The Internet of Things is no longer the stuff of science fiction. It’s not even just a viable concept. Before too long, your slice of bread will be informing your toaster that it’s not browning evenly.
The wireless connection of everyday objects to the internet is changing the way that cars, medical equipment and even toothbrushes operate. Gartner Inc., a leader in technological research, recently predicted that 25 billion things will be connected by 2020.
Bluetooth beacon technology, a key component of the IoT, makes it possible for objects to communicate with people and each other. A beacon is simply a transmitting device that gathers and relays information. Nowadays, most beacons are sensor-embedded stickers tiny enough to place on just about anything.
This new technology has broad implications for the airline industry, and executives are paying attention. In this article, technology entrepreneur and self-proclaimed “futurist”, Jason Hope shares some areas in which the IoT is improving air travel.
Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 787s are as connected as they come. From nose to rudder, every part of the plane is connected to a wireless network. Real-time data are continually collected and analyzed. Scheduled maintenance is automatically tracked. If the ground staff receives news of a poorly performing engine during a flight, mechanics are waiting with the necessary parts before the plane lands.
Beacons continually monitor the condition of safety items like life jackets and toolboxes. For travelers who are nervous about flying, that does wonders for their peace of mind.
Deregulations, heightened security and unpredictable ticket prices in recent years have made airline passengers especially grumpy. Airlines are using the IoT to rectify that.
Here are some examples of technology improving customer service and overall experience:
- Easy check-in
Most airlines now issue boarding passes via email and assign seats 24 hours before takeoff. There’s no need to log in on their websites or open their apps. JetBlue Airways’ system chooses seats according to what passengers chose before automation.
- Personalized travel
With your permission, beacons will soon act as personal guides throughout your journey.
If you’re meandering in the wrong direction in an airport, a sensor somewhere will register that you’re lost. On a mobile or wearable device, you’ll get directions to your gate and updates on the estimated walk time. If they’re closing the plane door in two minutes, your device will tell you that you’d better run.
Do you need a wheelchair in an unfamiliar airport? You’ll be told where to find one. If your flight is delayed, your device will suggest restaurants or bookstores that you’ve frequented in the past. Imagine receiving this message: “You have an hour and 15 minutes to kill. The wait at Bar Symon is only 10 minutes, and the restaurant is directly across from your gate.”
Many airlines are adding these personal touches. The technology on Qantas Airways remembers how you last used virtual reality on a flight and offers choices accordingly.
- Creature comforts
Several airlines are developing seat sensors to monitor passenger enjoyment. They will detect things like uncomfortable temperature, fatigue and low hydration levels. Cabin crews will make corrections.
Delta Air Lines now has a pet-tracking service. Passengers can check in on a dog or cat throughout the flight to monitor the temperature, humidity and light in its location.
Beacon technology will soon be embedded in luggage tags. Passengers will be able to keep a virtual eye on their bags from check-in to final destination.
Delta and Lufthansa already have simple tracking systems in place, but in the very near future, your bags will find you. They’ll sense where you’re standing in the claim area and go to that carousel like obedient children.
GE Aviation developed technology that is used to optimize fuel efficiency and monitor the use of auxiliary power units. Navigation routes, weather, trajectory, terrain conditions and other data are collected and analyzed on a fuel-efficiency dashboard.
AirAsia has helped the environment and saved money on fuel by installing the GE system on their aircraft. Take it from Jason Hope, you can expect the IoT to become more prevalent as other industries see its value to airlines and their passengers.