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“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” - Arthur C. Clarke
With the mainstreaming of digital technologies, the level of company-customer engagement has reached new heights. The smartphone is fast transforming into an all-encompassing tool catering to identity, authentication, and purchasing needs. As such, there is a strong push towards no check-out retail stores, experimented by Amazon. Customers can walk into the outlet, pick up their purchases which are automatically scanned and reflected on the custom Amazon application on mobile. On their way out, the customers are not required to check-out at the counter; instead, they can simply move-out while the amount of the total purchase is deducted from their personal account, which presumptively is connected with their Amazon-linked digital wallet or their credit card.
One market vertical which can bring unprecedented ease and comfort to people by harnessing the power of digital is the travel industry. By uniting people and process effortlessly, businesses can offer seamless travel experience to their customers.
Imagine the infinite possibilities if the Amazon model is repurposed for the travel industry? What if a traveler is unencumbered by the hassles of dropping luggage, buying boarding passes, and picking up their bags on their way out–all without manual intervention? How about leveraging one’s own smartphone for location-based services? Envision a reality where you’re constantly updated about the status of your transport-service, with timely reminders and a wake-up call if you are about to miss it!
Harnessing IoT will rebuild an entire ecosystem for the digital transformation of the transportation industry. Gartner reports that by 2020 there will be 25 billion connected things in use. Such is the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT).
Creative uptakes of IoT
- Personalized Healthcare: Some people suffer from dormant ailments that spring to life during travel, especially in airlines. Using IoT-based biometric technology, it is possible for attendants to measure the temperature, heart-rate, even hydration of the passenger and offer real-time assistance if anything goes awry.
- Value-added Services: In the wake of fierce competition, the airlines can offer VR headset to passengers, enabling them to have a 3D experience of video content. By equipping staff with wearable technology, they are empowered to communicate directly with the passengers, thereby avoiding unnecessary conflicts.
- Streamlined Operations: Luggage remains a sore point in the travel experience of many customers. Not any longer. Now, passengers can locate their bags through their smartphone, or even better, the bags can locate you and send signals. By sensing the carousal the travelers are nearest to, the bag can make its way to them. By affixing RFID tags to the luggage, the travelers can find their real-time location and this doubles up as a security offering as well.
- Service Experience: Passengers do not have real-time information about the arrival of their transport service, which forces them to vacillate between ease and inquiry. They also miss out on getting regular updates and there is a distinct possibility of missing the service itself, without anyone reminding them! IoT-infrastructure can help passengers keep a tab on their service-line, even sending them timely reminders.
- Easy Check-in and Check-out: One of the major time-consumers is the endless queues one is required to follow at each stage. As with Amazon’s experimental store, passengers can buy a ticket/boarding pass via mobile and can display it to scanners placed strategically so as to avoid queues. To take this further, one can even allow shopping at transportation hubs to happen via smartphone, so that people are not forced to possess the cash for small purchases.
- Workforce Productivity: As we shift focus from customers to the workforce, the advantages begin to shine brighter. Through the central Wi-Fi, the staff can be supplied with wearable technology, which in collusion with iBeacons can provide high-accuracy location-based services. It will enable them to allocate goods and locate passengers and help avoid bottlenecks.
To illustrate an extreme example of IoT use, British Airways offers its passengers a happiness blanket, which is equipped to give staff a visual representation of their ‘meditative state’ during the trip. When someone emits stress or anxiety signals, their state of mind becomes manifest to staff which can take suitable measures to make them ‘happy’. Way to go!