Wireless Technologies

For harried business travellers, IoT brings solace

The following is a contributed article by Al Harrington, VP of business development at hybrid cloud management company Apcera

Ah, business travel. You’re booked on the 8am flight to New York for a week of important customer meetings, but the stresses start piling up the minute you get out of bed. Will finding a parking space at the airport be a scramble? How long will you have to cool your heels in check-in and security lines? Will there be time to grab a latte in the terminal? And is this the dreaded day your bag gets lost?

Business travellers – who took 459 million trips and spent nearly $300 billion last year, according to the US Travel Association – need all the help they can get. The air travel experience tends to be inconvenient even on the best days.

Enter the Internet of Things (IoT), the web-connected network of devices, buildings and everyday objects that are embedded with software and sensors to make them smarter and more responsive. Think of IoT as the Internet of Travel. Working in conjunction with passengers’ smartphones, it is poised to bring futuristic automation to nearly every step of the air travel process and provide a more connected, informed and pleasant end-to-end experience.

Of course, all this new connectedness opens up opportunities for hackers, so it is crucial for airports and airlines to implement strong security measures and instil trust in these new systems.

But allowing fears about technology security to hamper these advances would be like letting concerns about airline safety make someone stop flying. Similar to how IoT is changing our cities into ‘smart cities’, tomorrow’s airports will aspire to be smart cities within smart cities, and business travellers will only benefit from the changes and a new connected experience.

Here are five innovations that are already starting to take wing now and should continue to reach fruition before the end of the decade.

Easier parking. Unless you take public transportation or get a ride to the airport, the first mystery of any trip is where are the best available parking spaces and how long will it take to find them? Thanks to the IoT, parking garages and lots are being instrumented with sensors to allow travellers to receive this information via an app on their smart phones, before they pull in. No more anxiety hunting for a space while precious minutes tick away. You’ll also no longer have to write down the parking space number somewhere or take your ticket with you in order to settle up at the easy pay kiosk upon your return. Instead, you’ll be able to wave your phone over a sensor, which will automatically record your location and then charge your credit card when you leave.

Navigating TSA lines. Long Transportation Security Administration security lines have made headlines this summer. Apps that purport to help already exist – such as the TSA’s own My TSA, which lets users view other travellers’ wait times. But the app depends on users to take the step of posting the information, doesn't make clear whether they’re using PreCheck or not and merely lists each wait time rather than averaging them. Under new IoT techniques that airports are starting to implement, travellers will get more information, such as estimated wait times at security checkpoints.

Smooth going through the terminal. Airports are beginning to install electronic beacons -- everyday objects that have smart features included, which are only enabled when a user is within close proximity -- that transmit location information throughout the airport to passengers’ phones. Using the app, flyers can know where they need to be and when, and they get personalized directions to find restaurants, baggage carousels and other services based on their location. In addition, they receive real-time updates for gate changes and connections, including maps and mobile digital signage for finding their way.

Smarter baggage handling. How many times have you handed over your bag at the airline check-in desk and thought, “I hope it gets to Seattle too” or gazed at the carousel at your destination airport and wondered if this was your unlucky day? This will all become an unhappy memory as your baggage joins the Internet of Travel. Smarter handling systems will track bags in closer detail and you’ll be able to track them right from your phone. In fact, a bag will be able to track you, sending a message to your phone about its location at any point in the journey. If the worst happens and the bag didn’t make it, you’ll get a message about that too and won’t have to endure the crushing wait at the carousel.

Grabbing a pre-flight bite. You have a flight to catch, but you’d really like a bagel and a coffee before boarding. Is there time? What’s nearby? Thanks to IoT technologies, flyers can see the length of lines at restaurants in the terminal via a phone app, and even view menus, order ahead and track loyalty points, awards and locations for their favourite spots. The ‘Internet of Travel’ and technology innovation holds the key for keeping business travellers happy and on time. They deserve nothing less.


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