IoT takes to the skies: More personalized experiences for passengers

Airline industry

Smart airlines that make airports pleasanter, more efficient institutions? Technology wants to make it happen, now.  Here we look at the real ways the Internet of Things is trying to upgrade airplane travel.

People want their time at an airport and their journey to their destination to be as painless as possible. The Internet of Things is the answer, allowing airlines to offer better end-to-end travel experiences for their passengers. With beacon technology, robots that park your car, improved in-flight entertainment and the ability to get through security checks quicker with facial recognition technology, airlines and airports are seeing the benefit of the internet of things and plan to propel it forward over the next three years.

This market snapshot shows what developments are happening right now and where airports and airlines are likely to be by 2018.

Luggage tracking goes mainstream 2018

Beacon technology will change the way we drop off and collect our luggage at airports, as well as stop our concern over whether our baggage will actually reach the destination. According to SITA 2015 Airline IT Trends Survey, just 9 percent of airlines are using beacons or running trials. However, this number is set to rise to 44 percent by 2018.

luggage travel business escalatorFlight-status notifications is not a new development with nearly 60 percent of airlines currently offering flight notification services to passengers via smartphone apps; however, this figure is expected to be over 96 percent by 2018. An expected notification service will be about keeping passengers informed of the location of their luggage.

However, there will also be a significant increase in airlines being able to track the location of passengers to get them to boarding gates on time.

Dubai International Airport has already installed thousands of beacons, and are trialing a concept unit to ensure passengers don’t miss their flight. For instance, when a passenger’s boarding pass is scanned at a duty-free store, the cashier will be alerted if the passenger’s gate is open or about to close to alert the passenger face-to-face.

In Europe, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol recently became the first airport in the country to achieve full beacon coverage. The initiative installed beacon coverage in their departure halls, lounges, piers and luggage reclaim areas, as well as in the Plaza shopping mall and the World Trade Center corridor.

The goal is to share the beacon data with interested airport parties. Albert van Veen, Chief Information Officer, Schiphol Group, shared his intent, saying: “We have deployed beacons at Schiphol for all our partners. Airlines and other parties can use the beacons to develop new smart applications that will improve the passenger experience at the airport even further. This summer, the Schiphol app will offer new services based on location.”

Schipol airport is also currently trialing a new Apple Watch app. During the six-week trial period, certain Privium frequent flyer program members will be able to use the smartwatch app to view flight information and receive real-time notifications during their departure process, like when their gate is open.

Robot car valet

Looking for an open parking spot at the airport can be incredibly stressful, especially as passengers watch the minutes till their departure time rapidly tick by. Germany’s Düsseldorf airport introduced robot valets in July last year, literally taking the hassle of finding free parking out of airport visitor’s hands.

The valet service is booked through their online airport parking portal and passenger’s will include their departure and arrival dates and times. Once their get to the airport, passengers leave their car while a laser scanner measures your car. It either prints out a QR code, detailing the location of the car, or sends it directly to the passenger’s smartphone. While passenger’s take the two-minute walk to the airport, the robot (nicknamed Ray) takes over, picks up the car and takes it to its parking space.

Once passengers return from their trip, their car will be waiting in the exit bay, ready for them to get in and drive home.

Improved in-flight entertainment

Services onboard flights are also set to improve by 2018 with 66 percent of airlines offering wireless internet and multi-media services on passenger devices. More passengers will be able to control their in-flight entertainment and relaxation.

in flight entertainment airplane tv moviesSome airlines are already making in-flight entertainment a personal choice. Virgin America’s in-flight entertainment system offers not only the usual movies, TV series and game options, but also digital shopping, Google Maps, and the ability to message other people on the plane. Their in-flight entertainment system also allows passengers to set up an Open Tab, allowing passengers to order additional snacks and drinks from the cabin staff, and watch premium TV shows. Passengers can close the tab whenever they want.

More and more airlines are also offering passengers free iPads for the duration of the flight. Examples include OpenSkies who offer free iPads on their New York to Paris flight, and Qantas who offer the option to stream entertainment to your device or use one of their iPads.  Jetstar, Philippines Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines offer a similar service on certain routes, but the iPad service comes with a rental fee.

Facial recognition technology

Singapore’s Changi Airport announced this month that they would be installing facial recognition technology in their new Terminal 4 due to open in 2017. The facial recognition technology will eliminate the need for security staff to manually check and identify each passenger at the various airport checkpoints. The terminal will also be featuring self-service and automated options for check-in, bag tagging, immigration clearance, and aircraft boarding.

Yam Kum Weng, Changi Airport Group’s executive vice-president of air hub and development said, “Passengers can expect passage through the various touch points to be smoother and stress-free, giving them more time to enjoy the facilities.”

Images by: José Manuel Ríos Valiente, Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0the frequent flyer and Delta 173 JFK-NRT // New Delta 747 Business Elite Cabin via photopin (license)