Airline Redux: How IoT is Set to Change Travel as We Know It
In today’s fast-paced, digital world, technology is advancing rapidly making it critical for businesses to evolve to stay competitive. The need to stay abreast with emerging technology is being felt across industries including the airlines. A significant increase in revenue, streamlined processes, and a visibly enhanced customer experience is often the driving force behind any tech adoption. In the airline sector, passenger engagement throughout their journey lifecycle has become a priority and a means to earn customer loyalty and revenue. New technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) are playing a crucial role in enabling airlines to exceed customer expectations by modernizing their processes and systems.
Decoding the Internet of Things for Airlines
Connecting a vast network of devices to the Internet and enabling them to stay connected to the external world is what makes IoT unique. It is infinite, imagination-intensive, and not restricted to any number of objects or devices. IoT has the matchless ability to unite technology, processes, people, and culture to deliver a seamless air travel experience. According to industry estimates, 25 billion devices will be connected by 2020 globally. That said, the Internet of Things promises a new vision of aviation operations and business models.
Research suggests that 83% of passengers have smartphones at the airport, which they prefer to use against manual interventions for check-in and boarding passes. It depicts that travelers are open to this new technology shift.
Nigel Pickford, Director Market Insight, SITA, stated that half of the airlines expect to have IoT initiatives up and running over the next three years. Meanwhile, airports are building the infrastructure to support IoT. “Together, this will deliver improved operations and will lead to a change in the passengers' experience."
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IoT Driving Excellence in Air Travel
The Internet of Things offers endless opportunities to improve airline operational efficiency and offer personalized services to passengers. It has a huge potential to bring sweeping changes to airline business models. For instance, wearables, tracking devices, virtual steamers are enablers in streamlining the customer’s journey from the point they enter the airport till the time the flight departs. Access to in-flight insights using mobile devices allows the crew to cater to their customers better. Social media offers a great medium in not only allowing aircrafts to communicate in real time, but also in tracking passenger emotions and sentiments of services availed throughout their journey.
As per Airline IT trend survey (2015) by SITA, airlines and airports are anticipating huge IT investments in near future and IoT will be a significant contributor in generating massive benefits by 2018. At present, more than 35% of airlines have already aligned a substantial budget towards IoT implementation and nearly three-fifth (58%) are looking forward to invest in coming three years for prime projects, and 16% for major programs.
Leveraging IoT will re-build a new orbit for entire digital transformation processes of airline industry. Integrating IoT with other technologies like Robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), Cloud Computing, and Data Analytics will open the door for opportunities to improve the quality of services delivered by airlines and airports.
Prime Areas for Re-defining IoT in Aviation Sector
Commuter Tracking: IoT enables several applications to track passengers and their baggage movement in real-time.
- “Beacon-based solution” alerts staff about baggage mishaps and notifies passengers of their baggage whereabouts. For instance, Emirates is one of the prime airlines making use of this technology at present.
- Passengers can access information like flight delays, waiting time, and gate change on their fingertips using contextual or location-based tracking. .
Alerts: Tech-friendly infrastructure and processes enable proactive approach to sharing information and services. The objective caters to the need for preventive actions and measures for any uninvited situations.
- Having an airport infrastructure advancement in place, predicting and scheduling maintenance in advance for faulty equipments before they actually break down will be far easier and effective.
- Airport staff getting timely alerts on consumables, which require refilling before the shortage is discovered and customer disappointment ensues.
Personalization: This offers an opportunity to airlines to look beyond transactional systems and focus on customer context. It helps to deliver new services to passengers and collect new information, which can be used to personalize various services. Interacting with customers at every touch point starting from their home to when they enter the airport, in-flight, and upon arrival.
- Technology enablers like “beacon network” automatically trigger boarding passes to all business class passengers as soon as they reach the security checkpoint or at flight boarding point.
- Automated check-in post booking completion helps airlines issue ticket immediately and confirm a seat 24 hours before take-off without requiring a customer to log onto an app or a website.
Operational Efficiency: Managing smooth and efficient operations have always been a challenge for airlines. It is believed that IoT capabilities will completely overhaul and reboot airline operations.
