SkyBus director Michael Sewards says Spark Digital's technology and innovation are some of the key reasons behind his company's decision to invest in New Zealand.
The Melbourne-based company acquired Auckland's Airbus in October last year and its buses started a 24-hour service whisking passengers between Auckland Airport and the city centre soon after.
Spark Digital is providing SkyBus with Wi-Fi in Auckland and so far over 200,000 people have connected on their travels to and from the city, on average using 16 MB of data. Free Wi-Fi is only the start of the digital experience however, as SkyBus has also introduced new purpose-built airport buses (equipped with luggage facilities) to its fleet, and a kerbside concierge service to speed paperless ticketing and boarding via smartphone-deployed tickets. The concierges are equipped with wireless tablet computers and are able to provide visitors with tourist and accommodation information in addition to processing tickets.
Putti, Spark's specialist mobile app design unit, has developed the ticketing app which allows paperless ticketing using smart devices. Sewards says SkyBus plans to take the ticketing app back to Australia and use it for the Melbourne airport service.
Sewards says before the deal was inked, SkyBus spent months doing due diligence on Airbus and ticketing innovation in New Zealand, and that's when he discovered Spark Digital.
He says: “We provide mass transit bus solutions for Airports, and we have an intense focus on technology and its role in our customers’ experience. It gives us agility and helps us stand out in the market.
"It was important to find a local technology partner with the expertise to help us realise our vision. Above everything else we were looking for innovation and an ability to deliver. Not only did we find that partner in Spark Digital, but we found Spark's technology is better than anything we have experienced back in Australia. So much better that we're planning to take some of that technology back to Melbourne and then possibly roll it out elsewhere in the world".
Sewards says international visitors arriving in a new city expect to be offered internet services, with free Wi-Fi offered on most Northern Hemisphere transport services. SkyBus has offered free Wi-Fi to passengers on its Melbourne airport buses for a year now and it is also offered in Auckland.
Spark Digital business manager Stuart Little says the SkyBus project ties in beautifully with Spark Digital's expertise. "We have the depth of capability to deal with the unique requests from the SkyBus team. It brings together our 4G mobile network, onboard WiFi solution, and Putti-designed apps along with the smarts required behind the scenes to make the services ‘sing’ together. We’ve managed to put every part of the puzzle together quickly for a very tech-savvy customer."
The Auckland SkyBus business represents a significant investment for the 38-year old Australian company which plans to expand the service and move it upmarket. SkyBus has already added two new buses to its Auckland fleet and increased the frequency of its service to every ten minutes during peak hours. At least seven more buses are expected join the fleet next year.