drop has already been installed at various airports, saving time for pas- sengers and helping airlines and airports to secure the airports and reduce labor costs. The trial indicates that self-service bag drop takes half the time as compared to dropping off a bag at a staffed counter and can be more accurate. Implementation may take longer compared to other technologies, as it requires various steps before implementation. To use the system, the passenger must have a digital passport with a chip embedded in it, and then that data can be accessed with the help of a contract between the airport or airline and the state allowing the usage of the data. Once a passenger scans the passport at the check-in kiosk, the software authorizes the information from the embedded chip and compares it using facial recognition. If the information matches, a special token is provided that can be used for upcoming checks. The self-check kiosk should be installed at the baggage drop area, which scans the token gener- ated by the first point after verification. At this point, the kiosk again matches the token informa- tion with the facial-recognition technology. Once authorized, the baggage tags are printed and the luggage can be dropped off. There are no further documents to be provided after this point. Part of this technology includes machines for verification at further pointsâsuch as at boarding and Immigrationâand the passenger can pass through those machines with only face recognition. 12.1.5 Transportation Security Administration Innovative Technologies 188.8.131.52 Transportation Security Administration Innovation Task Force The TSAâs Innovation Task Force (ITF) is an initiative that brings together key stakeholders to identify and develop solutions to increase the efficiency of the Security screening process, while also improving the passenger experience and ensuring safety in air travel. The ITF works in the United States and internationally, presenting at and learning from industry events across the world. The goal of the ITF is to develop innovative checkpoint designs for the future of transporta- tion security. Following the initial development stage, ITF project ideas are demonstrated and tested, and, if successful, the project may enter the second phase of further developed proofs of
176 Innovative Solutions to Facilitate Accessibility for Airport Travelers with Disabilities concept. The following innovations have been previously demonstrated, some of which have moved into the second phase: â¢ Checkpoint planning and staff allocation, â¢ High-throughput bottled liquid scanner, â¢ eAIT (see Section 5.8), â¢ Biometric authentication technology, â¢ Computed tomography 3-D scanner, â¢ Training enhancement, and â¢ Passenger screening and communications. To facilitate testing in a live checkpoint setting, the TSA in September 2019 opened an Innova- tion Checkpoint at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport in collaboration with the airport. With four screening lines, the checkpoint is initially being used to evaluate â¢ New digital display towers with travel information, reminders about screening procedures, and estimated wait times; â¢ Credential authentication technology that scans and verifies the passengerâs photo ID and then matches the information against Secure Flight data, eliminating the need for a boarding pass; â¢ Computed tomography 3-D bag screening machines; and â¢ eAIT. 184.108.40.206 New Innovation Task Force Technologies In 2017, computed tomography 3-D bag screening machines were tested at Phoenix Sky Harbor International and Boston Logan International. The 3-D scanners are more reliable than the typical two-dimensional (2-D) X-ray machines because they provide a clearer image of lug- gage contents. The technology can immediately detect explosives, including those in liquid form. If the 3-D screening technology expands to airports around the country, travelers may no longer need to remove liquids, laptops, or other electronic devices from their carry-on bags (Vora 2017). This change would help travelers with medications or medical needs that involve liquid, as they would no longer need to remove potentially sensitive items from their luggage. Such technology would also help minimize the time spent at Security checkpoints, a common source of stress for travelers with disabilities and older travelers. In 2017, TSA ran a trial of biometric technologies that substitute fingerprints for boarding passes and IDs, such as passports or driverâs licenses. TSA conducted the trial at a PreCheck lane at HartsfieldâJackson Atlanta International and at Denver International. The technology matches the passengerâs identity to the fingerprints already on file in the passengerâs recordâ created during the original PreCheck registration processâand then pulls up the data for the specific flight (Worthington 2017). The newer credential authentication technology avoids biometric measurements, problem- atic for some travelers with disabilities, while making the Security process easier and, hopefully, quicker for all travelers. Details on ITF technologies and the Innovation Checkpoint are found on www.tsa.gov. 12.2 Navigation Pads for Accessible Self-Service Kiosks 12.2.1 EZ Access Nav-Pad Developed by the Trace Research and Development Center at the University of Maryland and manufactured by Storm Interface, the EZ Access Nav-Pad is a highly tactile interface that improves the accessibility of touch screen kiosks, making audio navigation and selection of