- Integration with Big Data will allow and facilitate download of data that can be used for analyses even while the flight is in transit.
- Analyzing aircraft engine performance and fuel management are some of the aspects that can be looked into in real-time with requisite precautionary action, resulting in better management and efficiency.
Improved Marketing : IoT presents various opportunities for airlines to bring-out ancillary products and services at customer fingertips driving additional revenues for them and opening the doors for passengers with vast variety of products and services at every touch point. This includes lounge access, quick access to security or flight boarding using sensor technology.
- Use of In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) flight-map to book taxis while in-transit and having passengers connect to high-speed Wi-Fi in-flight or at the airport for online shopping.
- Providing customers with a high-class experience by offering high-end products like discrete suites with luxury amenities as a part of upgrades or offers.
Barriers to IoT in Airlines
With IoT gaining traction across the globe, it becomes essential to gauge the capability build up of various geographies and determine to what extent they can work in sync with today’s pace of technology and ensure a smooth integration for successful deployment.
IoT technology is still in a nascent phase and the upcoming capability is still seeing innovation and fruition against which majority of the airlines today are hosting complex systems to enable and support their competencies. Having said that, airlines need to comply with technologies and systems that are easily integrated.
The airline industry has an eclectic footprint covering multiple partners and stakeholders with their respective unique environments of technologies and systems. Moreover, at many occasions, these multiple partners and stakeholders function toward common goals and are conjointly interdependent. Considering this, it becomes far more important for airlines to be more partner-centric to meet a common IoT vision.
Aviation industry maneuvers in the most secure environment on the globe. Considering this, for any IoT enactment, security needs to be given top priority. Having IoT expanding its arms across diversified technologies, it presents the challenge of sound network security.
IoT Use Cases Transforming the Face of the Aviation Industry
- British low-cost carrier, EasyJet is a pioneer in utilizing wearable technology to enhance the passenger experience. The airline has equipped cabin crew and ground staff with uniforms fitted with wearable tech that enables them to provide visual guidance to passengers. It also has built-in microphones that facilitate direct communication with passengers, pilot, and other crew members.
- Helsinki Airport in Finland use Wi-Fi and iBeacon to track passengers and offer location-based services during their entire airport experience. It even assists them to control queues and bottlenecks while facilitating retailers to spread their goods and services to travelers basis their location.
- Flight equipment on the Virgin Atlantic Airlines are fitted with a wireless network that provides real-time IoT data. This in turn helps the crew and management to track and monitor flight performance and prepare ahead for any precautionary action needed under any exigency.
- Passengers flying with Lufthansa Airlines can use a link on their mobile boarding pass in the Lufthansa app to track where their luggage is currently located. The airline has introduced electronic tags, a mobility solution designed to track luggage from the terminal to flight that passengers can access using their smart phones. Upon arrival at their destination airport, the app informs the guest of the specific baggage carousel and the exact time of the delivery of their luggage.
- Samsung and Qantas Airlines have launched an entertainment service that uses Samsung’s Gear VR headset to offer passengers a 3D experience in an interactive 360° cinematic video format. With these headsets, passengers can watch inflight movies, browse through latest Qantas products, or discover future destinations.
The NIIT Technologies Thought Board:
Airline Redux: How IoT is Set to Change Travel as We Know It
A Step Away from Excellence
IoT promises to have extensive implications in the aviation industry. The vision goes beyond generating extra revenues and better customer experiences. With the world becoming increasingly digital, the objective is to bring a significant, paradigm shift in the overall experience for both airlines and commuters. IoT has the ability to define a new vision for the aviation industry. We can expect people not compromising anymore; IoT will govern each touch point during the entire traveler journey making it truly memorable and beating expectations.
We are just a step away from extending IoT capabilities across allied and collaborative systems to impart great digital experiences in the aviation industry
About the Author
Hemant Bhatt is a consultant working with NIIT Technologies in Travel domain within Travel & Transportation vertical. He specializes in Airline, Hotels, Travel Distribution, E-Commerce, and Digital Marketing and has over 11 years of experience in the domain. He has a rich experience in SDLC including application development, requirement elicitation, and implementation.