Mister Beacon Episode #8
San Diego International Airport's Beacon InfrastructureJuly 07, 2016
Rick Belliotti is Director of Information & Technology Services, as well as Business Development for the busiest single runway airport in the USA. He describes the rationale and process of developing a beacon infrastructure, how the airport business works and important things that people need to know, if they want their technology to succeed in one of the busiest types of venue. He also gives us a sneak peak of their new airport app, designed to work at multiple airports. It has some unique proximity features.
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You're listening to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Beacosystem with Steve Statler.
Rick Belliotti 00:26
We at about 50,000 people on average a day through here, so from a volume of people going through a space, we're bigger than many sporting arenas, and we are consistently that size. You could have all of this beacon infrastructure in place. And now the person the passenger could be being bombarded with various messages from different systems and really being able to manage that noise is going to be critical. For us, we're really driving it from, from the perspective of how do we communicate with the passenger so we've installed somewhere near 300 beacons throughout this campus. Really, the purpose of that app is not so much about the revenue generation is it is about the passenger in the passenger experience. Yeah. And whether or not it's my app or someone else's app that ultimately provides that experience. We want to be able to understand what do we have to enhance that experience? Welcome to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Beacosystem. My name is Steve Statler of Statler Consulting. As always, we're doing this in partnership with our good friends that Proxbook, who produce a Executive Summary of every interview we do. So if you want to just get the highlights and do a quick graze on what we've talked about, head off to proko.com To get that. So this week, we're in San Diego at San Diego International Airport. And I am with the head of their technology department. Rick Belliotti. Rick, thank you so much for doing the show. Absolutely. Thanks for the invite. It's, it's an honor, It's an honor for me as well. You were my first client after leaving Qualcomm. And I remember you were thinking about developing proximity and location app using beacons. And so you challenged me to put on a day long training course for your entire team. And we did it and that was actually the foundation of what has turned into this book, which just came out last week. So if it weren't for you, this wouldn't have been written. So I thought I'd give you a copy with my thanks for making it happen. Well, thank you. Yeah, that's great. Yeah, I know when we started down this path, beacons were relatively new and, and really geo indoor geolocation. All of those ideas were kind of new and, and I needed to get my staff on board with understanding what what it was we were trying to do. So having your experience in Qualcomm and helping develop some of those thoughts was absolutely perfect. And getting us down the path home. I think it was good for both of us. It really was. And so this is great timing you I think are about to release your app imminently. When's that coming? That's right. So we've we've been sort of imminently, releasing it. And every, every day, we sort of change things along as we go. But we're looking at mid July now. So we're at the beginning of July of 2016, here and so by mid July, it should be released to the public. We've got beta versions, which we can look at a little bit later. And really, the only features we're kind of finishing up now are more of the mapping features that that really the geolocation or, as some would call it. Blue dotting is a critical thing when you start talking about airports. Well, I've got a bunch of questions for you about what the app is going to do and the process of developing it. But first, we should set the scene a little bit unexplained to people who aren't familiar with the airport. A little bit about San Diego airport. How big is the airport? How many people will travel through it? Sure, sure. So, you know, there's all sorts of different measurements of airports. So when you start looking at an airport, average airport is about 4000 acres. We are 641 acres. We are a very small compact airport. We are the single the busiest single runway airport in North America. We have just one runway. However, on that one runway last year, we did just above 20 million passengers. Wow. So that's a lot of people in the US that puts us around 18 or so size of airports 1718 So we're in the top 20 As far as sizes of passenger count But as far as land and runways go, we're we're quite compact. And it is a beautiful airport. This has got nothing to do with beacon technology. But for anyone that's thinking of coming to San Diego, you'll get an amazing view at San Diego as you land, you probably come very close to some of the buildings. And then you step out the door, and literally two minutes, you can see the bay. And so it's just a fantastic location. I am really enthusiastic about airports as a business person as someone who's into the beacon thing, just because so many people come to airports. I remember, at Qualcomm, we did the analysis, and we looked at the top 20 airports and the top 20 shopping malls. And the airports have it by 100%. So twice as many people go to the top 20 airports, as they do to the top 20 shopping malls. So anyone that's interested in getting technology in people's hands, it's it's great, just from a numbers perspective. If you think about even our airports, so being in the top 20, we have about 50,000 people on average a day through here. So from a volume of people going through a space, we're bigger than many sporting arenas, and we are consistently that size, it is a great place to see and interact with a lot of people from a new technology perspective, as somebody in technology, it's a great place to be because we get so many different opportunities to interact with so many different types of people. What kind of people go to an airport, I have an intuitive sense, but any kind of color you want to add in terms of who flies. Yeah, so for for our airport, we're, we're what's called an origination and destination airport. So what that means is people don't generally come to our airport to go somewhere else, they either come here to stay here, or they're leaving from here. So we're about a 50/50 split on our airport, between business travelers and leisure travelers. And a lot of that's driven because of the environment that we have around here being the the most beautiful place in the world. If you ask me, you can't get much better.
