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Dubai Airports? mobile strategy soars with new smartwatch app

Dubai Airports is streamlining experiences for travelers by rolling out a new smartwatch application that enables users to view their current flight status, gate information and departure time right on their wrists, suggesting that other travel hubs could soon target smartwatch wearers.

The wearable-friendly app functions as an extension of Dubai Airports? existing iOS and Android apps, which provide travelers with up-to-date information regarding upcoming flights and terminal changes. As airports continue delving deeper into the world of mobile ? most notably, by incorporating beacons into terminals ? the opportunity to introduce streamlined information updates for smartwatch owners still abounds.

?I suspect frequent business travelers flying to or through Dubai will be the first adopters ? having gate and flight information on your wrist is certainly more convenient than digging into your pocket or bag for a phone, or deciphering a flight info board,? said Ryan Williams, vice president of travel at Millward Brown Digital. ?Pair this with increased app interactivity and more general airport information, and it could be a useful tool.?

Catering to the modern traveler
Consumers are increasingly relying on their mobile devices for real-time updates pertaining to public transportation, a trend that has forced travel hubs ranging from train stations to airports to introduce mobile apps designed for this purpose.

Dubai Airports, which manages development and operations for Al Maktoum International and Dubai International, is bringing this strategy one step further by implementing these features for smartwatch owners.

Consumers owning an Apple Watch or Android Wear device will be able to access a slew of on-the-go information, including actual departure and arrival times, terminal numbers, gate changes, baggage belt details and current flight status.

Therefore, if a traveler is rushing through the airport with little time to rifle through the Dubai Airports app and locate his flight number, he can simply glance at his wrist to view that content.

Although adoption of wearable devices has not been as staggeringly high as once predicted, many consumers prefer to use their Apple Watch or Android Wear smartwatch while travelling.

Having easily accessible airport information on these devices offers a hands-free experience for consumers, eliminating the need to balance carrying a smartphone along with suitcases and other personal belongings.

Dubai Airports refers to the smartwatch app rollout as the latest step in a series of digital initiatives created to offer quick access to personalized information that enables customers to enjoy greater freedom while planning their trips.

It also allows users to maximize their time spent in the airport.

Dubai Airports plans to make the smartwatch app even more interactive in the near future, which would give consumers the ability to access additional mobile-first tools, such as wayfinding and receiving coupons from retailers and restaurants in the terminal.

Building on previous incarnations
The new smartwatch offering builds upon Dubai Airports? existing iPhone and Android apps. Both apps let users bookmark important flight information, receive live alerts and track flight statuses.

Additionally, consumers can leverage the smartphone app to engage in customized journey planning, with shopping and dining destinations linked to interactive maps. Time-strapped travelers can also check into the terminals? restaurants via social media to ensure they reserve a table before their flight takes off.

Giving consumers the ability to plan their experiences via mobile is a must-have tactic for any travel hub or hospitality marketer.

A recent study by Expedia underscores how consumers? attachment to smartphones continues into their vacations, with many using mobile devices throughout their trips, providing an opportunity for travel brands to enhance experiences (see story).

A plethora of airports have also been experimenting with beacons, an enticing technology for consumers, airport employees and in-terminal shops and eateries.

Last summer, New York?s John F. Kennedy International Airport employed beacon technology in its Terminal 4 with the goal of removing some of the hassle in flying by displaying actual wait times at major queues for travelers (see story).

?Every airline should have an app,? Mr. Williams said. ?I also think there are benefits in travel hubs creating their own apps. However, I doubt travelers will be willing to install apps from every travel hub they fly through. 

?Apps exist today that track flight information (including arrival/departure/gate info) for all commercial flights so, unless you?re flying in and out of the same airports all the time, I don?t think hub-specific apps will be readily adopted,? he said. ?And, it shouldn?t take much for those existing apps to migrate to smartwatches.

?As smartwatches become more popular, it seems as though the multi-carrier/hub apps already in existence will be more useful.?