Success Story: Underlabs

Canadian airport gets ‘smarter’ using APIs to connect to Amazon Echo devices

Description

Founded in 2010, Underlabs is privately-held, world class mobile app development workshop and software engineering firm focused on iPhone and Android apps as well as CMS applications to manage the app. All software design and development is proudly conceived and built in Montreal, Canada. The company helps start-ups from initial concept to release, in addition to post-production support in monetizing, with great success.

Services

Development of iOS Apps, Android Apps and Cloud Based Services, as well as Decentralized Applications on the Blockchain

Type of Apps

Corporate, Employee Management, Sales Kits, Remote Assistance Home Automation, Networking Apps and Interactive Media

Supporting Services

Cloud Hosting, CMS, ASO (App Store Optimization)

Joining the ranks of the world’s smart airports

One of Canada’s largest airports, known for being on the leading edge in aviation infrastructure, technology, and passenger service, was determined to add to its pioneering spirit by becoming a “smart” airport. Smart airports interconnect digital systems and processes between airlines, security, operations and other services, and leverages the internet of things to give everyone – including passengers – access to critical airport and flight information anytime, anywhere. Enter Alexa, the cloud-based voice service behind Amazon’s popular Echo devices.

Airport owners set their sights on integrating its many services with an Amazon Alexa Skill ASAP in order to offer passengers real-time information on flight status, security wait times, and other operational factors affecting travel plans – from the home to the departure gate. In late 2017, the airport contacted long-time business partner, Underlabs, to get it done.

Underlabs and APIs: the lynchpins to Alexa connectivity

Underlabs, a Montréal-based mobile app development workshop and software firm specializing in apps for iOS, Android and other smart device platforms, as well as social networking, home automation, and corporate apps, wasn’t surprised by the airport’s request. “When the airport’s IT team seeks to improve their systems and services, Underlabs is one of the first sources they contact, if nothing else than to submit a POC [proof of concept],” says Underlabs CTO, Joseph Zibara. “Having attended the Consumer Electronics Show, CES 2017, in Las Vegas, we witnessed firsthand the eagerness of exhibitors to integrate their services with Alexa. As an app development workshop, we were equally enthusiastic about the opportunity to jump in. We got back to the airport with a POC in about a week and it was accepted.”

As part of an overall smart initiative, integrating the airport with Alexa would involve APIs (application program interfaces). APIs are the glue that holds disparate enterprise applications, backend systems, cloud-enabled integration, and mobile apps together. Until Underlabs was approached by the airport, the firm had yet to build an Amazon Alexa Skill. Since the owners wanted to move quickly with Alexa, Underlabs had to deliver quickly. Having seen Axway blog posts explaining how easy it is to create and host the Alexa Skill Service on API Builder, a product of Axway Appcelerator, the airport’s IT team knew who to turn to.

An established relationship helps a new objective take off

“Five years ago, we began partnering with Appcelerator to facilitate our app development,” Zibara explains. After the acquisition, Underlabs was grandfathered into Axway’s customer base. “We’ve stayed loyal to Axway Appcelerator because the company is always innovating – adding more and more services and features to APIs.”

During the development of the Alexa Skill Interface, Underlabs experienced an issue with testing their skill and contacted Axway Principal Pre-Sales Architect, Leor Brenman. Brenman quickly determined that the issue arises from a known Alexa simulator limitation and that the Underlabs team had to use a physical Amazon Echo device. This solved their problem and they quickly wrapped up development.

API Builder, a key part of Axway's AMPLIFY™ API Management solution, combines a powerful framework for building APIs with a scalable cloud service for running them. Developers can connect, model, transform and optimize data for any app client in a matter of minutes. In this case, Underlabs used API Builder to develop the Alexa Skill implementation.

With Axway, Underlabs achieves more - fast

“The team led by Leor was extremely eager and ready to help,” Zibara says. “From the first try, the solution worked.” Underlabs saved considerably on quality assurance processes. “The fact that the solution had already been hard-tested for many years relieved us from having to retest everything,” added Zibara. “We even brainstormed other possible problems that might arise just to be sure. But we were good to go and about a half hour later, we had the solution figured out. With Axway’s help, the project took less than five days to complete. Pretty quick in developer time.”

Zibara sums up Axway’s help in getting the airport integrated with Alexa in 4 words: “‘Do less. Achieve more.’ With the Axway API solution, you start getting traction on your project and investment straight away because you’re required to do so little right out of the box.”

 With guidance from Axway, Underlabs found it easy to get their client up and running with Alexa and ready to reap the benefits of this game-changing voice platform. Now travelers can check the status of flight departures and arrivals at any time using Alexa, which also offers the possibility of answering questions about wait times, security and other operational information that may impact a traveler’s itinerary.

Ready to achieve more with AMPLIFY API Management?

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