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Airport Authority Signs Third-Party Operator to Manage Unique Innovation Lab

Detecon Innovation Institute to Help Identify and Accelerate Most Promising Ideas

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

SAN DIEGO – January 30, 2018 – By entering into a two-year agreement with Detecon Innovation Institute (Institute), the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority intends to take its unique, airport-environment Innovation Lab to the next level of attracting and nurturing breakthrough ideas.

The Institute will refine and manage the Innovation Lab as a third-party operator. Its parent, Detecon Inc., is the management consulting practice of Deutsche Telekom, which owns T-Mobile. The Institute is centered in Silicon Valley and New York, where it develops and deploys expertise in the entire innovation cycle.

“We were pleased with the response to our request for proposals,” said Rick Belliotti, the Airport Authority’s Director, Innovation and Small Business Development. “And we are extremely fortunate to have this Institute partner with us to address existing airport challenges and materially contribute to defining the airport of the future.”

Initial focus areas are likely to include environmental solutions (such as waste management), block chain (streamlining transaction activities) and artificial intelligence (from getting people around the airport to managing maintenance).

“We want innovations that improve the overall airport experience,” Belliotti added. “Our sweet spot will be enhancing customer satisfaction, making the time travelers spend in the airport environment more enjoyable.”

The Airport Authority established the Innovation Lab in part of the former Commuter Terminal, which was decommissioned in June 2015. The 3,500-square-foot space offers a functional mini-terminal area with ticket and gate counters, and bag claim carousel, without passenger or security concerns to work around.

The goals are to reduce barriers to entry for innovators to break into the aviation industry, and to develop new ways of doing business and enhancing the passenger experience. 

“We will identify and recruit innovators through mix-up events, collaboration with venture capital firms and access to an array of start-up databases,” said Eric Dulkeith, Ph.D., senior executive with Detecon Innovation Institute. “Once we maximize the number of innovators coming to us, we will evaluate them and incubate the most promising.”

In addition to being deployed at San Diego International Airport, successful innovations could be rolled out to other airports and analogous businesses, such as shopping malls, convention centers and other transportation hubs. 

The first innovation to come out of the Lab is At Your Gate, a mobile concessions ordering and delivery service. Passengers will be able to shop for food, beverage and retail items without leaving their gate. Their items will then be delivered right to the gate hold area.

“San Diego International Airport has long been an industry innovator,” said Airport Authority President/CEO Kimberly J. Becker. “With the Innovation Lab, we expect to address existing challenges, as well as develop new concepts that will result in a radically different airport experience.

“Our four pillars are enhancing the passenger experience, improving operational efficiency, increasing revenue and decreasing cost,” she added. “There is no doubt that addressing these basic business principles will result in some tremendously exciting products, services and applications.”

Serving a record 22 million passengers in 2017, San Diego International Airport (SAN) offers nonstop service to 70 destinations in the continental U.S., Europe, Asia, Mexico and Canada. In operation since 1928, the airport is celebrating 90 years of service to the San Diego region in 2018. The airport has been managed by the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority since 2003. The Airport Authority’s mission is to plan for and provide air transportation services to the region with safe, effective facilities that exceed customer expectations.


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