We flew into San Francisco International Airport for our third instance of travel hacking this past weekend, arriving to a sold out crowd of eager travelers ready to craft ideas into products.
There was a near-record 25 projects submitted at the Terminal 2 workspace, each following one of the four overarching themes.
The most popular was clearly the "SFO mobile concierge," due to the generous offer of access to the T2 beacon arrays by the airport itself.
Here are some highlights from those projects!
AdviseMe is a local expert mobile app for travelers seeking advice from in-the-know locals with specific specialities.
The team of high school students had a lot of enthusiasm for the industry, especially given the complexities of defining what a local expert is and how they would be paid. The business model could be pay-per-message, hour or a full-on monthly subscription.
WanderLust is a discovery application that gives user simple parameters such as budget, days and a theme.
After selecting how much money is available in the kitty, the algorithm will offer flight and hotel suggestions for a trip that meets those specifications. The simple tool used both Amadeus and Sabre to find places to go makes for a quick and fun vacation selector.
A team of first time hackers built Weekender, an interface that inspires users to travel at the last minute via photos.
Users must select a departure airport, a duration and a theme, and then the team's algorithm returns departing flights within two to 48 hours.
The top photos from Instagram will also appear to trigger a bit of excitement. The user can book through to Google Flights once they select the desired destination. Sabre winner! Amadeus winner!
Project Waldo's Vic and Magpie weren't able to code up their ideas, but each had thoughtful approaches to a new angle for group travel (using surveys of each traveler) and place reviews (using emoticons as indicators of experience rather than stars).
2) SFO mobile concierge
Given the novelty of accessing the mapped iBeacons from SFO's Terminal 2, there 8 projects taking advantage of the access.
There were two main buckets for these projects: how to kill time while waiting for a flight and finding your way around an airport.
Cajamon created something that we haven't seen much of: the gamification of waiting at the airport.
"Waiting for your flight is now a game," as the team put it succinctly. Cajamon is a geo-fenced game inspired by Pokemons. As users encounter new villains, they must battle through to receive special offers from nearby vendors.
The potential here is such that families could stay occupied during extended waits or terminal businesses could have a new way to incentivize interactions.
Local airports could even provide their own versions of the game in a "collect them all" initiative linking many airports worldwide. Judge's choice large team winner! Audience favorite winner! Here's a video:
SFO Way and SFO App each attempted to create a way-and-amenity finding app for the SFO Airport. Since the airport doesn't have its own standalone companion app, the teams wanted to put that data at our fingertips.
SFO App brought together a full level of standardized airport information while the SFO Way team hacked on the beacon array to give specific directions to waypoints throughout the airport.
Connecting bored solo travelers was the idea behind both LayoverConnect and Airmeet. LayoverConnect relied on an in-app chat function for users to start a conversation with another traveler, and then suggest a place to meet via a meeting time selection within a place database. Airmeet
Beagle took the beacon challenge and combined it with a similar in-terminal networking angle to offer a way for business travelers to connect while waiting for a flight.
Users log in using LinkedIn and then the app leverages the beacons installed in T2, to triangulate locations of signed-in users.
Way-finding was the core theme for the nicely-designed Gate Way. The app used the local beacon array to tell travelers distances to gates, in addition to the various available dining options within the terminal.
This allows the traveler to quickly navigate to a desired dining option that is still leaves enough time to get to the right gate before boarding. Small team judge's prize winner!
3) Accommodation finder
SafeStay received honorable mentions from the judges and the API sponsors for their approach to finding accommodation.
There seems to be a theme running throughout hackathons, with a team in THack Dublin working on a similar project to find safer places to stay.
Given that this keeps occurring, perhaps there is a real need for this information to make its way to OTA searches!
Simmfony took its own approach to finding accommodation by looking at the nearest airport shuttle — so rather than having to wait 30 minutes for a shuttle that is far away, a stranded traveler just looking to get to any bed could book at a hotel with the nearest shuttle to her location.
4) Route planner
The two projects looking at route planner included a virtual agent service AVA and a hitchiking matching service RoadTripper, which focused on longer term journeys beyond urban areas.
AVA implemented a natural learning approach to booking air tickets through text messages.
Honorable mention: Virtual Inspiration. This hack brought together virtual objects obtained from outside sources into the WebVR framework for exploration of architectural elements that could be used as a virtual inspiration tool.
NB: Lots of pictures from the event on our Facebook page.
NB2: SFO image courtesy Flickr user Pawel Loj.