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AirTalk with…Pedro Lobo. Innovagency Co-Founder (ANA Airports App)

At Aeriaa, Innovagency is not a newbie, they represent one of the first posts about the beauty of  their ANA Aeroportos de Portugal and Madeira Airports smartphone/tablet app and its use for tracking a flight (see both posts here, beauty and use). As an aviation and technology related blog, the airports’ apps gather both worlds, it is unquestionable the tremendous potential of a mobile application as a “partner” of any passenger at any airport. I think it will one of the most successful combinations of technology to the serve of the people and the transportation business. It allows to put every passenger in contact with the business and services owners, providers ant whole process of travel experience, form its conception to to the destination and beyond, or perhaps aren’t there further duties to do after reaching the destination? Or aren’t there a satisfaction sense after the trip to be analysed or exploited?. A College’s teacher of mine, Javier Recuenco (you can know more about him at his LinkedIn profile and in is evangelizing the concept behind this,  Personalization, for me this is the ones of the better platforms for applying “Personotechnics”, we wear devices, we see and being seen with them more than ever in the history.

Coming back to the AirTalk, I’m glad to introduce Pedro Lobo, Co-founder and Head of International Business Development and Communication at Innovagency. I wanted to ask him about the design process of this app in a special environment as the airports are. I also asked him about some technologies aspects and project’s topics as testings phase.

I hope you like it.

ANA Aeroportos de Portugal App.

ANA Aeroportos de Portugal App.

[Aeriaa] Tell us, what is Innovagency?

[Pedro Lobo] Innovagency is a Digital Agency that combines Strategy, Design & Usability and Technology. Its aim is to offer end-to-end services on digital channels, from thinking to development always with a strong focus on user experience and a customer-centric approach. Mobile Apps, Web and Intranet solutions are the outputs of an experienced methodology and a multidisciplinary team.

[Aeriaa] How did start the collaboration with Aeroportos de Portugal and Madeira?

[P.Lobo] Innovagency started working with Aeroportos de Portugal in 2009 being responsible for the design of an Airport Marketing Portal, ANA Routelab. From this experience on, Innovagency has been invited for Request for Proposals for other projects and, fortunately, has won some of them.

ANA RouteLab Portal

ANA RouteLab Portal

[Aeriaa] What were the initial challenges at the beginning of the project?

[P.Lobo] For the App project the challenge was to create a highly engaging mobile solution that the passengers enjoyed to use and that offered meaningful services for their travel experience before and at the airport. We needed to structure a solid content and service offer and to create an excellent user experience that also promoted the airports and its destinations.

[Aeriaa] In a very particular environment, as the airports are, how was your experience about the learning and comprehension of the several airports’ processes? How impacted this initial process in the global development strategy of the App?

[P.Lobo] Fortunately we had the chance to work with an excellent professional team from ANA Airports, from IT, to Marketing and Retail. The combination of their knowledge during our brainstorming and creative process was key to design the final solution. Also, our multidisciplinary knowledge, business sense and customer centric approach were part of the process.

Departure's Process. Author: Pedro García. Extracted from the book: State-of-the-art of new IT technologies applied to airports.

Departure’s Process. Author: Pedro García. Extracted from the book: State-of-the-art of new IT technologies applied to airports.

[Aeriaa] I notice an exquisite user centric design and usability in several projects you developed, I want to ask you two questions about this:

How do the customers value and understand the specific work to be done in these areas? I mean, most of customers don’t understand that a “beautiful” design is not enough, there are a lot of work of usability and design processes to be completed in order to obtain both goals, beauty and usability, and therefore a successful app, webapp, website, etc. In the ANA App, how was this process?

[P.Lobo] “Livening up airports” was the motto for creative concept UI / UX. ANA Airports make airports poles of life, “hubs” of intersections between people, synergies and flows. We wanted to deliver an experience rather than an App with a panel of departures, arrivals and useful information. A good user experience becomes the simplicity with which it can give form to function. It should be easy, simple and beautiful. We managed to integrate the visual universe of the brand as a means of navigation, having in mind the four cardinal points that guide the trips: North, South, East and West. The App was structured into four groups of information. In the center of this navigation is the destination, not the airport.

