New Beacon Company Brings Intelligence to In-Flight Entertainment, Banks

By Claire Swedberg

Conichiwa, a spinoff of German hotel app firm conichi, is providing systems that recognize an individual or item based on beacon transmissions, and can thus personalize service or improve efficiency.

German Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)-powered hotel app company conichi has launched a new firm—based on its success with hotel-based solutions—that aims for a larger market beyond hospitality. Conichiwa, a spinoff of conichi, intends to serve the needs of its customers, such as aerospace companies, for inflight entertainment systems, as well as banks, retailers, museums, events managers and logistics providers. ("Konnichiwa," in Japanese, means "hello.")

Conichi was founded in 2013 to provide a smart hotel experience. Its founders sought a system to make hotel check-in and checkout faster and more convenient for guests. The company says its inspiration comes from nature—specifically, from the jackdaw, a bird known to recognize faces. The aim of the conichi technology was to bring to the hotel industry that ability to automatically recognize customers or regular visitors at an establishment.

Conichiwa's Leo Klattenhoff

The BLE-based solution from conichi enables a hotel to provide its guests with more personalized service and greater convenience, the company reports. The system includes beacons, installed around a hotel facility, that transmit data to BLE-enabled phones, as well as an app using a software development kit (SDK) from conichi. In that way, the hospitality company can recognize who has arrived at a hotel as soon as he or she walks through the door. The guest can then enjoy a more VIP-style service and be spared from having to stand in queues by being assigned to a room, with the room number displayed on his or her phone. Upon arriving at that room, the guest could use the BLE technology to unlock the door.

The system can also trigger payments at restaurants, bars or stores at a hotel. This could enable guests to quickly approve a payment, the company explains, and continue on their way without standing in line at the point of sale.

In 2015, conichi was contacted by an aerospace equipment and systems company that the company declines to name. It was interested in learning what the technology could provide beyond the hospitality market. The company makes inflight entertainment systems, and it began working with conichi to develop a system that could improve the flight experience for flight passengers.

As a result of this work, as well as conversations with companies in other sectors, the firm launched conichiwa as a solution provider beyond the hotel industry, says Leo Klattenhoff, conichiwa's business-development manager. "We've now made it possible for customers to integrate location-based payment, access-management and asset-tracking solutions into mobile apps," he says. "We've enabled customers to connect the physical world with the digital, and create interactive objects."

In the case of the aviation company, the BLE technology is aimed at enhancing the company's system for audio and video on demand, interactive games and other features. The solution being developed completed by April of this year, Klattenhoff reports.

Passengers will download the app before or after booking a flight at a participating airport. The aviation company will provide beacons, made by, that could be installed at entrances, security lines or other locations within the airport.

When an individual comes within range of a beacon, his or her smartphone will capture that beacon's transmission, then forward a prompt to the cloud-based server, located in Germany, which will link the location and the passenger ID (connected to that device) and display relevant information. For instance, if a traveler had booked a flight that has been delayed, the app could provide him or her with an alert indicating how long the delay may be, once that person came within range of the beacon.

Conichiwa's Hester Hillbrecht

Additionally, the system will allow the passenger to use the beacons for other features in the flight itself. The guest could use the app to place an order for food or a beverage, and flight attendants would view that order on their own tablets, along with that individual's seat number, and deliver the appropriate items. The solution would also enable the passenger to make a payment for that order using the app.

Conichiwa says an unnamed large German bank is also working with it regarding its beacon technology, to provide its branches with proximity-based guest recognition. At the bank's flagship branch in Berlin, the system will be used to identify customers as they arrive. With the bank's mobile app, using the conichiwa SDK, a customer could set up a profile including that person's picture, name and bank account ID number, as well as interests—obtaining a loan, for instance.

When a guest enters the branch, a beacon installed there transmits data to the phone or tablet, which forwards that transmission to the server. The visitor could then view information such as where to go for an appointment, while bank tellers could access data on their own tablet running the business-facing version of the app. This will enable them to know who has arrived, which employee that person will need to speak with, and what he or she looks like based on the picture. In this way, the company explains, service becomes not only faster but more personalized, since introductions are unnecessary.

What's more, conichiwa is working with several events companies regarding installations at festivals to provide access and payment functionality, as well as logistics companies for asset tracking and museums to deliver location-based content about exhibits. "We're developing use cases in many different industries," says Hester Hillbrecht, conichiwa's business-development head.

Conichiwa offers its SDK to be integrated into a company's existing app. The company can also create a "white label" solution and app, Hillbrecht says, or build a new app for a client.