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5 Great Ways Airlines Are Using the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things is here. In short, it’s the ability for everyday objects to be connected via a network, so they can be run smarter, safer, and more intelligently.

There is virtually no limit to how many physical things can be in communication. So it’s safe to say Gartner’s estimate that there will be 25 billion connected things in use by 2020 is quite reasonable.

It would also be safe to assume the Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to play a more central role in airline operations. In fact, this technology already is having an impact on the industry, as it is being used for everything from baggage tracking to cabin climate control. The potential of IoT is groundbreaking. 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.

It thus should come as no surprise that 86% of airlines believe that IoT will create tangible and significant benefits for their customers and business. 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. Currently, the airline is producing a fleet of Boeing 787 planes and cargo equipment connected via IoT devices. The total data expected to be produced over a flight will exceed a staggering half a terabyte.

What’s the point of connecting everything from the engines to the landing gear? Well, with all that data arriving in real-time, Virgin Atlantic will have the information needed to recognize and solve a mechanical issue - before it even happens.

That equals safer flights, less delays, and an overall better customer experience. It’s no wonder other major airlines, such as Etihad Airways, are taking advantage of similar technology.

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.

With such technology, Delta has achieved a 99.9% success rate which made it the best among US global airlines in 2015.

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. The air carrier has decided to partner with GE and use its Flight Efficiency Services to reduce fuel use. 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.

The operational savings that could result from AirAsia’s implementation of GE’s Flight Efficiency Services are impressive. It’s projected the airline will save between $30 and $50 million over the next five years.

4. JetBlue Automates Check-In

Any trip to the airport requires passengers to perform transactions that don’t really add value to the travel experience. One of those activities is checking in. Realizing this, JetBlue has put its technology into action; the airline has begun using IoT to automate the process.

After booking, customers are automatically issued a ticket and given a seat 24 hours before takeoff - without even having to log onto the app or website. The seat is chosen based on data about the passenger’s preferences.

JetBlue makes it clear: with IoT, the airline has the ability to communicate across its systems and automate many aspects of air transport, like ticketing. Not only does this avoid problems if there is a flight delay caused by weather or mechanical errors, but also gives the airline the option to reallocate workers toward more critical operations.

5. Qantas Launches Virtual Reality Entertainment

In a partnership with Samsung Electronics, Qantas Airways unveiled the industry-first virtual reality experience in early 2015. The VR headsets offered by Qantas are 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. The airline can predict what offerings will be most attractive to a particular passenger based off previous use of the VR headset.

In the end, this will boost Qantas’ bottom line. And it’s all thanks to big data and IoT.

The Future of IoT in the Sky

While IoT is not going to magically make airline travel a flawless experience, it can certainly make it more pleasant. 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 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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