Steve Statler 07:02
It's a real problem. When you go on holiday, where do I go?
Rick Belliotti 07:04
That's right, I'm gonna go someplace nice. Oh, wait, I'm already here. So. So we do get a lot of leisure travelers. But because of that mix, we are somewhat unique in that we have savvy travelers who tend to be the business travelers. And we have first time travelers who tend to be more of a vacation travelers. And so we have to be able to accommodate both types of travelers, if you will, those who really just want to get through and get to their gate and get on their plane and those that really don't know what to do in an airport.
Steve Statler 07:34
I'm sure that's something that's been in your mind as you've been looking at the app as well, because they're different kinds of users different kinds of services. But the great thing is you do have this very regular set of people that are tech savvy, pretty well heeled in terms of being able to afford to buy a smartphone and probably looking, they've got pretty high expectations. So that's, I guess, a blessing and a curse.
Rick Belliotti 07:58
There's statistics that the industry has put out that around 89% of passengers carry a smartphone. So we have a high uptake of technology just from our from our passenger base so that you're exactly right.
Steve Statler 08:11
Before I started working with San Diego airport, I thought I understood airports. And then the closer I got, the more I realized there's a lot more to this. So let's just dip into that very briefly. You run the technology organization, what does the technology organization at an airport have to do? And I ask that because I'm sure you don't have a huge amount of spare time to think about apps, you've probably got other things on your mind as well.
Rick Belliotti 08:34
That's right, yeah, so an airport is really an ecosystem of a bunch of different companies. From the airport authority perspective, we are for lack of a better term, the landlord, so we're responsible for all of the buildings for all of the security at the airport, from getting from the passenger side to the terminal side, we are responsible for making sure that the lights are on making sure that the data that gets out to the passengers on the screens that you might look at to find your flight, those are our responsibility. So my team really has their hands full, both with the back office type work helping the airport authority employees do their daily jobs with all of the varying things that we have to do from construction, to environmental to accounting, all of the different aspects you would expect in an interest in a business, as well as providing services to the traveling public. So my team of 30 have quite a breadth of responsibility. And first and foremost is make sure the lights down. Yeah. So how many people have you had working on this app? We have had often on about three people working on the app. We have hired a third party company that is developing it for us and so we're providing guidance, we're providing some testing. What's been really neat about the testing phase of it. So from an IT perspective, very limited But from a testing perspective, we've got about 60 people within the authority that have downloaded the app and are giving us feedback. So we're, we're doing at least an internal beta testing, from our own staff to see how things work.
Steve Statler 10:15
Why develop an app?
Rick Belliotti 10:17
Yeah, that's a great question. I think, to a certain extent, it's a waste of time. And the reason that I say that is that an airport app, the audience for an airport app, is really the people who work at the airport. So we have around 400 employees at the authority, I might get about 500 downloads. And, and the reason for that is that passengers generally don't want to download my app, they don't want to download another airports app and and other airports happen and other airports, there's only so many apps that people want to put on their devices. Yeah. And so we have a very limited, although we have lots and lots of people that come through our airport, we have a very limited scope of what value our data and our app can provide. But the reason we wanted to develop it is really to prove out other things. So prove out how can you use beacons in an airport prove out? What kind of data does an airport authority as ourselves have that has value? For me? The app? Isn't the values, the data that itself is the value? And how do I manage that data? And how can I leverage it to help my partners to help my passengers and to help grow revenue for the airport authority?
