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IATA developing App Store-like platform for tech providers
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IATA developing App Store-like platform for tech providers

IATA hopes to simplify the relationship between airlines and technology providers with a platform similar to Apple’s App Store called Travel Grid.

Air travel is overly fragmented, with each passenger journey involving many companies using their own technologies and ways of communicating, IATA head of innovation Juan Iván Martín said Nov. 14 at the Accelerate Aviation conference in London.

That fragmentation limits industry innovation, he said.

“We try lots of things, but they’re always trying to patch the existing model,” Martín told ATW. Travel Grid, he said, “is an attempt to do something completely new, a completely new ecosystem to do transactions and business in a completely different way.”

Travel Grid will initially be used as a platform for existing IATA technologies, such as identity verification for trusted companies, digital certification, payment processing and IATA coin cryptocurrency transactions.

“When the iPhone launched, a number of applications were native and available. You could use the calendar, mail and maps, but back then the Apple store was empty. Then the ecosystem started growing and a lot people can now create apps. We want to do something similar,” Martín said.

Similarly, external technology providers will be able to add their own products to Travel Grid, simplifying market access for new entrants.

“This is an attempt to create an ecosystem that is open and reduces entry barriers,” Martín said.

In the same way iPhone apps are blocked from certain functions, like turning off the device, technology providers would have to follow certain rules in Travel Grid.

“We need to create a situation where this is not the Wild West,” Martín said.

Some of the Travel Grid “apps” will be based on blockchain technology, which can create a single source of trusted information. Martín sees a range of potential uses, including cargo and spare parts tracking, identity management, contract management and certification.

Wider industry use by travel agents, aggregators, airports and ground handlers is also possible. “How far do we go?” Martín said.

Travel Grid is still in its early stages. An IATA working group was formed and will report back to the IATA board Dec. 6, ahead of further testing…

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