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A judge's view: IATA’s AIR Hackathon gives lift to innovative ideas

iata air hackathon

AIR Hackathon was held 8-10 June 2018 at Organization of American States Building in Washington, DC.

“Leading innovation is not about getting people to follow you into the future, it is about getting people to co-create it with you.”
Linda A. Hill, Harvard Business School

The sky is the limit—literally

Hackathons offer unique opportunities for fresh thinkers to step away from the day-to-day demands of their jobs and dive into an environment where they can work together to generate and nurture new and exciting ideas. The potential of a hackathon is incredible, because it provides the freedom to ignite ground-breaking brilliance, and to create solutions that can disrupt an industry.

IATA’s AIR (Airline Industry Retailing) Hackathon, proved to be just that, impressing me in ways I was not expecting. First, it was truly international, with 75 participants from 11 different countries making up the 16 hackathon teams.

Second, it focused on women who code. The event was supported by Women in Technology, and an unprecedented 35% of the participants were women, which is more than twice the number who participated in the previous IATA Hackathon. The opening speaker was ATPCO’s own Chandra Chukka, who inspired participants with a speech focused on her own career development and the airline industry women she sees making strides in technology.

It’s amazing what can be done in just 28 hours when you are determined to succeed and primed to revolutionize airline retailing.

But what does it really take to win a Hackathon? What is the tipping point—the user experience? The technology? Or the business problem it solves?

We all win with innovative ideas but…

One winning team, Riese, who won the Developer’s prize and moved on to incubation, focused on improving the door to door experience for the business traveler, while encouraging personalized ancillary upsell throughout their travel. They caught my attention in more than one way:

  • atpco beth taylor at iata air hackathonThe code was built as a white label mobile application, which showed consideration for the airline’s brand and their relationship with the traveler
  • The revenue model for the airline was easily apparent
  • The technology they leveraged included a machine learning preference engine, which took in geospatial data, LinkedIn data via natural language processing, and airline services and content at scale through NDC Exchange API provided by ATPCO and SITA
  • From the consumer standpoint, the app was able to seamlessly and instantaneously suggest services, nearby activities, and meetups based on the traveler’s schedule and learned preferences.

Another winning team, Fly360, who won $5,000 and moved on to the incubation phase, incorporated Routehappy’s content API in an augmented and virtual reality application that gave travelers a realistic 360-degree feel of the airport, the airport lounges, and the aircraft cabin by using airline content.  It was simply a cool, immersive experience.

In fact, several teams used the Routehappy API to fuel their NDC solution focusing on one of the most prominent business problems in airline retailing—how to provide travelers with a transparent shopping experience that allow us to trust and visually understand exactly what services we are buying at the point of purchase.

While we’re on the topic of innovation

Hackathon teams have freedom in what they build and how they build it. All the AIR Hackathon teams seized this opportunity to develop an idea they had a passion for, and enjoyed a community environment throughout the weekend. After an exhausting 1.5 days of developing, it was exciting to watch the corporate and individual teams be awarded, whether with generous monetary awards or the exclusive opportunity to enter an incubation phase.

At ATPCO we know the importance of nurturing awesome ideas.  For decades, people have looked to us for expertise to grow their ideas, get connected with the right data, and find the right insight to get moving quickly. Whether you’re looking to use our NDC Exchange API to “future proof” your idea, or exploring content with Routehappy by ATPCO, we can help.

Want to talk to our NDC Experts? Get connected

Have a great idea for the next generation of air travel? Apply for mentorship and data through Bridge Labs. Apply here.

Want to see amazing ideas in action and expand your network? Attend our next Innovation Showcase at Elevate 2018: Register for Elevate.

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Beth Taylor

About Beth Taylor

Beth was formerly a team member at ATPCO.