Steve Statler 11:30
So really, less about the app and more about the infrastructure? Is that a fair comment? And really, that's infrastructure is a big part of what airports are all about. And I didn't realize, but there's been a seismic change in the way you design technology for airports. And it used to be very siloed. Everyone I had, each airline had their own thing. And now that's changing. Do you want to just say a few words about that, and how that might relate to this whole?
Rick Belliotti 11:56
Sure. So So one of the challenges that we have being in industry of a bunch of different companies that all share space, is just that space is limited. So when we go back to my very small footprint, as a great example, I have to figure out the best way to get as many airlines or carriers into this space as possible. So we have 19. Now, so when we want to add that 21, where do they go. And so what the industry has come up with for for now is a way to time slice or share physical resources like gates and ticket counters that at one moment, that gate could be airline A, and the next moment, it could be airline B. And so that technology, while it is somewhat old, and antiquated and needs to be updated, and honestly started back in 1984, for the, for the LA Olympics. So way, way back in 1984, for for a reason that we all seem to as we watch, technology seems to center around large events like the Olympics, this technology was created. It's called common use. And, and it's still going strong. Now it's been iteratively changed and improved. But the the concept is really the same. How do you how do you share space with multiple airlines without having to build additional terminals or build additional infrastructure to support because that's very costly.
Steve Statler 13:23
So you have common use infrastructure that includes by my understanding the telephone system, the reservation, the the connectivity for reservation systems, and suddenly the airlines merge. And I think the theory goes that one of your guys does a little bit of work on a console. And suddenly, what was two airlines, you can merge the infrastructure into one or that's the ideal mate.
Rick Belliotti 13:45
Yeah, that's the idea. Yeah. It's probably a simpler version of what truly happened. Yeah, that's, that's definitely the idea. The other great example is, you know, back in a few years, and even a decade or so ago, when there were airlines going into bankruptcy. And what ended up happening in those bankruptcies is the leaseholds, that they had became an asset for the bankruptcy courts, which meant that we as airports couldn't reuse those gates, they work now tied up in a bankruptcy proceeding. And so we had to also change the way we did leases so that we could enable the airport to continue to own and manage their infrastructure as and benefit the community as we do today.
Steve Statler 14:27
So I have this common use for telephone systems and reservation systems. How does that relate to beacons? common use for beacons?
Rick Belliotti 14:36
So that's, again, another good question. So common use for the telephones and the computer infrastructure really allows us to best manage our space and really figure out where to put airlines to operate, common use for beacons. And for really any geolocation type information. It's kind of that next iteration of how do I within an airport I manage my internal space and the data about my internal space and share that with my partners in a way that they can expose it through their apps or expose it through their platform, whatever that might be. And really going back to a question earlier, that's the reason to develop that app is to prove out how the infrastructure that we put in place, interacts with a mobile device and interacts with passengers, and how do we package that in a way that then our partners can use?
Steve Statler 15:31
Very good. So to just kind of wrap that up, it seems like the ideal is you have one set of beacons and every airline uses the same set of beacons rather than having one set of beacons for United set of beacons for American Airlines. And then, you know, potentially you got lots of other apps, third party apps, I guess, that are coming in. And so wouldn't it be nice if we were all using the same set of infrastructure? is, do you see? Is that the way it's going? Or do you think we're going to find different apps from different people in the different airline clubs? I can see it going? Either way?
Rick Belliotti 16:06
Yeah, I think it really depends on it really depends on how we as an industry react. So I'll use Wi Fi as an example of a way that we reacted poorly, and how that relates maybe to the beacons going forward. So in the early days of installing Wi Fi infrastructure in airports, there became a battle between the airports and the airlines about who can install wireless access points. And so the airlines would install songs, the airports would install some, you'd end up with radiofrequency conflicts in a channel fighting with one another. And so, as an industry, the way that we ended up reacting was we, as airports told airlines, you can't do that. The airlines went to the FCC and said, they can't do that. And so it became a battle rather than a partnership. What is what we learned from that overall, as an industry is we all have to work together, and we have to work together well. And from that point, moving forward, I've seen a lot of growth, and how we all work together. But with the beacon world, we could end up in the same in the same realm, and that you could have all of this beacon infrastructure in place. And now the person the passenger could be being bombarded with various messages from different systems, and really being able to manage that noise is going to be critical.