Information Technology and Assistive Technologies 177 screen-based menus possible. An audio description of available menu options is transmitted to the user through a headset, handset, or cochlear implant. When the desired menu page or menu option is located, it can be selected by the press of a distinctive tactile button (Storm Interface). A new component to the Nav-Pad and Nav-Bar software is the userâs ability to control the speed of audio navigation. This feature is in addition to the ability to control the volume of the audio navigation. The 1600 Series Nav-Pad with vertical buttons (one and two lines) to control the volume and horizontal buttons (one and three dots) to control the speed is shown in Figure 12-4. The EZ Access Nav-Padâalso available as a Nav-Bar with buttons in a horizontal formatâis audio-equipped with a built-in, illuminated audio jack and comes in five-, six-, and eight-key configurations. It also can be ordered in an illuminated format for people with low vision. To develop the most accessible product for all users, Storm Interface incorporates people with disabilities in the product-testing stage. People with vision loss, cognitive disabilities, or who use wheelchairs test the products on kiosks, ATMs, and ticketing machines and then provide feed- back on how to improve the product. A user test resulted in the production of the 1600 series with silver-plated rather than the typical plastic buttons. When tested by a user with vision loss, he reported that plastic buttons often feel dirty; silver-plated buttons feel clean to the touch. 12.2.2 Voice Recognition in Self-Service Kiosks Speech-command technology has provided new opportunities to individuals with disabilitiesâ including those with vision loss, reduced dexterity, and limited upper-body movementâwho are unable to use touch screen technologies independently. There has been a steady growth in the popularity of this technology in the home, but with plans for implementation in a public setting, privacy laws and regulations need to be considered. A white paper by Peter Jarvis, senior executive vice president of Storm Interface and Nicki Shaw, operations manager for North America, discusses the implementation of speech- command technologies in a public space and the considerations that should be made with regard to the publicâs awareness of this technology and the potential privacy implications that must be considered (Jarvis and Shaw 2018). Among the most convenient aspects of speech-command technology is that it remains at a ready status to operate any time a user speaks a predetermined word or phrase. Amazon describes Figure 12-4. The 1600 Series Nav-Pad with tactile controls (left), smaller EZ Access Nav-Pad with volume control (center), and EZ Access Nav-Bar with volume control (right) (Source: Storm Interface).
178 Innovative Solutions to Facilitate Accessibility for Airport Travelers with Disabilities this feature as âalways on, always ready.â If this âalways readyâ technology is to be implemented on public kiosks, any kiosk user or anyone in close proximity to the kiosk must be aware that the machine may detect their speech. It is important to inform users that the kiosk is enabled with speech-command technology so that they know the software is available and to also âwarn mem- bers of the public (in proximity) that their conversations may/will be picked up by the Speech Command/Voice Recognition facility and may be transmitted to a remote server for analysis, processing, and possible retention (Jarvis and Shaw 2018).â The white paper also discusses potential methods of communicating the presence of speech-command technology, specifically with the adoption and display of a universally rec- ognized symbol for speech-command functionality. The proposed symbol is an illuminated image of a microphone. Other topics include hardware and software for the speech-command technology. 