Airport Business

DEC 2017 - JAN 2018

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VENDING MATTERS December 2017/January 2018 airportbusiness 37 Alan Dale is the vice presi- dent of operations at Skyroam, a San Francisco-based company that sells and rents global Wi-Fi hotspots to travelers. Skyroam has vending machines at San Francisco International, George Bush Intercontinental, McCarran and Hartsfield-Jackson airports. Skyroam founder and CEO Jing Liu, an entrepreneur and technol- ogist, was using his cell phone on his global travels, said Dale. "When he got home, he had a cell phone bill with thousands of dollars in charges. He was angry about it and felt there had to be a better way to offer travelers a lower-cost way to stay connected in different countries," he said. A few years and 15 patents later, the product was unveiled in 2014, said Dale. Skyroam is rented via vending machines for $9.95 a day to connect up to five devices. Travelers can also buy a Skyroam device online or at tech stores including Brookstone for $99, with passes for $8 a day. "The vending machine made it easier for travelers to pick up a Skyroam at the last minute, espe- cially if they're going to a foreign destination," said Dale. The first one was installed at the compa- ny's home town San Francisco International Airport. "Because we are a local compa- ny, it only made sense to approach the airport in our own backyard. And we know from our own expe- riences how valuable our service is," said Dale. "We told the airport that our service was a way to improve the travel experience for passengers when they go abroad." The process was very easy, Da le reca l led. "We ended up partnering with ZoomSystems. They've already done a great job establishing relationships with the top airports in the U.S., and they had available spaces in the best terminals," he said. "We wanted to make sure that we could focus on the technolo- gy and ZoomSystems could handle the back office sys- tems, because they have lots of experience in the vending world." A companion to having a Skyroam device, or devices like smartphones and tablets is the power to charge them. For $20, San Diego-based FuelRod uses a kiosk to deliver to travelers a kit that includes a charger, a USB charging cable that fits most phones and tablets and adapt- ers for Apple devices. Once the battery is dead, it can either be recharged or exchanged for a new one at a kiosk. F ue l R o d c o -f o u n de r J o e Yeagley said the idea originally came while he was working at a rechargable battery company. "We were looking at the way AA and AAA batteries were being used by consumers and wanted to find an easy way to replace old ones," he said. "Unfortunately, the world of rechargeable AA and AAA batter- ies was too difficult to break into." But that wasn't the case in the mobile market, where no one had yet developed habits on how to charge devices, said Yeagley. "We focused on places where peo- ple have a pressing need to stay charged and mobile instead of being plugged into a wall," he said. "Airports were our first foray but we're also at amusement parks, universities and the San Diego convention center." Like Skyroam, FuelRod got a boost from its hometown airport. "We came across a forum for small businesses looking to do business in the airport, so I called them and pitched FuelRod," he said. "They loved it, and because we were local, they worked with us. We launched in the airport in October 2014 with 13 kiosks." Airports are very much in need of mobile charging solutions, said Yeagley. "One of our kiosks can take care of hundreds of travelers and it only takes 15 seconds to operate," he said. Many passengers see the air- port as their last chance to buy gifts and souvenirs for for friends and family. Kansas City-based SouveNEAR started selling art and souvenirs made by locals in a vending machine WHEN. It is positioning itself as an alternative to the usual items found in airport newsstands and gift shops. Co-founder Tiffany King first had the idea as a way to sell art in busy places. "It occurred to me that a vending machine would be interesting to try," she said. "I then wondered if it could work finan- cially in an airport. So it was all about 'what if.'" Co-founder Suzanne Southard felt vend i ng mach i nes gave SouveNEAR the best chance to be in more spaces. "We've also both shopped at airports and we want- ed to bring an independent craft fair concept to the terminal with items made by local artists con- nected to the city," she explained. It only made sense to bring the first vending machine to Kansas City International Airport, said King. "We pitched them and sent photos of the local artists we want- ed to carry. We wanted to be clear that ours was a different offering than what they already had," she explained. "The airport was extremely supportive, flexible and helpful. They liked that we were showcasing local artists offering things that had never been seen before." SouveN E A R ex pa nded t o Oakland International Airport. "We chose Oakland because we had a partner in Kansas City who reached out to us," said Southard. "And the Bay Area has a strong arts community that is well known across the country," she said. Read more at: www.AviationPros.com/ 12331740 Travelers can purchase a Skyroam device for $99 and use it to connect to the Internet for a nominal fee. Skyroam Pocket global Wi-Fi offers travelers a chance to connect to the Internet on the go. Skyroam

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