Steve Statler 17:33
It's infrastructure, hopefully, it will be there. So new apps can one day Travelocity wants to start using beacons in San Diego airport, they can use the same beacons that other folks are using. But we all know infrastructure is really hard. And you probably know that better than anyone else. In the book, we talk about infrastructure in terms of the highway system, the fact that we've got a highway system, it was put in over many generations, but Eisenhower justified military applications, and that was what drove the expansion of the highway system. How are you justifying the installation of the beacons in terms of the app? I'm sure the app? I think you alluded to that that's kind of almost like a Trojan horse that is allowing you to learn? What are the kinds of functions that you want to have in the app? And what's going to be released first?
Rick Belliotti 18:21
So so there were kind of two questions in there. The first was, why the beacons and what are we how are we driving that? Yeah. For us, we're really driving it from the perspective of how do we communicate with the passenger. So we've installed somewhere near 300 beacons throughout this campus. They are the gimbal beacons as opposed to the iBeacon standard. And we did that purposefully. Because at the time we started down this path gimbal was one of the very few that had a secure beacon, if you will. So when somebody would be walking through our airport, if they didn't have the right components in their app, they wouldn't know that the beacons existed, they couldn't be found. And so that was important to us as a as an airport. From a security perspective, the drivers for the beacons really are about the art program, about the concessions program, about what is around the passenger and helping them find so thinking about the passengers who may not be seasoned passengers who are familiar with airports and generally how airports operate. One of the hardest things in an airport is how do I find my way around it? And so we have purposefully headed down this path to help solve some of those problems of a passenger being able to figure out where they are, and what's around them. The second part of that question was, what are the features that are really going to first come out in the app? And so we've done a couple of things, the simple features like the flight information to be able to get that on your phone that's easy, and really is sort of the price of entry of any airport app. if you will, you should have that. We would like to have the map of the airport in there. And really that going back to that blue dining concept of, I'm here, and this is what's around me, that's going to be in the first release later releases will get us to how do I get from where I am to where that concession might be, but that won't be in the first release.
Steve Statler 20:17
Okay, so that would be the Wayfinding. So at the moment, people will be on say how I'm actually on the West Wing of terminal two, and therefore I know where the nearest and cuz he talked about concessions. I think most people know what that is. But that's basically we're talking restaurants and shops, that sort of thing. Which is really the way let's go back to this map or one. I want you guys for the airport. Yeah. So thanks for that on my taxes?
Rick Belliotti 20:39
No, we are self funded. That's, that's a common sentiment that it's tax based. Airports are by and large in the United States. So it's different than the US versus outside of the US. But by and large in the United States, airports are government entities or government esque entities. And so they'll either be a department of a city department of a county. In our case, we're an independent authority. So California has set us up as what's called a special legislative district, different methodologies. But in all in all, we are in place to manage and operate the airport in a safe and efficient manner. And that goes across the board for really any airport. So in order to be funded, we are funded by the people who use it. So we have a use fee, if you will, that pays for a lot of the construction. So when you look at your ticket, and you see that $4.50 cent fee, sometimes it's less that passenger facilitation charge that is a a fee that is added onto an airplane ticket that the airline collects and then reimburses back to the airport to help pay for infrastructure in that the purpose of that really is to enhance the passengers experience. So that would be the building of new buildings or adding in new features into a terminal something that makes the experience better for the passenger or enhances that passenger experience. The second way we get funded is by the airlines who use our runways in the airport in the airfields so they pay us use fees, they pay us rental fees they pay for varying other fees. So the same way we get funded as from from the airlines that use the airport, that would be things like the landing fees, the charges to land, we have to pay for maintenance of the runways and the airfields. The rent that they use to that they pay us to rent the space, we have to improve that space, keep it up maintain it's the final ways that we get paid or make revenue is what we call non aeronautical or non airline revenue depending on who you talk to. And that would be things like the concessions, you buy a bottle of water, we get a percentage of that as the airport. So that would be considered rent parking is almost every airport parking is a major source of revenue for the airport, other revenue sources. In our case, the rental car companies are a revenue source, we do get fees from them for the opportunity to rent cars to our passengers, we are looking at other areas for additional revenue, because that's always something that we have to consider is how do we how do we make this a better experience for our passengers. And that does take money. Some airports are lucky enough to have natural gas on their property or, or oil or what have you, or slot machines if you're in Las Vegas. But those are one offs for the for the most part.
