Local governments and education institutions aren't the only ones dedicating labs and centers for innovation -- San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has now joined them, announcing on Sept. 16 the opening of #Converge@flySFO, a space inspired by the Bay Area startup culture that's dedicated to the exchange of ideas.
Adding a space for innovation and collaboration at an airport -- especially an airport in a city where the mayor is focused on it being a hub for innovation -- just made sense, said Doug Yakel, public information officer for SFO, noting that airport officials hope this space resonates with tech-savvy travelers and innovators who pass through.
The 850-square-foot space is free and equipped with tables, lounge-style chairs, power outlets, free Wi-Fi and a giant erasable white board with markers. #Converge@flySFO is located in the International Terminal -- a location that allows travelers to get together without having to go through the security screening process again, which is one of the main reasons it was chosen.
"Real estate is at a bit of a premium post-security," Yakel said. "This location had previously been serving as an underutilized conference room and is accessible to three different concourses. And the flights that operate out of those concourses make up about 50 percent of the traffic at SFO, so it gave us good exposure [and] a good opportunity for a lot of travelers to take advantage of it."
Travelers looking to make the best use of the space are encouraged to promote their intended topic of interest, date and time on their personal social media channels using the hashtag #Converge and tagging @flySFO where possible. SFO will then repost on its social media channels.
"If you think about it, airports are such natural places for people to get together with one another," Yakel said, adding that by promoting their intended topic and time they'll be at the #Converge space, the potential for collaboration is high. "Maybe you'll get some people you know, and maybe you'll get some like-minded individuals who are also passing through, and all of a sudden this organic thing starts developing."
In a press release, Mayor Ed Lee noted that SFO reflects the city's innovation spirit with the first airport facility dedicated to groundbreaking new ideas. “I am confident that SFO’s new #Converge@flySFO space will bring together great minds from around the world to collaborate and innovate on new ideas that will change the world," he said.
A few great minds already have added a stop at the #Converge space in their travel plans. This week, FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen plans to visit, and Mobile Future Chair Jonathan Spalter is scheduled to discuss innovation in wireless communications during his upcoming travels.
"Our hope now is this becomes a location that is kind of the go-to place for the tech elite as they travel through SFO," Yakel said. "That as folks who are very influential in the information and technology world, they make this their place to spend time and engage people in discussion."
Jessica Mulholland served as the Web editor of Government Technology magazine from October 2012 through September 2017. She worked for the Government Technology editorial team for nearly 10 years.