Embrace can be checked out at F18!

Inspiration

First of all, we would like to say that Junction 2017 surprised us with a great number of partners, tracks, and challenges. Remarkably, all of the challenges that were of interest to us shared the same freedom to do anything you want! With all of the extensive datasets and API’s that were provided by the partners, it felt like the sky was the limit.

Speaking of skies, we did have a fresh airplane experience in mind since we came all the way from The Netherlands to attend this hackathon. This nudged us towards thinking about how to improve traveling experiences. Thinking big is what drives us to always keep innovating on a technical and societal level. In order to make a bigger impact with IoT, we chose to zoom in on airports within the Intelligent Buildings challenge presented by KONE.

People travel the world for all sorts of reasons, whether it is holiday-, education- or business-related (or hackathon-fun related!). IoT can already be used to streamline the people flow in airports to improve operation management and logistics. So we decided to take it one step further; our concept will increase the user experience of travelers and that of the people awaiting them at airports. Meet Embrace.

Situation sketch

Have you ever spent time waiting for someone at the exit gate of an airport? The only thing you know is basically the landing time of the airplane. You have no idea when the person you’re waiting for will finally walk through the door. You start timing for how long you’ve been waiting.

Ten minutes passed… twenty minutes passed.... thirty minutes passed… yawn.

Suppose this person you are waiting for is your boyfriend who you have not seen for half a year because he spent a semester abroad at the other side of the world. Or, suppose this person is your grandma who has to carry luggage while having severe back pains. Imagine the tension and stress in your body while you’re fighting against the clock… but for how much longer?

This ends now. Embrace gives so-called embracers the alleviation they need while they are waiting for someone at the arrivals hall.

So how does it work?

By using equipment and geographical data by IndoorAtlas and Proximi.io, the system can track travelers as they progress through the stages of checking out at the airport. It accesses the geographical location of a traveler via several location services, through a pre-installed passive app that the traveler has installed on a mobile device. This location is uploaded to a server and a link is generated. The traveler can choose who to share the link with via social media or a text, after which the real-time location of the traveler can be viewed in an instant Android app or web app. As a consequence, the system can basically determine whether someone is at customs or already at the luggage claim by setting geofences. The embracers now know how long they will have to wait at the arrivals hall. The waiting period will now be less stressful because they know what to expect. In the meantime, depending on the location, the app could generate advertisements from the shops at the airport, making this concept interesting for airports. This increases the user experience of the embracers who have to wait, but it also generates a higher revenue for the shops that can be found at the airport. This does not have to be bothersome though, we’re thinking: "While waiting for the moment of embrace, would you be interested in a discount voucher of one of our partnering shops?"

Business model

Embrace is an extra service that can be offered to existing or new partners. The implementation of this system will strengthen the cooperative ties between KONE and airports. Speaking in terms of business opportunities, there are two main customer segments that can be reached through this technology; namely relational and corporate pickups.

Relational pickups include family members and friends who are excited to embrace a loved one or a great friend who went abroad for what seems like ages. These typically include larger groups with close ties. Advertising is especially relevant for these embracers because when these people know beforehand that they need to wait for half an hour extra, they will look for a nice place to grab a drink or lunch together. They might even bridge the time buying tulips...

We all know that time flies when you’re having fun, but many corporate meetings involve a representative flying over as well. For this segment, additional time to work on a project is much more valuable than waiting at the exit of a gate whilst holding a sign with someone’s name on it. This segment contains people and businesses who would spend money in order to have a more accurate and precise estimated time of arrival. Furthermore, we do expect that they like coffee deals.

Let it be clear that KONE should not spend her valuable time getting in contact and negotiating with the shops in all of the partnering airports. This is something that the airport management should do themselves.

SWOT

We have identified several strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. We've visualized this in the gallery.

Meet the team

Nick → Nick somehow did not expect Helsinki to be cold this time of year, so he brought his summer jacket. Despite his battle with the cold, our back-end developer drops code like it’s hot! Thijs → After Thijs collected all stickers that were possibly given out here at Junction, he took care of the front-end development of Embrace. Thijs secretly loves inflatable unicorns and would love to trade his soul for one. Laura → Laura told us this is her first hackathon and one of the first times she used Illustrator to design a logo. Judging from this weekend, we certainly do not believe her about this. Bas → Bas’s favorite app is definitely Sketch. Bas also proves that you don’t need to understand every card game in order to understand the world of design. Bert → Our hossler Bert sways the partners of Junction by posing as Ed Sheeran and handing out signatures. He gathers information in the meantime like a kickass spy.

Challenges and accomplishments

At first, we actually had difficulties specifically about which track suited our ideas best. We were doubting between Finnair and KONE for a fairly long time. Once our belief in the added user experience of embracers skyrocketed, we figured out that this is a matter that can impossibly be regulated by a flight agency alone. Airports themselves have the best view on the waiting times in the different areas and they are the ones who are in contact with the shops. After this argumentation sunk in, it became clear to us that KONE had the right challenge for us.

Another challenge was using the provided API’s for this challenge. None of us has ever worked with beacons and geographical data collection before this hackathon. Friday’s training on how to use Proximi.io and IndoorAtlas definitely helped us on how to navigate through the data and how to create geofences. It was fun to try out something new with a new API and we’re happy that we managed to sort this out!

Speaking of accomplishments, we’re really proud of the fact that we have pitched the concept to many mentors at Junction and most of them had never heard of functionalities focusing on the embracers before. All existing apps and concepts are about the traveler and increasing the smoothness of his or her travel. Therefore, we knew we had a great unique selling point. And even though we know that Embrace is not a huge step in terms of technology, we know it does increase the user experience of embracers and it generates more income for airports. Both socially and economically, it’s a win-win!

What we’ve learned

We were surprised by how quickly a multidisciplinary group can come up with unique ideas for problems that companies may have struggled with for a long time. In an extremely short timespan of only one weekend, we encountered so many amazing ideas all around us.

A person cannot stay concentrated endlessly. It’s extremely important to take a break regularly by having a walk outside, playing a game of cards or singing a song of karaoke. This is such a valuable lesson that every hackathon participant has to learn one way or another. It prevents a severe drop in concentration that would happen eventually if you do stay at your desk eternally.

One final learning point that we would have wanted to know earlier, it’s super important to do proper expectation management within the team. Especially when multiple members decide to work on a demo, it should be clearly stated and communicated what the demo should look like. A minor detail in task division already cost us a few valuable hours too many, which we could have used to add some cool “could have's” to our prototype. This is not only important in hackathons, but in every kind of team that you will ever encounter.

What’s next for Embrace

Without a doubt, we hope that KONE will consider using Embrace in airports. We honestly believe that it’s a unique and worthwhile innovative step. It could become a frontrunner in this line of technology by keeping strong ties with Proximi.io and IndoorAtlas.

Within airports, many more functionalities could be added to the app to extend our project. Think about accessibility for visually impaired people, elderly people without smartphones, children traveling alone, large groups of travelers…

But like we argued before... think bigger. There are so many other ways in which the equipment and technologies of Proximi.io and IndoorAtlas could be used brilliantly with respect to intelligent buildings. Think about train stations, concert halls, hackathon venues, marathons…

If you ever want to brainstorm about it, just contact us. We’re always up for a broader discussion about the range of possibilities and happy to embrace those. Good to see you!

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