Steve Statler 23:33
You got sunshine, how many you got a lot of sunshine Bob bottle. So maybe that's a little bit of a diversion. But I think you know, know your customer, if someone's a lot of people will be watching this thinking, this is a great market for my startup to get into. And I think if you're thinking that you need to understand how your customer spends money. And so this is interesting and to sort of to the extent that people can help you drive more transactions out of the concessions, that's more revenue into the airport. And it's not like you're not a profit, you're a nonprofit. But you definitely want the money because you have to pay people's wages. And hopefully that money goes into making it a better experience. So you are motivated, it seems to generate revenue, even though you're not motivated by profit, because you don't make profit.
Rick Belliotti 24:24
Yeah, we are motivated to generate revenue for things like our airport development plan that will be coming out here in the near future, which is really taking some of the older buildings on our campus and redeveloping those. So we have a need to ultimately hit 61 gates at this airport. That's about the max that our airfield will support. And in order to do that, we've got to find sources of revenue.
Steve Statler 24:48
So let's get back to the app then we kind of did a quick tour of some of the functions and it seems like they could be put into a number of buckets. One is just making it a better experience for people and the other one is potentially generating some revenue is that is revenue generation significant consideration with the app or not?
Rick Belliotti 25:07
No, I wouldn't say significant, it's always something we consider. It actually is a good point to get back to some of the features. Because really, the purpose of that app is not so much about the revenue generation as it is about the passenger in the passenger experience. Yeah. And whether or not it's my app or someone else's app that ultimately provides that experience, we want to be able to understand what do we have to enhance that experience. So some of the things that we will be releasing in the first go around our wait times for our taxi lines, which is sort of a silly thing. But but really, again, to prove out, can we calculate manage wait times, because while we're talking about a, a taxi queue, which may not be important to a lot of people at this point, what is important is when you start looking at the security checkpoints, or the ticketing lobby, where you're going to drop your bag, your luggage and get that out, so you can get out to your gate. those wait times are critical. So we have a system in place today to monitor wait times out on the curb, we wanted to see can we expose that data in a meaningful way through an app. So that'll be there. The other features that will be coming down the road that are more revenue generating will be taking our parking reservation system that we have on our website and exposing that through our app. So people can reserve a parking space in in our laws or reserve a valet spot in our valet services. And then as we begin to add additional future resources, we are looking at, how do we how do we do concession ordering and delivery. So if you are a business traveler and you're going home and you realize that for little Johnny, you forgot to buy them a gift, then wouldn't it be great if you could do that on the app and have it delivered to your gate rather than having to walk up and down the airport and look through every single store to find something that you really just want to get or if you're a leisure traveler, and you didn't realize that you couldn't take liquids through the security checkpoint. Getting to the other side. Now because you're in a in a hurry to get to your gate, how about being able to order some a bottle of water or a drink to have it ready for you when you get to your gate. So those are, those are some additional features will have down the road, which do drive some revenue. But I don't see it as a large revenue source. So going back to a point that you made earlier, you are testing a bunch of features. And the reality is those features may get exposed to someone else's out. But unless you are trying that stuff out with your app, you won't know where the beacons need to go or how the infrastructure needs to operate. But just to explore any other use cases that you can talk about in terms of things you're considering for the app. Yeah, it's probably the biggest feature that sort of left off the table at the moment is what we're calling our Go tag. And so what we've done, so we've done kind of two things, and I'll talk about the app in a minute. But the goat tag is a it's a beacon that's about the size of a quarter and is designed to be a Mobile Beacon. So when you start thinking about beacons, originally, you're thinking about the physical beacon that attaches to a wall that is static and things around it move. This is a little bit different where maybe your static and the beacon itself. And so what we noticed and when we were starting to do some research and even in your training is that that the the challenge of identifying the actual the original use case was identifying where your kid was, and being able to put something on your child so that if they got too far from your your phone so I as a dad thought that was interesting, but I also was thinking about my experiences and traveling with my family. And anytime we go and visit anybody. Dad is a poor schlep, who goes and stands at the carousel and watches all the bags going in circles while the kids are in mom or off with whoever were visiting. getting reacquainted getting hugs getting maybe I was a bit jealous about that. So we came up with an idea to place a beacon that would be used on luggage, so that when the luggage presented itself on the carousel, your phone would get an alert so kind of the opposite of your kid getting too far away. Your bags getting close enough to dry. And so so what that enables you to do is stand maybe 75 feet or 100 feet or so away from that carousel so that you can either enjoy the people that you're visiting or coffee or a stand nearby or what have you. And your phone will do the work your phone or your mobile device will alert you when your bag arrives on you So for us, that really is the way to get people to stop.