12.3 Wayfinding Assistance: New Technologies 12.3.1 Spencer Robot The confusing layout of terminals, which often leads to people getting lost and missing their flights, is a major problems in larger airports. Airports and airlines are making efforts to over- come this problem and to make passengersâ travel more comfortable. One of the measures taken at Amsterdam Schiphol is testing robotic helpers for lost passengers. First tested at Amsterdam Schiphol in 2015, Spencer Robot scans the boarding passes of a group of passengers, knows if the group is complete or waiting for others, identifies the depar- ture gate the passengers need to get to, and automatically moves and leads the passengers to the appropriate gate. It can adjust its speed for a particular group; maneuver around obstacles, such as luggage; and inform the passengers about the remaining distance (with the help of an embedded screen). Once at the destination, the robot will notify the passengers that they have arrived. Spencer Robot uses laser range-finding eyes, along with detailed maps of the airport interior. Spencer Robot stand out from other robots because of its unique ability to deal with social situa- tions among people, such as maneuvering around rather than through a large crowd. One of the biggest challenges for the manufacturer was enabling the robot to adapt to temporary obstruc- tions, such as luggage, trolleys, and people. In addition to maneuverability, the robot also has sensors that watch and analyze people to discern a possible social relation among them, such as whether they are a family or a group. It also learns and then implements social rules and acts in a human-friendly way, making sure no one is left behind. Using advanced mapping software to integrate airport maps, the robot is able to understand its surroundings and guide the passengers on the best possible route. In the future, there are plans to give the robot the ability to speak, as well as to carry luggage. 12.3.2 KLM Care-E Luggage Robot KLM Royal Dutch Airlines tested a self-driving travel assistant called Care-E, a blue robot that can carry up to 85 pounds of luggage and drive by the side of passengers at 3 miles per hour, the average human walking pace. Care-E was tested at Amsterdam Schiphol, and KLM plans to test the robot at New York John F. Kennedy International and San Francisco International. In addi- tion to holding luggage, Care-E is capable of following nonverbal sounds to assist travelers with tasks, including scanning boarding passes and leading travelers to their gate, even when there is a gate change (Wood 2018).
Information Technology and Assistive Technologies 179 12.3.3 FacePort Improving passengersâ traveling experience and reducing operating costs for airport and airline staff are not mutually exclusive. One innovative example is telepresence technol- ogy, which helps two people to speak face to face even though they are in separate places. FacePort from bSquared enables videoconferencing through a dedicated kiosk at the airport (Figure 12-5). This single module with telepresence technology can assist with printing boarding passes, sharing points for mobile apps, and reading and uploading radio frequency identifica- tion, a benefit to passengers and to staff. Instead of waiting in a queue to speak to an airport or airline agent, passengers can be guided with FacePort. One of the biggest advantages is that the same agent can be used to deal with passenger inquiries at different airport locations. It can also help by granting access to different lounges as people present their loyalty cards or boarding passes. FacePort was tested in The GROUNDS of Amsterdam Schiphol, the airportâs innovation platform and a place for universities, educational institutes, and companies to work together to develop solutions in the aviation industry (bSquared 2019). 12.3.4 Tensator Virtual Assistant The Tensator Virtual Assistant, an early prototype of which was shown in Figure 5-31, uses imagery and audio messages to relay information and instructions to nearby individuals. Instead of posting a prerecorded video on a display screen, the Tensator puts the video on a flat, stand- ing surface that resembles a human and, as a result, appears to be a person giving directions to anyone in proximity, detected via a sensor in the unit. The effectiveness of messaging is much higher, due in part to the novelty of the device. The Tensator Virtual Assistant has an interactive touch screen that can serve as a help desk and provide up to 11 distinct messages, including wayfinding directions to users. The assistant is also multilingual, with the capability of using any prerecorded language. A Tensator would be appro- priate for an airport for many reasons, but specifically for travelers with disabilities. Verbally relayed information is easier to understand for travelers with cognitive disabilities and vision loss compared to posted signs with the same information. The Virtual Assistant can also communicate in ASL. Besides their successful deployment at Boston Logan International, Network Rail in the UK has positioned Tensator Virtual Assistants at escalators to encourage passengers with heavy Figure 12-5. FacePort videoconferencing technology (Source: bSquared).