User Interface Design. Author: Dan Saffer

User Interface Design. Author: Dan Saffer

[Aeriaa]  How did the idea of using iconic landscape photos come through?

[P.Lobo] The various ANA Airports lead us to different destinations, with specific characteristics and different motivations. We wanted to promote the regions of Portugal with iconic images that characterize each one in which it operates the airport.

Madeira Airport section at ANA Mobile App

Madeira Airport section at ANA Mobile App

Lisbon's Airport Plan Section at ANA Airports Mobile App

Lisbon’s Airport Plan Section at ANA Airports Mobile App

[Aeriaa] Can you tell us more about the technologies used at the frontend and backend? Native development frameworks, JS frameworks, NodeJS, JSON, servers, etc.

[P.Lobo] The applications, available for iOS, Android and Windows 8, are native developments for each OS. They integrate with different sources of information on a XML Web Services model. There’s also a server side component responsible for data fetching and optimization for delivery on the passenger devices. Push-Notifications, geo-localization and QRcode reading are nicely integrated on the app and also the eCommerce services for Stores and Parking.

Web Service Architecture. Source: Microsoft MSDN

Web Service Architecture. Source: Microsoft MSDN

Interaction of a Smartphone and WEb Services. Source:

Interaction of a Smartphone and WEb Services. Source:

[Aeriaa]  How did you face the testings phase? What were the main challenges in order to tune the global platform?

[P.Lobo]  Testing was an interactive process with our customer team. The bigger challenge is to guarantee perfect behaviour on the several devices and OS versions on the market, namely on Android.

[Aeriaa] What about the lessons learned in the global process development and in the special airport environment.

[P.Lobo] We learned a lot about Airport Strategy in this new era where being only an interface for Airline Companies is no the challenge anymore. Airports are thriving to engage directly with the passenger, creating a valuable relation with him. Digital Channels, and specifically Mobile, is one of the most promising and adequate way to strengthen this relationship with these “new” Airport customers.

[Aeriaa]  What was the easiest mobile platform to develop for this App? iOS/Android? Why? What do you think about the future mobile development frameworks? Are we going to converge in the HTML5 and the JS frameworks stack?

[P.Lobo] iOS was the easiest due to the controlled range of devices and OS versions available on the market. Android, with its large diversity, is always a higher challenge in order to guarantee a nice and fluid user experience on all the devices. Windows 8 is probably the best in terms of development framework.

Windows 8 ANA App. Source: Windows Store

Windows 8 ANA App. Source: Windows Store

[Aeriaa] How many downloads did you have of the App? More on iOS or Android? How is your experience with both app markets?

[P.Lobo] I’m not sure about the exact downloads and active users but the last statistics I have known point to more than 60.000 users.

[Aeriaa] It is planned more app evolutions?

[P.Lobo] Well, I really hope so because I believe on more and more interesting services for the passenger that are strategic for Airports to build. And again mobile can be key for loyalty, new revenue streams and other customer services.

[Aeriaa] Did you receive more interest from other airports operator since the ANA app release?

[P.Lobo] We had the chance to present, with ANA, the App on Geneva’s 2013 Terminal Expo, the European conference for Airports. It was commented that it was by far the best Application for the Airport sector and many of the presents showed will to have it for their passengers. I really hope that we can create new Apps for International airports.

[Aeriaa note: ANA App was recently (April 2013) awarded as Best Digital Mobile Design 2012 by ‘Meios & Publicidade Awards’. I’m sure this will not be the last prize.]

Best Digital Mobile Design 2012 by ‘Meios & Publicidade Awards’

Best Digital Mobile Design 2012 by ‘Meios & Publicidade Awards’

[Aeriaa] Thanks Pedro.

Disclaimer: These interviews don’t have any personal commercial benefit or have nothing to do with my professional daily work. There are only a reflection of my passion about aviation, airports and technology, as Aeriaa represents.

For more info:

ANA App posts at Aeriaa: Aeriaa

App at Android Market: Google Play.

App at Apple Store: Apple Store. 

App at Windows Store: Windows Store.

Creative Commons License
This work by Pedro Garcia is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License