Steve Statler 30:05
Yes, use that, that feature. That's great. It's great. So let's talk a little bit about the process. And these things always take longer than you would hope. And I think that's the entire industry. So I'm really interested in this part of the conversation, because as a whole, I think everyone's been excited by beacons. Like, why isn't this taken off? Yet? You probably have a better perspective than most about that. That takes some time. So how long does it take?
Rick Belliotti 30:35
Well, I would have liked to obtain by about a year into it. Yeah. So in that, in that year timeframe, really, a lot of the challenges is the learning a lot of the challenges the politics of the environment, and not even so much the politics of politics, but just getting people to understand getting people figure out why it's a value, getting concessions and other tenants to allow you to put stuff in their space, there's just a lot of moving parts. And then there are about 12 people in the world that understand what you're doing. And so trying to grow that to be more than those 12 people tend to take the most.
Steve Statler 31:22
So it's just a bunch of human stuff, a bunch of communication. And you know, you can call it vision, just explaining why we're doing this, it takes time.
Rick Belliotti 31:31
It takes a lot of time. And then there is the time of what do we want. So you have some people who may be very interested in where where physical things are in the airport, where the restrooms are, where the the shops are, whatever, you have other people that are more interested in where the art is, you have some people that are more interested in what are the environmental features of the building, trying to dovetail all of those interests together without not that any IQ project ever has this. But without scope creep? Is this quite a challenge to definitely start once you start that ball rolling. And once people start to get the vision of what it is you're trying to do, it's almost like you get to a cliff, and that ball drops off the cliff rather than a roll down the hill. And, and then the scope gets completely out of control. So. So again, it's the human element of trying to pull all that together. And then once you're in the midst of all, you're now doing the development work, and you're developing in something that is quite new. And you're developing it in an area that it's never been used before. You run into a lot of technical technical problems that you just did not expect.
Steve Statler 32:43
Sheds light on what those unexpected things, things that you might expect.
Rick Belliotti 32:49
So for for us, some of the things we weren't expecting to happen, are things like on our beacon application, it has to have internet connectivity at all times. And that is status of the rolling code that gets us to provide that security. That can becomes a problem when you're traveling internationally, for example, you have no connected. And so now the app doesn't work. We didn't expect that. So luckily, we had some employees who were going on international trips, and we learned some very interesting experiences based on that. On that side of the house. The other thing is what we've learned is that that designers and software programmers and the like all of the people that you put into developing policy things in different ways. And so when you're doing a rapid development, you end up with a lot of iterations, because nobody at the beginning people don't all have the same view of how things should work. That's probably the biggest, the biggest issues.
Steve Statler 33:56
And it seems like a lot of this is a function of going first, you know, there's there's a bunch of airports and there's a lot of airports that are trying this, but no one's got a year's experience of deploying a beacon app that you're putting into your building infrastructure as well as applications that's going to be challenging.
Rick Belliotti 34:14
I don't you know, I think that's not exactly true. To be fair, because you pick on places like Orlando or Miami. And there's a few others that have had beacons in place for quite a while they went with the iBeacon standard have developed apps, Dallas Fort Worth as an example. The funny thing is we start rattling off things you forget one and then one of those airports that will be my friends and me and Steve's camera. So forgive me if I didn't mention you. But nonetheless, there are many people ahead of us. When you start looking at the number of airports in the world that is very small and we are in the front end of that but I wouldn't by no means that we're we're out front.
Steve Statler 34:59
That's most of you, I still would say that posit that it's early days. And it's unclear as to exactly how this is going to roll out. But you did mention that using iBeacon. And some of the challenges in terms of the role we code and I know that that, that there's been a lot of work in refining that. And there's opportunities to potentially cash elements that would potentially be required. But any thoughts about whether in the future people are going to go for locking down their beacons or whether they're going to be static beacons? Because now we've got these URL beacons as well, I'd be interested in your thoughts on that.