180 Innovative Solutions to Facilitate Accessibility for Airport Travelers with Disabilities luggage to use the nearby elevators instead. During a 6-week trial, Network Rail realized a 260 percent increase in passengers using the elevators (Tensator 2014). 12.3.5 Intelligent Trolley System A new concept was introduced at Passenger Terminal Expo 2018 in Amsterdam, The Neth- erlands, that could revolutionize the screening process for carry-on luggage, making it much quicker, as well as less stressful and physically difficult. The Intelligent Trolley System by Exrup- tive is a lightweight, nonmetallic luggage cart equipped with a tablet for wayfinding that can clear Security via an X-ray trolley scanner. This system eliminates the need to lift carry-on items onto a screening belt. Passengers simply feed the trolley with their belongings into the scanner, undergo screening themselves, and then collect the trolley before heading to the gate or other location. According to Exruptive, the European Civil Aviation Conference expects to approve the new X-ray scanning system in mid-2020 (Exruptive 2019). The intelligent trolley itself (Figure 12-6) provides the passenger with real-time wayfinding, updated boarding information, personalized promotions, and a recharge point for a cell phone, while also feeding back information to airport operators and shops (Kouidri 2018). For older travelers, the trolley can also function as an assistive device (much like a walker or rollator), providing needed support and enabling them to walk longer distances more easily. 12.3.6 Audio Wayfinding for Restrooms and Other Spaces A product of ADi Access, the RoomMate provides an audio description of a room layout for individuals with vision loss. Once a person presses the information button, a mounted sound unit explains where everything is in the facility (Figure 12-7). The sound unit plays the Figure 12-6. Intelligent trolley system at the Passenger Terminal Expo 2017 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Information Technology and Assistive Technologies 181 explanation twice, first to allow the user to form a mental image of the space and second to help the user to navigate within the space. The RoomMate is installed in companion restrooms at Birmingham, London Heathrow Terminal 2, and Manchester in the UK and in Larnaca International Airport in Cyprus. 12.3.7 WHILL NEXT Unveiled in January 2019 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, WHILL Autonomous Drive System is a self-driving personal electric vehicle that uses sensors and cameras to safely travel along a defined path (Figure 12-8). It also features auto-stop and auto-return functionality, detecting objects or people within a set radius of the vehicle, preventing the user from getting in a collision, and automatically returning to its home base once a trip is completed. With the development of the WHILL Autonomous Drive System, WHILL also built their Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) Business model, a business-to-business service to assist people with Figure 12-7. ADi RoomMate sound unit (Source: ADi Access). Figure 12-8. WHILL Autonomous Drive System (Source: WHILL, Inc.).
182 Innovative Solutions to Facilitate Accessibility for Airport Travelers with Disabilities reduced mobility in bridging the gap in last-mile transportation. Currently, WHILL is running trials of an in-airport application of the MaaS Business model in airports around the globe to give travelers with reduced mobility greater independence while reducing the number of pushes required for passengers. This effort creates greater efficiencies and reduces costs for airlines and airports. 12.4 Personal, Assistive, and Communicative Technologies 12.4.1 Aira Aira, which stands for Artificial Intelligence + Remote Access, is an app-based subscrip- tion service that combines multiple working componentsâa mobile app, smart glasses, and a dashboardâto connect a person with vision loss to a sighted agent for assistance. The service increases mobility and independence through the help of call center agents trained to verbally guide people with vision loss through any activity (Figure 12-9). Once connected to Aira, the user can either wear smart glasses equipped with a camera or use their phone camera to show agents what they need help with. There are four monthly subscription plans, each with a different amount of minutes. Alter- natively, airports and other public facilities can purchase a block of 2,500 minutes to be used by visitors when they are within the facilityâs geofenced area. The business receives a monthly report on usage and alerts when minutes drop to a threshold so users can have uninterrupted access. By December 2018, 22 U.S. airports had already signed on to the Aira Airport Network. Inter- nationally, London Heathrow and Wellington International in New Zealand are also providing the service for their customers with vision loss. Figure 12-9. An Aira user receiving assistance at an FID and a kiosk at San Diego International Airport (Source: Aira).
