San Diego International Airport welcomed five new entrants to its Airport Innovation Lab Thursday, allowing them to develop airport-improving technologies during a 16-week accelerator program.

The group is the second to enter the innovation lab since the airport launched the program last September.

While airport officials requested that the original five companies focus on improvements to the airport’s parking and travel assistance logistics, the new group does not have a mandate to focus on improving specific aspects of the airport’s day-to-day operations.

As such, the five companies’ concepts for development vary substantially.

One of the entrants, Loma Portal-based Ciari Guitars Inc., will spend the program developing a guitar kiosk for the airport and the world’s first foldable travel guitar, allowing airline passengers to play and/or listen to music while waiting at the airport.

“We wanted to try a ‘wild card’ approach this time,” said Rick Belliotti, the airport’s director of customer experience and innovation. “This allows people to show us ideas we might not have thought of otherwise.

AirporTour and InnoTech Systems LLC plan to develop new interactive methods to guide passengers through the airport, with InnoTech using autonomous robots to do so.

HOHM Inc. will make use of an underutilized area at the airport by installing sleeping pods, allowing passengers to sleep for periods between 30 minutes and four hours.

Meanwhile, the Nuvve Corp. plans to utilize unused electric vehicle energy by selling it back to buildings surrounding the airport during peak use hours.

The airport launched the lab to help businesses break into the airport industry and to make use of a 3,500-square-foot lab space, which functions as a miniature terminal in which the developers can test and tweak their concepts without having to work amid airport passengers and security.

At the end of the program, each company could secure a contract with the airport or a similar industry if their design is successful enough.

“Our Innovation Lab was founded to develop new services and amenities that truly enhance the airport experience for everyone flying through San Diego,” said Kimberly Becker, the airport’s president and CEO. “We really feel good about the wide range of ideas this group of innovators is bringing to the lab, and I look forward to the good feelings their innovations will create for our customers.”

— City News Service

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