Flyers getting in synch

Business travelers travelling through one of Canada’s major cities will now be able to plan their visit with help from a Palm handheld, say company execs.

On Tuesday, Palm Canada Inc. and Air Canada unveiled the first Beam & Fly passenger information service station. Located at Toronto’s Pearson International airport’s Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, the portal allows Palm users to receive up- to-the-minute flight schedules, news, travel guides and airport maps, said Palm Canada president Michael Moskowitz.

Inside the lounge, travelers can use one of the Palms installed within the beaming station to access the complimentary information service, or they can bring their own Palm into the station and synch it with the portal. Palm Canada consumer marketing manager Sofie Pietrantonio said the station uses infrared technology present in most Palms to communicate with the portal and does not require any additional downloads.

“”You just turn on your Palm and stand one or two feet away from the beaming station. The station will then recognize that there’s a Palm OS in the area and start communicating with it,”” she said.

The station, Pietrantonio said, will beam an Air Canada portal into any Palm handheld. The portal then allows the business traveler access to regularly updated information, some of which changes as often as every five minutes.

The range of information offered is expected to expand as the company receives customer feedback, she said. Currently the Beam & Fly station provides the Air Canada flight timetable, daily business and world news from The Globe and Mail and Canadian Airport Maps. Palm has also partnered with Qvadis Corp. to deliver digital pocket travel guides through the stations. Hotel, dining, sightseeing, special event and nightlife information for Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver can be downloaded at the station.

The beaming technology used by the stations was developed by San Francisco-based Bluefish Wireless Inc. The software manufacturer specializes in development of solutions that manage applications requiring the transfer of data to and from handhelds.

The Beam & Fly station at the Pearson lounge is just one of the steps the airline sees as necessary to make Maple Leaf lounges a preferred choice for business travelers, said Pierre Bourbonniere, Air Canada manager of airport products. The lounges already include a business centre equipped with computer workstations and Internet access as well as WiFi hot spots.

“”This is just a complement to what we’re already doing,”” he said.

The majority of travelers who use the lounges are PDA users, Bourbonniere said. Close to 50 per cent of them travel with a Palm.

Although the Toronto Beam & Fly is the first station of its kind in the world, according to M

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