Rick Belliotti 35:39
Yeah, I think the URL beacons like Eddystone are, are a really interesting opportunity, I think it's a different opportunity. I think that the the iBeacon, or the gimbal beacon, really serve kind of the same purpose. Whereas you're interacting with an app on the phone, that communicates to you some information based on what you're and that's a very specific kind of a use case, I think that the URL based beacons have an opportunity of interacting directly with the the operating system, the phone, and so you no longer need that happen. So that that really is an interesting conundrum. Because on the benefit side, it allows you to connect your other assets, your website, maybe or downloading something onto a device with a physical location. On the negative side, for somebody like me and an airport, I lose. I lose management over the experience within my space. So anybody in theory could stick a URL beacons on my wall, and now they have access to giving an experience that I may not want in my in my head.
Steve Statler 36:57
That is interesting. I know some of the providers of solutions in this space. But what they provide as well as accessing your beacons managing your scanning for other people's we can see you cannot found that potentially confusing competing things, obviously, some economics that go into this to this as well. Potentially security and safety too. So it's going to be a consideration. That's interesting that you brought that up. All right, well, maybe we should just wrap up fairly soon. And if you've got time, I'd love to have a little look at the app, maybe we can walk around the terminal. But the last set of questions is really back to these entrepreneurs. What's the secret of getting some of your time you're now in charge of business development, as well as technology? I forgot to elucidate on that. So congratulations on the even more, you got it. But I'm sure there's a bunch of people that would just love to get into the airport space, but you're busy. And I'm sure you can't spend your time building these opportunities. What advice would you give to, to budding entrepreneurs who want to get into the airport space?
Rick Belliotti 38:09
Yeah, that's my favorite question. So I actually came out of the private sector, into the public sector is my first experience in public life and was the one thing being from in the airport industry for as long as I have been, we are very proud of ourselves. And, and I say that somewhat tongue in cheek, but we do have a barrier of entry into this marketplace in that most of the bid documents that you'll see that come from airports will say must have experience in 135, whatever the number is, similar size airport that immediately limits to I think that that really gives us a really doesn't do justice to our industry. And that is there's a lot of wonderful ideas out there that have nothing to do with airports, but that couldn't find. And so what we have done in our airport is we have created a space that we call the innovation lab, it's actually behind the wall behind me, that wall that that area is really designed to be a mini terminal. And we want to have people come in and develop new ideas, whether they be technology, or if I put on my business development hat, whether they be improving parking or improving ground transportation or improving retail sales in the upper whatever those things might be. That's a space to do it, which then gives a platform for new entrants into the airport space to be able to say, I do have airport experience it is in one of the top 20 airports in the States. And that kind of eliminates that barrier at least helps. So the way that we're pursuing that and hopefully in the next couple of months, things will start hitting the street for those off Tuesdays is that we are going to really do kind of an open call application, if you will, we will put out, for example, we wanted innovating customer service, which is really unusual for our industry, we're very particular about the finding everything. In the case of the innovation lab, we may get somebody comes in with a technology solution and make it something comes in with a person solution. We may get somebody that comes in with a widget, whatever those things might be. And we're going to have to figure out how to compare those. And Sarah, that one, and that one will let you try it out in the innovation lab for a period of time. Let's see where it goes. So that to me is one great way to get in that the the other way to get into our industry, the traditional ways to really settle up with other people who have been working in industry all the time, and trying to have that help. That's really hard for
Steve Statler 41:04
me, that's great advice. So Rick, thanks so much for your time, it's been fascinating talking to you. And good luck with with the launch of the app. And I should say good luck with the launch of that infrastructure and supports the app. So thanks, again. Thank you, thanks for the book. And thanks, everyone for watching and for listening. So what would that be can be useful?
Rick Belliotti 41:29
So this one right now, as we're testing, it is telling us that about the parking product. So I'm telling you that you're in the parking lot across from terminal two, and that was pulling up our website, within the app and telling you about the very various parking products that we have. Okay, so let's just giving some context to that. Yeah. In this particular case? That's right. All right. What was the what was the process in terms of figuring out where you're gonna put them? So we defined specific criteria for beacons. So we knew that we wanted to highlight our art program, we knew that we wanted to highlight concession and retail we knew we wanted to highlight ticket areas and those types of things. And so that was the basis and then we had a team go through the airport, and the bid met one of those checkbox they put a beacon.
Steve Statler 42:24
And how long did that take?
