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Virgin Atlantic Launches Google Glass Staff Trial

Michael Moore joined TechWeek Europe in January 2014 as a trainee before graduating to Reporter later that year. He covers a wide range of topics, including but not limited to mobile devices, wearable tech, the Internet of Things, and financial technology.

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Pilot scheme will see airline staff use Google Glass to make VIP travellers more comfortable

Virgin Atlantic staff will test Google Glass, in a project designed to speed up check-in for Upper Class passengers – and also to make flying more “glamorous” in some unspecified way

The six-week trial, the first of its kind in the airline industry, will see Virgin Atlantic staff in the Upper Class Wing at London’s Heathrow airport equipped with Google Glass in order to speed up the check-in process for first and business class travellers.

The airline is promising real applications for Google Glass: it is working with air transport specialists SITA to develop software that pushes passenger flight information to Glass and other wearable technology devices to cut down on paper work and give passengers a more personalised service.

VirginGoogleGLass14Next level

Staff wearing Google Glass will be able to identify passengers and begin their check-in process from the moment they arrive at the airport, as well as being able to provide passengers with the latest information on their flight, the weather at their destination and translate any foreign language information.

In the future, Virgin Atlantic sees the technology potentially providing information on passengers’ dietary and refreshment preferences, and will look at a potential wider roll-out following its evaluation of the scheme.

The trial is also supposed to add some high-tech glitz of course. A Virgin Atlantic survey found that 53 percent of UK passengers believed that flying is less glamorous than it used to be. Many believed that improvements in technology could help improve the enjoyment of the experience, with 55 percent saying that on board Wi-Fi would be the most appealing aspect, second only to bigger windows and more space on board (60 percent).

“By being the first in the industry to test how Google Glass and other wearable technology can improve customer experience, we are upholding Virgin Atlantic’s long tradition of shaking things up and putting innovation at the heart of the flying experience,” said Dave Bulman, Virgin Atlantic’s director of IT. Virgin is starting to offer Wi-Fi and more passengers can use mobiles on board, he said.

Virgin Atlantic was the first airline to allow mobile connectivity and SMS texting on board in 2011.  3G is available on all 10 of the airline’s flagship A330 aircraft, with WiFi currently being trialled on three of these.  All 16 of Virgin Atlantic’s 787s will have the latest 4G technology available on board.

The airline is also working on testing  iBeacon with its Upper Class passengers at Heathrow. The Apple product is a new low-powered Bluetooth transmitter that can notify nearby iOS Apple devices of nearby services, discounts and updates on their flight boarding schedules.

Google Glass is growing in popularity. Earlier this week, the New York Police Department announced it was planning a trial of the device to see how it might help with police work. An official launch to consumers is expected sometime this year, however given several recent cases where users have found opposition from police and security teams, there still appears to be some confusion amongst authorities on the device’s legal status.

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