Internet of Things set to transform the passenger experience

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Left: According to SITA’s 2015 Airline IT Trends Survey, just 9% of airlines are using or trialing beacons but this is set to rise rapidly to 44% by 2018

A major revolution in the passenger experience is set to emerge over the next three years as airlines invest in the Internet of Things (IoT).

According to the SITA 2015 Airline IT Trends Survey, the vast majority of airlines (86%) expect that IoT will deliver clear benefits in the next three years and more than one third (37%) have already allocated budget to it. The results of the survey released yesterday (June 18), show that IoT investments will be focused in the areas of check-in, bag drop and bag collection.

IoT is when physical objects are connected to the internet, enabling tracking, data collection, analysis and control. As part of this revolution, more things in the airport are being connected including buildings, equipment, bags, trolleys and tugs. However, because the vast majority (83%) of passengers carry smartphones, passengers and staff are connected and can be part of IoT as well.

SITA’s survey was carried out among the world’s top 200 airlines and shows that airlines are already considering the benefits of IoT, with more than half planning investments in this area over the next three years. By 2018, 16% plan major programs and 41% plan to invest in research and development.

Jim Peters, chief technology officer, SITA, said, “Our whole world is becoming more and more connected and airlines recognize that investment will be needed to harness the benefits of IoT efficiently. This year airlines are beefing up their investments in both business intelligence and data centers, which are key foundations required for IoT. SITA is already working across the community, with airlines, airports and other stakeholders, to see how to make IoT effective across every point of the business and passenger journey.”

Everything that is connected (objects, passengers and staff) will create immense amounts of data, and both business intelligence (BI) and data centers are vital to extracting its value. This year’s survey shows that airlines are heavily investing in these areas. As much as 94% of airlines are investing in BI with 74% planning major investment programs by 2018, while 68% have a major investment program planned for data centers in the next three years and a further 14% investing in R&D or a pilot program.

One of the first manifestations of the IoT in the air transport industry is the use of beacons. This will be the first area in which airlines will see the benefits of sensors and the ability to match location with other information. Today just 9% of airlines are using or trialing beacons but this is set to rise rapidly to 44% by 2018. Bag services are the steps of the journey where beacons will be most used by then with 44% of airlines planning to use them at bag drop and 43% at bag claim. These are the key pain points in the passenger journey over which the airlines have direct control and it is encouraging for passengers to see the airlines investing in new technologies at these steps.

Another area of progress identified in SITA’s survey is how communications are set to develop rapidly from the first wave of notification services, which are now established, to the point where interactive mobile communication becomes the standard for the majority of airlines. The focus of these new services over the next three years will be to use location-based information, in many cases from beacons, to solve baggage-related issues and to help passengers board on time, with notifications based on their location delivered even before they reach the airport.

Today, close to 60% of airlines offer flight notification services to passengers via smartphone apps and by 2018 the number is expected to be over 96%. This is already the number one service for which airlines are using beacons, and in three years 57% will use beacons to inform way-finding apps.

For more information and detailed results of the SITA 2015 Airline IT Trends Survey, conducted in association with Airline Business, click here.

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Helen has worked for UKi Media & Events for nearly a decade. She joined the company as assistant editor on Passenger Terminal World and since progressed to become editor of five publications, covering everything from aviation, logistics and e-commerce to meteorology. She has a love for travel and property and has redeveloped three houses in three years. When she’s not editing magazines, she’s running around after her two boys and their partner in crime, Pete the pug.

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