Samsung and Iberia Airlines have created a smartwatch app that allows users to board an Iberia flight with a scan of the watch on their wrist, rather than having to hold a paper boarding pass or juggle a smartphone as they finagle their luggage.
The new app, which was announced in October by Iberia Airlines, works on the Samsung Gear 2 and Gear Neo smartwatches, which allow users to simplify their boarding of their Iberia flights, according to the companies.
"At Iberia.com we are constantly incorporating new services and technologies," Miguel Ángel Henales, Iberia's director of digital business, said in a statement. "We believe that this innovative boarding pass will be very well-received by our customers."
The new Iberia Airlines app can be downloaded from the Samsung Galaxy App store, according to the companies. Previously installed versions of the app should be uninstalled and then the latest version should be downloaded and installed to ensure proper operation. In addition, the Iberia app can be used to send mobile boarding passes previously stored in a phone to an owner's compatible smartwatch.
Such apps are likely to continue to grow in popularity, according to two IT analysts who spoke with eWEEK.
"It's a perfect application to be used for a smartwatch," said Charles King of Pund-IT. "Samsung might be the first, but I don't think they are going to be the last. It's an interesting and innovative use of the form factor and the technology."
King said he expects to see more and more innovative use cases for smartwatch apps. "That's what is going to continue the momentum into the marketplace," he said, rather than a collection of apps that typically collect health and heart rate data. "Once developers get their teeth into how this can work, I think it can help move the market along."
Another analyst, Rob Enderle, principal of The Enderle Group, agreed.
"It is actually a decent idea if you are TSA Pre passenger, so you can wear your watch through security but not carry your phone," Enderle said in an email reply. "If you use your watch you can put your phone in your carry-on and are far less likely to leave it behind at the security station as a result. In any case it would be far easier to show your watch than juggle your phone with all of your other stuff when rushing through security."
Smartwatch-based boarding pass apps would be an "ideal use of a smartwatch with the appropriately large screen," he wrote. "It is apps like this that could change smartwatches from exercise-only products to something that has a far broader use case and larger market."
Another airline, Virgin Atlantic, conducted its own technology experiments in February when it introduced Google Glass and other wearable technologies to a group of employees at London's Heathrow Airport to see how the devices could assist the airline's passengers. The devices were used by Virgin Atlantic employees to assist passengers from their arrival at an airport through boarding and departure, and even with their in-flight experiences, according to an earlier eWEEK report.
The six-week-long Google Glass pilot project involved Virgin Atlantic concierge staff in the airline's Upper Class Wing, who used Google Glass and other wearable technology to deliver more personalized customer services. The Virgin Atlantic initiative was conducted in partnership with SITA, an airline industry vendor that provides IT and communications services to airlines around the world.
Using Glass, Upper Class passengers could be greeted by name at the airport by Virgin personnel who wore Glass devices as they checked their passengers in for their flights. Airline personnel were also able to update the incoming passengers about their latest flight information and weather details, as well as about local events at their destinations. In addition, Virgin personnel could translate any foreign language information needed by their passengers using Glass.
The wearable device market is expected to top 19 million units this year, and jump to 111.9 million units in 2018, IDC analysts said in April. Canalys analysts in September said the wearable band market will grow 129 percent a year, hitting 43.2 million units in 2015. Of those, 28.2 million will be smartbands, with the other 15 million being basic bands (which, unlike smartbands, cannot run third-party applications), the analysts said.