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5 Great Ways Airlines Are Using the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been a popular concept in the IT industry for a while now, but it only jumped into the global spotlight as recently as the early 2010s. The IoT is made up of everyday objects that have the ability to be connected via a network (think your printer, traffic lights, or even jet engines). This connection and data-sharing ability will make objects and processes run smarter, safer, and more intelligently. Big data comes heavily into play for IoT.

Gartner’s analysis says there will be 20 billion connected things in use by 2020. Airlines are already using this technology for baggage tracking, cabin climate control, and more. By effectively utilizing IoT, airlines have the tools to greatly reduce or even eliminate the causes of some of the most common complaints in the industry, such as lost bags, flight delays, and customer service issues.

Take a look at five great ways airlines are already using IoT.

1. Virgin Atlantic’s Connected 787s

Virgin Atlantic is taking its use of IoT to new heights by using a fleet of Boeing 787 planes and cargo equipment connected via IoT devices. The total data produced over a flight exceeds a staggering half a terabyte, and includes these key findings:

  • Reduces delays by 20%
  • Reduces deferred defects by 15%
  • Saves each airline engineer 2 hours per day

With all that data arriving in real-time, Virgin Atlantic has the information needed to recognize and solve a mechanical issue - before it even happens.

2. Delta’s Baggage Tracking

Whether it be a misplaced bag, lost item, or excessive wait time, nearly every air traveler has, at some point or another, had issues with checked baggage. Delta made a big step towards solving this industry-wide headache when it became the first US carrier to use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) baggage tracking technology.

Via push notifications on Delta’s mobile app, passengers can see their baggage location on the way to the aircraft, on the plane, and on its way to baggage claim. Thus, IoT has enabled Delta Airlines to give its customers transparency and control when it comes to their baggage.

In fact, it may have been Delta that pushed the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to commit to “developing a global plan to standardize and mandate RFID inlays in all baggage tags”. Read more here.

3. AirAsia’s Adoption of GE’s Flight Efficiency Services

Air travel is a wonderful thing, allowing people the chance to travel about the globe for work and pleasure. However, factors like climate change and fuel expenses make it necessary to reduce waste where possible.

AirAsia, one of Asia’s most popular airlines, is taking advantage of IoT to reduce its ecological footprint as well as boost its own savings. Since 2012, the air carrier has partnered with GE and its Flight Efficiency Services to “identify and realise fuel savings”. This technology helps the airline follow precise navigation routes, which are estimated to be about 20 percent inefficient across the industry, and analyzes flight data to optimize aircraft utilization and fuel use.

4. Qantas Virtual Reality Entertainment

In a partnership with Samsung Electronics, Qantas Airways unveiled the industry-first virtual reality experience in early 2015. It has now transformed into 2 modes: VR headset or smartphone app. This virtual reality experience “allows travellers to explore immersive destination content before booking their flights”. It is not only meant to give passengers a one-of-a-kind immersive experience, but also serve to collect and transmit data about passengers. This data can then be analyzed and insights can be extrapolated.

Through communication among its various systems, Qantas is able to provide passengers a more personal experience. And with booking available directly from the app, Qantas’ bottom line will go up! It’s all thanks to IoT.

5. The Airbus Connected Experience

The new Airbus Connected Experience is all about the connected airplane cabin. By connecting elements from seats to overhead bins to bathrooms via IoT, they can analyse the data patterns and provide real-time updates to cabin crew on seat positions, food availability, bathroom shortages, and more. Apart from cabin crew, all the project partners stand to benefit.

Seatmakers Stelia and Recaro can take advantage of data for “predictive maintenance”, which will keep seats in good condition and anticipate problems before they occur. Gategroup, the catering and onboard retail provider, can use the data provided by this IoT system to analyze patterns of food and retail products.

As for Airbus, this new system helps their airline better understand its own aircraft and cabin. By analyzing the data, they can discover any gaps and potential revenue sources.

The Future of IoT in the Sky

IoT’s capabilities are endless, and it’s clear the Internet of Things is going to transform the airline industry - and it’s going to benefit both airlines and passengers. Exactly what will be created and launched in the coming years remains to be seen, but it’s clear the IoT developments will be focused around:

  • Safety
  • Maintenance
  • Efficiency
  • Security
  • Customer experience and personalization

What airlines are already doing is reason enough to be optimistic. The future of IoT in the sky is arriving, and it’s looking quite nice.


Read more about how IoT is transforming air travel and personalizing the passenger experience.

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