Rick Belliotti 42:26
It ended up taking about two and a half weeks. All right, really, because of the process of identifying location and going back and putting the beacon in and then having to register that beacon for that location. It was a lot of effort. And who, who actually did it? Was it your staff? Who was the vendor that you work with? That's right, so we worked with a company called Spark Compass. And they, along with my staff went around and put the beacons in place and, and developed the app. And so they've been a great partner.
Steve Statler 42:59
Alright, let's see if we can find any more beacons.
Rick Belliotti 43:02
So one of the features and actually one of the questions you asked me about things that we learned, so we have the app in both our iPhone and our Android voter version, you'll notice on the bottom that they're different, that this is seeing what's around me, says one, this is seeing what's around me as five.
Steve Statler 43:23
And the one on the right is your iPhone, and the left is the is the Android version.
Rick Belliotti 43:28
That's right. And so what we're discovering is that natively, they handle beacons differently. And the way that they received the signal strength is different. And so when I go into what's around me, what I see is that I have a baggage carousel. So as it's updating and having the information use and fuel rod ad, which will be straight ahead of us there. This one's picking up the fuel rod, but it's not picking up the artwork, or the baggage carousel or the checking kiosks. And you'll see that on the Android it's picking them up and dropping them as we stand. It's the varying signal strength. The nature of RF, right.
Steve Statler 44:07
So a little bit more volatile, but actually more sensitive on Android to what's around it.
Rick Belliotti 44:13
So this is our Go tag. What you'll notice is that we did not branded as a San Diego tag, but we branded it as a go tag. And the reason is that this tag and the app, as you'll see at the top says a way you go the name of the app is a way you go not San Diego airport. And the purpose of both of those is that we did not want the we thought that there was opportunity for the app to be more valuable if it had other airports.
Steve Statler 44:43
And so since I use the airport in San Diego, I flopped Portland, I can use it there as well.
Rick Belliotti 44:49
That's right. So the Go tag is really very simple. I already have this one registered and so you'll see an error message as it comes up but we wanted to make it easy for people to add tag so when you want to add a tag You take it to the back of the phone that the app does it scan. As you'll see, it says already recognized, I have a registered, I can override that and then rename the tag. And there you go. So now it's been registered to my account. So now the value of this tag and the reason we went with this manufacturer of goats of tags, which is the gimbal tag, is that my phone and my app are the only ones that can identify this tag. So it gives it somewhat sense of security. So when your bag is coming off of the carousel, you're the one who hears it, not everybody else. So that's the message that you'll get in your phone obviously gives you a vibrate, but when you're in the app, there's the message and then it would also show up in your messages at the top your phone or you know in your iPhone underneath the messages and just alert you that your tag is nearby or your luggage is nearby.
Steve Statler 45:55
So here we have another beacon that looks kind of fits in, it's a little bit nondescript. So this kind of blends in is potentially an architectural feature. And San Diego is an interesting airport, put a real premium.
Rick Belliotti 46:11
We do we do that. One of the things that we really pride ourselves on is our art exhibits. And we really want people to learn more about the art and, and more about the experience here at the airport. So so what we were hoping to do with the beacons is to provide additional opportunities, interact with the art to learn about the artist and learn about the art exhibit itself. So we've divided up the categories. And the intent being that if you're looking for dining, you know which terminal you're in, you can find the various opportunities for food, you can view the details of that food and in the final release, you'll be able to click on the location, it'll bring up the map and show you where it is. And then it by default where you are. So you can figure out kind of how to get the bubbles is one of our concessions. And again, these are all just test messages. This is the very first anybody outside of the authority has seen this.
Steve Statler 47:23
If you were on this trip to Mars, and you had to choose three songs to take with you, which three songs would you take?
Rick Belliotti 47:34
Well, that's a great question. I think I'd start with Won't Back Down by Tom Petty. I think if you know if I'm going to Mars, I got to be pretty certain that there's no turning back. I would go with I Go to the Rock by Al Denison, which is our Jensen Dennison L. Benson, which is more of a faith song you know, it kind of remind me of my roots and where I'm coming from. And and then I'd also go with Fat by Weird Al because who doesn't like Weird Al?
Steve Statler 48:09
Yes. So you'll be laughing as you're driving around on the Mars Explorer and on the way thanks a lot.