New high for entrepreneur

11 Aug, 2009 09:31 AM

AFTER months of hard work, Essendon Grammar graduate Aaron Hornlimann hit the headlines last week when Jetstar announced it would use his ground-breaking technology to send boarding passes via mobile phones.

Mr Hornlimann, 22, who started IT company Sissit Group, was asked by Jetstar to investigate the technology about five months ago. Last week the national carrier announced it would be trialling the high-tech SMS boarding system at Avalon Airport and hoped to roll it out across its domestic network by the end of the year.

“Retrieving a boarding pass for a domestic flight will now be as simple as receiving a standard text message 24 hours prior to travel and having that SMS message electronically scanned at the gate to produce a boarding pass if you do not have bags to check-in,” Jetstar chief executive officer Bruce Buchanan said.

The former Avondale Heights resident, who now lives in Melbourne, said that while Singapore Airlines had a system allowing passengers to check in from mobile phone-based internet, his system could be used by even the most basic mobile.

“When you put your phone to the scanner, it takes a picture of the screen when the SMS is open and it will determine the characters and transfer that information to the boarding card, as well as validating who you are and so on. You can also use it to scan in a paper printout.”

He said a lot of the hours were spent devising a portable unit that met Jetstar’s specific requirements at Avalon.

Since Jetstar announced its new technology on Tuesday, Mr Hornlimann has been inundated with media calls, as well as interest from international airlines and governments.

“I’ve aged a lot during this process – I haven’t been getting much sleep – but in the next four weeks the development cycle will have finished and I hope to get into commercial mode again from R&D.”

Mr Hornlimann, who attended Milleara Primary School before Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School, said he had always enjoyed devising new systems and processes on his computer, with early projects including his father’s online business.

He also credits two of his teachers with inspiring his technological skills.

“I did the Duke of Edinburgh award and picked computer programming for one of the activities, and two teachers took time out of their own lunch breaks to teach me the basics – they recognised I wasn’t a traditional academic and didn’t mind that I was looking at different ways to work out a career.

“And I still used my PEGS maths text book sometimes!”

While still at school he set up a company offering free SMS messaging via the website, Intazaar, then moved onto the Sissit Group in 2007, where projects included an early warning system for fire situations.

One of his next projects is an advanced object detection library, which can be used in situations where you need to be able to detect objects; for example, in a car to detect road signs or to assess how many people are in a particular area for safety or crowd control.

“It’s quite on the cutting edge to get a system that’s as good as the human eye. We’ve already started working on the first prototypes.”