Information Technology and Assistive Technologies 183 The American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) is partnering with Aira to make it easy and efficient for airports to offer the service to their customers with vision loss through the AAAEâAira Airport Network. Airport rates for blocks of minutes are based on airport size and type: large hub, medium hub, small hub, and non-hub. This initiative is part of the AAAE Airport Innovation Accelerator program. 12.4.2 Be My Eyes Be My Eyes is a free mobile app that connects users with vision loss with sighted volunteers from all over the world via a live video call. Once the connection is established, the user points their smartphone camera at an item and asks the volunteer to identify the item or text, then the volunteer relays the requested information. Volunteers are called at random, though the user and volunteer are matched by language and time zone. Since its launch in 2015, more than 2 million people have registered as volunteers. Be My Eyes can be used on Android and iOS technologies. It is anonymous, so personal detailsâincluding phone numbersâare never disclosed. 12.4.3 Augmented Reality Glasses (Smart Specs) Known as âsmart specs,â augmented reality glasses are a wearable technology that enhance the look of nearby objects so individuals with vision loss can see their environment better. Designed for people who are legally blind but retain some of their vision, smart specs are equipped with a depth sensor and software that highlights the outline of nearby people and objects, making it easier for the user to identify their surroundings. The glasses also have a zoom feature, which gives the user a close view of a selected object, as well as a pause feature, which gives the user additional time to look at an object. 12.4.4 Seeing AI Seeing AI is a free app by Microsoft that uses a smartphone camera to read text as it appears in front of the camera. In an airport setting, the app can be used to read menus, boarding passes, and signs hung at eye level for close approach. Other capabilities include scanning barcodes to identify products, identifying currency when paying with cash, reading handwritten text, and recognizing familiar people and others around you. At present, the app is only available for download on iOS devices. Demonstrations of Seeing AI are available on the Microsoft website. 12.4.5 Google Real-Time Language Translating Wireless Earbuds/Pixel Buds Googleâs wireless, intelligent earbuds are used with Pixel smartphones and provide users with access to Google Translate, facilitating communication with a person who speaks a different language. When two Pixel bud wearers converse, each in their native language, the Google Trans- late feature translates the conversation in real time so that each person hears and understands the otherâs spoken words. Google Translate is capable of translating conversations in 40 languages. 12.5 Service-Provider Software As discussed in previous chapters, the growing demand for assistance has made it difficult for airlines and airports to adequately plan for staffing needs and provide efficient assistance to travelers with disabilities. Most service companies at major airports now use software that
184 Innovative Solutions to Facilitate Accessibility for Airport Travelers with Disabilities allows them to communicate effectively with their clientâeither airline or airportâand to dispatch service requests to their agents and track their movements as they meet and assist passengers. Agents are equipped with tablets to receive assignments with details such as the travelerâs name, the meeting point, and the departing or arriving flight information. Some of these systems rely on beacons to track service agents; others use geofencing or require agents to scan markers (e.g., at the gate or by ticking off each step in the service delivery as it is completed). 12.5.1 Ozion PRM Manager A passenger-assistance software developer, Ozion provides airports and airlines with a tool that addresses common questions asked by the aviation industry. Through the Ozion PRM Manager, special assistance services are optimized through various options, including forecast- ing, indoor localization, live tracking and reporting, and efficient dispatching (Figure 12-10). The following features are available through the Ozion PRM Manager: â¢ Multi-Airport, Multi-Provider, and Multi-Airline that enables users to have access to data for planning, incident analysis, and reporting; â¢ Know where the passenger is at all times (regardless of airline or provider), which allows the service provider to determine if there is a delay or cancellation for a passenger being handled by another airline or company and to adjust the service plan accordingly; â¢ Ensure that passengers making transfers receive prompt assistance by monitoring their entire journey; â¢ Easily integrate hotels, parking, curbside arrival point, and so on so that there are no gaps in service and the time to provide the assistance can be accurately estimated and planned for; â¢ Track all staffing and resources in real time; â¢ Provides a complete âliveâ assisted passenger management system; â¢ Properly input and control every passenger order, which enables accurate reports; and â¢ Provide full, accurate reportingâincluding level of serviceâto clients. Figure 12-10. Gate view with live passenger progress tracking (Source: Ozion).
