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Posted December 29, 2016

IOT travel industry

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Most modern jet setters would agree: sensors plus connected devices plus intelligent analytics equals a better travel experience. Hospitality industry association HOSPA reports that there was approximately 1 internet-connected device per person in 2013, but by 2020 there will be around 9 devices per person. That’s a widely shifting ratio, so it’s safe to assume that tomorrow’s jet setters will thank the Internet-of-Things (IoT) for a smooth, easy and well-connected journey.

And lest we forget the employees running the internal operations of today’s travel companies, for they are benefiting from the wonders of the IoT. The data at their fingertips is changing the way they work and serve their customers and what they’re experiencing today is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Let’s consider the IoT and how it’s making an impact today:

Enhancing the Traveler’s Journey

The IoT is making a big impact across industries, as most people have heard about smart homes, smart healthcare and smart cities. But it’s very likely the IoT has personally touched a person’s travel experience—even if they don’t know it. From the customer’s standpoint, the IoT delivers more than restaurant recommendations. Customer-facing applications that crunch the right data can get travelers from points A to B with more ease and efficiency than they’ve ever known. That’s because the data used to serve them is analyzed into relevance—it’s highly individualized. It’s really smart. How will the traveler experience it along their journey? Here’s how airlines and hoteliers are already leveraging the technology:

At the Airport:

According to recent research from Sita reported on IBM.com’s IoT blog, while only 37% of airlines have allocated budget for IoT implementation today, that number is expected to rise to almost 60% in three years. Investments are funding various initiatives, including, the placement of sensors under passenger seats that detect when a person is dehydrated or overheated, enabling flight staff (or the seat itself) to adjust their comfort level. What’s more, the 3 Ways the Internet of Things Will Make Flying Less of a Hassle, according to Skift, are that it will:

  • Simplify way-finding, thanks to beacons that connect to a travelers’ device through an app to help them get to their gate on time
  • Keep tabs on baggage, as their whereabouts will be accessible to travelers on their devices (and consider smart luggage)
  • Enable easy shopping, from booking to retailing (e.g. finding the nearest shop at your airport that can replace your lost headphones)

In the Hotel:

HOSPA says that through the IoT, “information is turned into actions that create new capabilities, richer guest experiences and unprecedented economic opportunity for hotels.” These can already be seen in IoT-enabled electronic key cards, in-room heating and lighting controls and even digital art on the walls that changes according to the guests’ preferences. In many hotels today, guests can use their own device or one from the hotel to customize their stay, stream entertainment and order room service. A next-level application of IoT is the use of facial recognition technology to let hotel staff know when a particular guest is on the property.

Improving Supplier Operations

According to Centric Digital, the Travel, Transportation and Hospitality lead IoT industry adoption and investment, with a total $128.9 million in spending as of May 2015. Much of the IoT “magic” is happening behind-the-scenes to help suppliers manage their internal operations. IoT-infused operations provide companies with large volumes of data related to business processes that help them fine-tune their workflows and, ultimately, ensure they’re delivering optimal customer service. Take, for instance, airport checkpoints that communicate with each other: the data they generate help decision-makers understand traffic flows and staff checkpoints with more employees at high-traffic times. And consider how sensors on jet engines help inform equipment maintenance decisions that impact flight safety.

It’s important to remember that IoT technology and its many applications are still being developed—and we can look forward to some exciting solutions coming to the travel marketplace. Yet for as many innovative ideas come forth, issues surrounding data security and customer privacy need to be addressed before they’re put to use. One part of this work is finding the right balance between what consumers are willing to share and what technology is able to protect, and another part is locking down IT infrastructures well enough to prevent even life-threatening security breaches.

For today, a visit to a large airport or a higher-profile hotel will demonstrate how the IoT is already working to boost operations and raise the level of service provided to travelers. In the months and years ahead, holiday-goers will be able to experience more of the fruits of the industry’s IoT investments and we will report on the trends here.

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