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Electronic bag tag could be a common sight in airports in a near future.
Electronic bag tag could be a common sight in airports in a near future.


SAS Lab creates the future of travel

From airplane boarding passes contained under your skin to visiting the top of the Empire State Building without leaving your home, SAS is developing some radical ideas for the future of travel.

Mission: accelerate SAS innovation

SAS has officially launched a new Innovation Lab, called SAS Lab, this month with the aim of equipping the company with the digital capabilities that will help it reimagine the future of transportation.Massimo Pascotto, Head of Lab at SAS. Photo: Magnus Glans

Massimo Pascotto, Head of SAS Lab, heads up the lab and he wants it to make an impact. “Innovation is doing something radically different that has an actual impact,” he says. “Without impact there is no innovation.”

Pascotto and the team made an impact behind the extremely successful SAS App that can be used by customers to book flights, check in, choose a seat and receive boarding passes on their smart phones.

It has become the most downloaded travel app at the Nordic App Store and Google Play.

“Last fall, when it became clear that SAS could accelerate its innovation even further, we decided to start SAS Lab,” says Stephanie Smitt Lindberg, Vice President Customer Journey & Loyalty at SAS.

“We aim to increase our investment in ­innovation and generate new customer experience-related revenue. We look 3–5 years into the future and want to use new technology to make life easier for Scandinavia’s frequent travelers,” she adds.

No need for bag tags in the future

One of the first prototypes that the lab is working on is the development of an Electronic Bag Tag (EBT). “Today you can check in and receive a boarding pass with almost any digital channel,” says Pascotto. “But when you need to check in a bag you come to a stop. You need to stop at the kiosk and manually put in your reservation number and then print the bag tag and get in the queue to hand it over.”

The SAS Lab is developing a small electronic device with new screen technology that is bendable, operates on low power and is cheap to produce. Travelers would buy one and then attach it permanently to their bag. The device connects to a smart phone so that travelers can update it with journey details for each trip they take. The tag would then ­display a bar code image and the itinerary for the trip. At the airport, travelers with the EBT would then just off their luggage at the baggage drop-in counter.

Board the plane with a ring or microchip

The SAS Lab is also looking into how wearable technology can be used by SAS travelers. It has started ­experimenting with rings and wristbands that can be used to pass through security, access lounges and board a plane. 

Tests have already been made with passengers who have appreciated being able to board a plane by simply flashing a ring. The SAS Lab has even experimented with microchip implants. One of the lab’s digital consultants recently injected a microchip containing his EuroBonus ­identity under his skin and became the first passenger to board a plane by just raising his hand.

Pascotto says that this was very much an experiment and that implants are not being seriously looked at as a new product range. “We did it just to show that a passenger can go through all the airport procedures and board a plane without carrying any devices at all,” he says.

The innovative rings from SAS could be used to board a plane.

Palm scanning and virtual reality

A new biometric solution based on palm vein image scanning is something that Pascotto sees as a more serious possibility. It is something that the SAS Lab is currently working on with a biometric company from Silicon Valley. “If fully implemented, passengers could go through boarding gates with just a palm scan,” he says.

Another vision for the future involves virtual reality. “Screens are getting closer to our eyes and becoming more personal,” says Pascotto. “They will transform our lives and our reality. We will therefore experiment with virtual reality to bring passengers to places that they never been to before, and give them the feeling, for example, of being on top of the Empire State Building without leaving home.”

SAS - an innovation pioneer

Pascotto is very proud of SAS’s ­innovative history. “SAS used to be considered one of the most ­innovative airlines in the world,” he says. And one of the aims of the SAS Lab is to help reinforce the company’s position in this area.

“Everything around us is changing,” Pascotto adds. “And we need a shift in thinking. New technology will continue to be unleashed with new opportunities. SAS needs to not just follow these new trends; it needs to be a pioneer in reinventing business models and reimagining the future of transportation. This will bring SAS back to the innovation forefront.”

Text Danny Chapman 

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