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Transforming Aviation Industry with Internet of Things

Internet of Things (IoT) has a great potential to change how we live, travel, as well as run businesses efficiently.

The concept of IoT has often been misunderstood. Simply, it is several things connected together. But, what kind of things? It can be a device, a physical object, vehicle, domestic appliances, or a baggage handling equipment.

Gartner predicts that by 2020 around 25 billion devices will be interconnected across the globe.

IoT can transform aviation industry in providing a seamless experience of travelling, enhancing operational efficiency, and empowering connected aviation.

With the use of beacon technology, training airlines staff for using wearables and implementing digital solutions for maintenance, enterprises are presented with a vast array of opportunities with IoT to gain competitive advantage. 

Traditional as well as low-cost carriers must adopt new strategies for differentiation in the digital era. Aviation industry is a hyper-competitive market. Enterprises are faced with constant challenges of maintaining high level of customer engagement along with providing a superior traveling experience at lowest fares.

Digital transformation enables new levels of data-driven collaboration across all functions in the airlines industry collectively. It connects people, technology, processes and culture to deliver seamless flying experience. Data analysis and real-time insights allow the airline to align their services around the specific target audience. 

Industry Challenges

The frequency of business class travel has reduced due to the advent of new travel technologies like HD Video conferencing, collaboration apps, as well as telepresence. In addition, new business models, innovative market entrants, and airline alliances has created new challenges and an intense competition for survival.

Just focusing on the near-term goals such as reducing seat capacity or product unbundling could pose serious threats for the airline in the long run – it would impact the airline’s customer loyalty, profitability, and customer experience.

Opportunities for IoT Adoption

IoT promises to deliver widespread consequences in the coming future. Its effects on the aviation industry include reduction of travel time, enhance passenger comfort, and enhance security levels. However, to realize this opportunity, enterprises and governments should coordinate well to answer the political and economic questions raised by IoT.  

The disruptive technology comes with tremendous benefits for aviation industry while enterprises begin to align it with most of their core enablers.

  • Sensor data: Sensors embedded in connected objects helps in control, monitoring and collection of accurate real-time data. The recent years has witnessed leapfrogging technological sensor capabilities.
    Wireless connectivity plays a significant role in the rise of IoT devices operating on Wi-Fi or a strong cellular network. Another emerging technology, low-power wide area network (LPWAN) enhances the performance of sensors having low bandwidth.
  • Cloud computing: Cloud computing creates a single platform to handle and integrate data from multiple sources, i.e. people, processes, system.  You can utilize real-time data analytics for getting relevant insights from current market data and distribute meaningful information your customers within few minutes.

    Presently, cloud computing is in the infancy stage. However, to cash on opportunities created by smart, connected market, enterprises must identify the specific use cases to improve industry operations and customer service.
  • Smart airports: International and domestic airports can replicate the concept of smart cities; implement advanced technology and improved methods of data collection to extract meaningful real-time insights.

    Sensor data will improve operations and overall passenger experience. You can integrate, optimize, and analyze multiple data sets to develop smart applications or services for airports, airlines, and passengers.

    Now, passengers will receive accurate information related to queues, time to boarding gate, on their mobile device through mobile apps, or a wearable device.The ground staff will proactively manage ground operations utilizing insights collected across the entire airport.

    Hence, it will help you take better business decisions and react faster during exigencies. Interconnected devices and objects also eliminate human intervention in routine activities.
  • Gateway: Beacons are a great technology for IoT gateways. You can place beacons across the entire airport to trigger notifications on a passenger’s mobile device when they are within the beacon’s range.

    Notifications could be related to time, boarding gates, flight status, or displaying the boarding pass on a passenger’s mobile screen.

    In this way, the passenger receives accurate information at all times. Even the airline will be notified about how far is the passenger; thereby helping it to decide better as in how long will they have to wait before the actual take off.
  • Smart baggage: Passengers are normally concerned if their bags have been loaded on the aircraft or not. Airlines can adopt smart baggage tags that will help passengers track the bags through a mobile app. 

    In addition, they will be notified about the specific carousel from where they can collect the baggage along with the amount of time it will take. However, you will need a reliable, secure network to empower multiple connected devices in order to extract the full potential of IoT.

    Presently, communication networks like Wi-Fi or cellular networks are not a cost-effective option and lack coverage especially for airlines that involve long-distance travel.
  • Low Investment: Emerging technologies such as low-range Wi-Fi network is a cheaper alternative to the existing solutions. It will accelerate deployment of IoT across the aviation industry.

    The network functions on ISM bands (frequency bands) that are devoid of interference and capacity limits. These networks are a key contributor to IoT enablement within aviation industry.

Key areas of formulating IoT strategy in Aviation

To test the full potential of IoT in aviation, enterprises must formulate the following key strategies:

  1. Hyper-personalization: Incorporation of digital technologies gave the airlines a platform to provide improved services to passengers and use collected data to offer personalized services.
    Next, enterprises must focus on providing hyper-personalized services to customize travel experiences based on data generation at every interaction point, whether home, airport, or aircraft.
  2. Track passengers: IoT empowers several monitoring applications to track passenger movement in the real-time. In this way, the airlines can diffuse bottlenecks easily.  For instance, The Emirates Group provides beacon-based solutions to alert airline staff about luggage mishaps.
    In addition, the beacons notify passengers when their luggage reaches the baggage claim section. It also offers proximity-based promotional messages.
    Real-time insights will improve the efficiency of fleet management and airport transfers.
  3. Alerts & Actions: IoT will help the airline to predict and prevent customer issues well in advance. Now, you can schedule maintenance activities prior to the actual breakdown. If you are managing a busy lounge at the airport, you will receive alerts related to replenishment of consumables and refreshments before your customers learn about its shortage.  
  4. Monitoring: The connected network helps airlines explore opportunities in driving improvements in ancillary products/services.  Leveraging sensor data helps to upsell exclusive offers like lounge, fast lane, etc.
    Integrating enterprise solutions with IoT will help airlines to effectively monitor the performance of such additional benefits, basically its usage and adoption. Real-time data and insights will also help in structuring better offers.
  5. Operational efficiency: Real-time insights can be leveraged to boost aircraft performance. IoT helps in maximizing fleet utilization, reducing operating costs and identifying problems in advance. Proactive approach helps in streamlining maintenance processes and efficient scheduling of maintenance activities.

IoT: Game - changer for Aviation Industry

Digital technologies create new opportunities for aviation industry to deliver unique and personalized customer experience. For example, social media not only allows aircrafts to communicate real-time information, but also track the customer sentiments regarding services availed.

Innovations like wearable boarding passes and virtual identification/ payments will be instrumental to streamline the customer's journey when he/she enters the airport, up to the point where the flight actually takes off.

The use of advanced analytics helps airlines to build a 360-degree real-time customer view, and aircraft targeted campaigns based on transaction history or preferences.

Digitization will also simplify underlying processes along with improving workforce productivity, both resulting in spillover effect on passenger experience.
Digital technologies deliver relevant customer insights to arrange a comfortable flying experience for the customer.

Accessing relevant insights on their mobile device, the flight attendants can serve their customers better.  

Earlier, onboarding process was a manual task performed by the cabin crew, but with the incorporation of digital technologies, cabin crew is in a better position to servicing their passengers.

Leveraging IoT will add a new dimension to the entire digital transformation process of the airline. Integrating IoT with other technologies such as Big Data, Cloud Computing, artificial intelligence (AI), and robotics creates several opportunities for improving the quality of services delivered by the airlines.