The Common Use Continuum

SITA's airport IT survey highlights trends associated with passenger processing

The one thing that airports need to be aware of concerning wireless IT networks, remarks Mayer, is which technology do they use when it comes to mobility?

“Do they use 3G, WiMAXX, Wi-Fi, Near Field Communication (NFC), Bluetooth … all are viable,” says Mayer, but they would have interoperability issues across the airport environment.

“Airports need to decide on one technology that’s going to accommodate the majority if not all of their uses,” she says. “Industry indicates it is moving towards WiMAXX because it is the most flexible, but there are some licensing issues and it’s not fully tested yet.

“But, if you look at the process of exchanging data from aircraft at the gate — maintenance data, entertainment system data, duty-free sales … airports need to have the capability to upload and download big bulk loads of data; they’re saying that WiMAXX will be the most efficient.”

Siva Vajjhala, global head of MindTree Ltd.’s travel and transportation industry group, says CUPPS (common use passenger processing systems) is truly next generation technology in terms of saving millions of dollars for the aviation industry and in getting to the next level of user-friendliness.

MindTree is a global IT solutions company which employs some 8,300 people globally and is based in India. The company was recently selected as a CUPPS testing entity by the CUPPS committee, a collaboration of airlines, airports, and vendors. MindTree is charged with helping airlines and airports transition from CUTE IT applications to CUPPS standards.

“The travel and transportation sector is one of our largest markets,” he relates, “and air transport is our biggest focus with regard to transportation. We have customers across the entire sector of the travel industry, including Southwest Airlines and American Airlines; we also work with IATA and SITA, as well as with rental car companies such as Avis and Budget.”

CUTE, or common use terminal equipment, is gradually being replaced by newer, more superior terminal equipment, referred to as CUPPS, relates Vajjhala. According to him, CUPPS technology has many advantages over CUTE, including interoperability.

“CUPPS is a platform that allows for multiple kiosk locations, even outside of the airport, whether that be at a bank ATM, a gas station, or a rental car location,” explains Vajjhala.
“For example, if a business traveler plans to top off his car’s fuel tank before going to the airport, there should be no reason that individual can’t check into a flight from the gas station location.”

CUPPS device support is phenomenal, he adds. CUTE does not support any biometric capabilities, but CUPPS does have that support. “As a company, we see CUPPS as being revolutionary in that sense,” he says.

There are multiple differences between CUTE and CUPPS, says Vajjhala. In terms of providing user interface and device support, CUPPS provides capabilities for reading 2D barcodes for mobile devices, fingerprint recognition, passport scanning, and so on.

Comments SITA’s Mayer, “Although CUTE technology allowed multiple airlines to share the same pieces of hardware, they actually had to have a type of application that could run on the SITA system, or the Arinc system, or the Ultra system, plus their own dedicated application.

“With CUPPS, it’s written in such a way that an airline can now use the same common-use application on any provider’s platform.

“So there is a real return on their investment; it results in cost savings because when carriers make changes to check-in applications, they don’t have to update five different systems, they just update their own dedicated application plus one.”

All the common use functions in today’s environment have to be custom-written and custom-encoded between the airline, the particular device, and the platform, says Vajjhala. “In a CUPPS world, we are going away from that sort of ‘specifity’ to a much broader level which will allow airports, much like you see today at Las Vegas McCarran or Orlando, use this technology to provide common usage across all airline carriers,” he says.

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