The phrase ’Internet of Things’ has been floating around obscure corners of the web for years. Today, however, the term isn’t just mainstream - it’s a daily reality for anyone with a smart device.
So what is the Internet of Things? Simply put, the IoT is the network of physical devices connected by electronics in conversation. Think your car’s GPS feeding you live traffic data, or viewing a live-video of your living room while you’re holidaying in the Bahamas.
What does this mean for corporate travellers and the travel managers who wrangle them? Data, convenience and streamlined experiences.
The IoT has revolutionised the way we receive information. But its application extends beyond avoiding a traffic jam on the way to work.
Internet of Things and the Travel Industry
The travel industry has emerged as the frontrunner in Internet of Things spending, with a reported $128.9 million spent on IoT projects in 2015. Why has the once far-fetched idea become so attractive to travel companies? Improving the experience of the traveller, differentiating your service and cutting costs while doing so.
Airlines are using connected smart devices to improve all aspects of the passenger experience, from baggage handling to monitoring the safety and efficiency of the planes themselves. On the horizon, we can expect first-class plane tickets to include more than just salmon steaks and ample leg room.
Airplane seats themselves have become an interesting focal point for IoT innovations. Students at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have been working with KLM Airlines to develop a program called FlightBeat, which empowers flight staff to monitor the comfortability of passengers in real time.
The seats are embedded with sensors that analyse passenger heart rates, presenting this information to airline staff with a colour-coded seat map. The premise here is that nervous or agitated passengers will display a higher heart rate, and can be attended to accordingly.
The data from these so-called smart seats could extend to hydration, tiredness and temperature - offering a hyper-personal in-flight experience. However, while these ideas may excite airline companies hoping to differentiate their service, they also raise serious ethical concerns.
Feeling as if you’re sitting in Big Brother’s lap for the duration of the flight may outweigh the novelty of water served as soon as your seat indicates you’re thirsty.
Solving Flying Frustrations
Other aviation innovations aim to solve common frustrations of passengers in the airport terminal. Dave Bartlett, technology chief at GE Aviation says luggage handling is another focus for IoT application.
“For example, being able to track your bags from a smartphone app, or even the bags tracking you,” he says.
“The bag senses when you enter the luggage area, and selects the carousel you are standing closest to and enters that carousel.”
Bartlett even says airports may assume a sort of helpful personality of their own, sending text messages like “I see you’ve landed. It’s about an 8-minute walk to your connecting flight gate, and the gate closes in 12 minutes.” However, he emphasises that the collection of this data will be permissions-based.
Hotel Industry and the Future of Corporate Travel
The hotel industry isn’t far behind when it comes to Internet of Things innovation. Everything from sensory lighting and temperature adjustments, based on the movements of the guest, and keyless smartphone door entry have been developed to personalise guest experiences.
The adoption of IoT technologies in the airline, hotel and hospitality industries shows us these innovations aren’t going away. Just how effective they are in practice, and how enthusiastic traveller will be to embrace them in the longer-term remains to be seen.
Nevertheless, the IoT represents the future of the corporate travel landscape: connected, controlled and effortlessly convenient.
For more information on the trends that are redefining business travel, download your free eGuide, '5 Corporate Travel Trends to Watch in 2017' below: