OTG Lays The Foundation For A Connected Airport That Speaks Your Language, Whatever That Language May Be

OTG, the restaurateur that made waves when it installed free access iPads in some of the world’s busiest international airport hubs last year, is improving its existing system with the deployment of a translation system that will allow it to provide translation of its restaurant menus in 13 different languages. The system is already live in test deployments at locations like Toronto’s Pearson airport, and CEO Rick Blatstein tells me it’s already having a positive impact on sales at OTG-run restaurants.

The effort will soon encompass 20 languages and see wider deployment in more of the airports where OTG is already operating in North America, including LaGuardia and Minneapolis-St. Paul. Blatstein said that his company quickly saw the value in offering multi-lingual support after realizing that at Pearson, for example, English is the first language of only around 40 percent of travelers at any given time on average.

“We have all of our menus and everything translated and tested ahead of time so that when you push the flag of your language, it automatically translates that for you,” Blatstein said. The idea is to make travelers feel more at ease, since they’re able to communicate in their own language. Ordering can happen right from the iPad kiosks, meaning there’s no chance of encountering language-barrier problems between travelers and serving staff.

OTG’s iPad deployment also provides travelers with access to Facebook, Twitter, flight status information, and more without charging them. The aim is to make air passengers feel less like a captive audience and more like treasured guests when spending time in the airports that frequent travelers likely know all too well. The translation service, applied at launch to restaurant offerings, is a first step, according to Blatstein, and one that will eventually make its way to the company’s offerings outside of its restaurateur endeavors, too. Customers could soon order commercial goods from iPads in the language of their choice, Blatstein suggests, or set up accommodations or ground transit at their destination ahead of time.

Airports can maintain multi-lingual staff, and cater to the most common languages spoken at their hubs, but you can’t cater to all the various people from every neck of the woods at every location all of the time. But with an iPad-supplemented customer-service model with built-in translation services, you actually might be able to be everything to everyone. OTG isn’t quite there yet, but it’s making big steps in that direction, and that could make air travel (or at least the parts in between) much more pleasant for all involved.