Information Technology and Assistive Technologies 185 A number of major European airportsâincluding ParisâCharles de Gaulle, Paris Orly, Brussels, London Gatwick, and Zurich, as well as smaller airports in France and Englandâuse Ozion software. Each November, Ozion holds the Airport PRM Leadership Conference in Paris, which brings together airports, passenger advocacy groups, assistance providers, airlines, and civil aviation authorities to discuss innovations and best practices. In 2018, 15 countries were represented from Europe, North America, and Japan. 12.5.2 AvTech Corporation AvTech software is built on the AvTech Connect platform, a unique application that allows for communication and scheduling between management and assistance agents, all of which receive their own tablet for use while on the job. AvTech software is currently used in more than 100 airports, primarily in the U.S. The following features are included in the application: â¢ Service provider can choose to self-assign with dispatch oversight or to dispatch all requests, â¢ The âwhiteboardâ feature displays the passengerâs name on the device for easy identification, â¢ Auto-schedule a preboard, â¢ Transfer passenger assignment to other employees, â¢ Tablets can be mounted to electric carts for convenient use, â¢ Agents can transfer passengers to other agents by scanning a QR code on the agentâs tablet, and â¢ Assistance agents can schedule passenger wellness checks with ease. The AvTech software also features a mobile-device module for agents, who can switch between the following four modes, depending on the type of service provided: â¢ Standard mode, â¢ Electric cart mode, â¢ Ambulift mode, and â¢ Minibus mode. 12.5.3 Antikythera Antikythera Technologies Indoor Access software for service providers, currently in use in the International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport, has the following beneficial features: â¢ Indoor positioning; â¢ Mobile device management and dispatching software; â¢ Custom maps of the facility in 2-D and 3-D; â¢ Customizable software developed to meet business needs; â¢ Real-time reporting of metrics to optimize resources; â¢ Cloud-based infrastructure for continuous integration; and â¢ Airport block-chain standards to help passengers, airlines, and airports. 12.6 Third Age Suit: Design Tool for Older Adults The Third Age Suit simulates the functional limitations experienced by aging adults. The suit restricts the flexibility of all major joints (i.e., back, elbows, knees, and neck), and the included white gloves emulate reduced tactile sensation. The suit also includes lifting gloves to reduce movement of the knuckles. The yellow glasses simulate the natural yellowing of lenses and mild cataracts (Figure 12-11).
186 Innovative Solutions to Facilitate Accessibility for Airport Travelers with Disabilities The suit is used to analyze the design and usability of a product or service, specifically when older adults are among the potential user group. It can also help designers identify obstacles that older users may experience while using their product or service. The Third Age Suit would be an effective addition to staff disability-awareness training, providing employees with a better understanding of the common challenges faced by older adults in air travel. Since 1995, engineers at Ford Motor Company have used a Third Age Suit to gain a better understanding of the needs and experience of their older customers. According to the company, the technology has enhanced their empathy and their creativity (Fowler 2018). Boeing, too, has suited up its engineers, placed them on a flight to use the amenities and controls on the plane, and then challenged them to come up with more functional designs. The architecture firm Corgan Associates is using a Third Age Suit to sensitize its architects and gain extra insights into the needs of older travelers that can be applied in their work to make airport facilities more univer- sally accessible (Baskas 2016). Figure 12-11. Third Age Suit worn at Universal Access in Airports at Inter- Continental MinneapolisâSaint Paul Airport 2018.