How the Internet-of-Things is transforming travel

Tim Sherwood, vice president of Mobile Segment Strategy at Tata Communications, discusses the far-reaching benefits of IoT for the aviation sector
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Tim Sherwood, vice president of Mobile Segment Strategy at Tata Communications.
Tim Sherwood, vice president of Mobile Segment Strategy at Tata Communications.

The travel industry is in the throes of unprecedented change, driven by new technology. There’s a trend towards leveraging mobility services, Big Data and the Internet-of-Things (IoT) to automate services, while process management and cloud-based applications are revolutionising the sector too.

We’re also seeing new competitors in this space, with many organisations introducing more customer-centric, digital business models, while industry stalwarts play catch-up.
Arguably, technology has already revolutionised the travel sector. Consumers are used to checking algorithm-based curated websites and apps to make their travel decisions. And, checking in for a flight online or using electronic travel documentation is already second nature.

As the IoT has the potential to change the travel market again, businesses need to embrace a strategic approach to their own digital transformation. That means understanding what the opportunities are, and how to capitalise on them while also protecting the business from risk. In part one, of this blog, we’ll take a take a look at two out of the four key things that are going to usher in this next evolution.

Growth across borders

It goes without saying that the travel industry is global, so the infrastructure that supports it needs to be global too. To identify and achieve successful digital transformation, the industry will require best-in-class global infrastructure and information tools.

Getting the right connectivity services up and running is particularly important. Looking at the IoT and airlines, for example – one of its biggest benefits is that it brings visibility to areas that might otherwise be in darkness. Yet, in order to maximise visibility, airlines need a very reliable network infrastructure to act as the foundation for and underpin a huge range of IoT-enabled sensors and devices, connecting the aircraft itself, as well as baggage tags and everything in between.

Furthermore, to move into new geographies, travel businesses need to focus on new technology, competitive new services and the right business models to generate incremental revenue. That means having connectivity services that deliver not just on a domestic basis, but on an international one.

But to do this, a business could end up having to negotiate with hundreds of mobile communications service providers to enable mobile access for IoT services in each country. For most businesses, this is simply not viable.

The better alternative is to contract with a single provider that’s able to negotiate all the access agreements, provide end-to-end mobile and cloud connectivity, and data management services. This approach ensures cross-border connectivity, without the headache.

More productive, more efficient flight crews and stress-free travel for customers

It seems almost incredible to think that in this digital age, many flight crews still rely on hard copies of passenger manifests and other mission-critical documents day-to-day. This creates not only inefficiencies but also leaves room for human error.

Something as simple as a tablet, connected to central airline and airport IT systems, could eliminate the need for binders full of print-outs, and provide flight crews with the most up-to-date policies, procedures and alerts, making the flight experience smoother for passengers too.

But that’s just the start. Travel companies are already using the power of Big Data to create ultra-personalised experiences, analysing traveller data across preference, social behaviour and buying patterns.

By harnessing the power of the IoT, hotels are able to make their rooms ‘smart’ by enabling guests to adjust the temperature, lighting and even entertainment based on their personal preferences before they even check in.

There are travel businesses already taking the technology and running with it, both simplifying and enriching the travel experience to make truly personalised offers to their customers. And, this mindset is winning business and generating revenue.

One medium sized hospitality company recently leveraged Big Data to achieve 50% more repeat visits and a 15% shift to direct bookings. Organisations across the world are beginning to offer seamless, multi-platform collaboration with employees, partners and customers – and they’re reaping the rewards.

Similarly, airlines can incur huge costs from time delays or unplanned maintenance. In fact, it’s estimated that just two hours of unplanned maintenance on the tarmac can cost an airline as much as $150,000. These delays can hit margins hard and damage customer satisfaction. So it’s perhaps no surprise that aviation companies are taking action – using technology to help manage predictive maintenance and avoid breakdowns and technical delays.

From travel companies to airlines, IoT technologies can help businesses with their strategic approach to digital transformation, capitalising on future opportunities whilst mitigating risk.

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