How the Internet of Everything Can Greatly Improve Business Travel

IoT and improving business airline travel

This post is sponsored by Samsung. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

When you get into the slowest moving line at the supermarket, serving dinner late is about the worst thing that can happen. Have the same bad fortune at the airport and you could end up spending the night in the terminal.

Savvy business travelers are going boldly into an era where the Internet we’ve all grown accustomed to using everyday is being wed to the Internet of Things (IoT) and evolving into the Internet of Everything (IoE). This emerging and immersing (I’ll explain why I used that word in a moment) technology is in the process of greatly improving airline travel.

A common scenario

Picture yourself on a business trip. It’s a weekday morning and you’re getting ready to head to the airport to make your next flight. Your smartphone is running the app of the airline you’re flying and you’ve probably checked in using the app and have your boarding passes on your home screen.

You and your airline have already shared a lot of information with one another and you’re still hours away from your flight…if you haven’t overslept or the airline hasn’t changed the flight schedule. If there’s been any hiccup in your airline itinerary, your stress level is going to start increasing and problems begin to mount for the airline.

Imagine an airline that can tell how far you are from the airport and realize that there’s no way you’re going to make your flight. You could be automatically alerted. The airline could automatically book you on the next available flight and know that it has an empty seat that it can now sell to another passenger. All of that is possible today and in this case, you haven’t even wandered into the airport’s IoE yet.

Airports and airlines are busy finding ways to leverage the IoE using your smartphone, strategically located beacons, various sensors, smart signage and other interconnected technologies to improve the travel experience. This translates to a vastly improved customer experience for passengers and greater productivity for airlines, airports and vendors within airports.

A digital valet

Wouldn’t it be great to arrive at a busy airport and be assigned a personal valet whose job it is to make sure your travel experience is optimized? Airports from London to Dallas and airlines like Virgin Atlantic and American are beginning to leverage the power of the IoE to do just that, except the valet is digital, not flesh and blood.

Let’s take a simple example, but one we all can relate to. You arrive at the airport and need to get to your gate. Beacons within the terminal can sense your presence and trigger a message to your smartphone that verifies your gate number, tells you how to get there and recommends the shortest security-check line along the way.

It may also recommend some food options as you walk the aisles based on the time of day and the type of airport meals you typically opt for. Further, smart signage – vendors’ and the airport’s – can tie into the IoE and deliver messages customized to the preferences and situations of travelers in the immediate area.

Mapping airport usage

As this beacon-equipped airport terminal is connecting to passenger smartphones, it’s also mapping out foot traffic patterns and places where passengers tend to congregate. This will help it ease passenger congestion when it does its next remodel and also determine the prime locations for various vendors and give airport management solid rationale to charge higher rents in those areas.

Frankly, all the players in my scenario – travelers, airlines, airports, and vendors – share the same priority: getting through the airport smoothly and efficiently. Even restaurants would like to see a steady stream of business with travelers coming in, eating, and leaving. When restaurant tables are occupied by groups just killing time because of a travel snafu, it doesn’t do their throughput any good.

Innovative use of the IoE can help make this happen. Will it bring back the days when commercial airline travel was a luxury that people looked forward to? I don’t know, but it’s a step in the right direction!

Before we leave the topic, let’s quickly look at the other sides of airline travel – when you’ve boarded and after you’ve landed.

Track your luggage

As you probably know, far too many pieces of baggage end up in the wrong place. By attaching a small beacon to each piece of checked baggage travelers can be assured that their things are on the same flight as they are. And once they land, if their bag flies off a conveyor belt or luggage tram, airline personnel can be immediately alerted.

Also – and this is one I really like – if your bag has a beacon on it, you can know exactly when it’s about to make its grand entrance at the baggage carousel (Ta da!). This way travelers can actually sit down and relax or take care of other business instead of milling around the baggage claim area like a 1960s expectant father.

At the top, I mentioned that when all of these elements within the IoE are working together in the airline industry, it will be like having your own personal valet to make sure your travel experience is the best it can be. This is extremely important because airlines and airports are also working hard to implement a “self-service” model in order to achieve cost savings.

If the self-service aspect of this evolution gets too far ahead of the smart use of the IoE, it would be bad for travelers, so as you’re choosing and rating airlines and airports, find the ones that are making the best use of the IoE.

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