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NEWS Last modified on June 18, 2015

Airline IT Survey indicates a new focus on investment in technology

A common theme throughout the Air Transport IT Summit in Brussels has been how new technology is making air travel easier and helping restore the 'fun' at airports, and the world's airlines seem to agree as they continue to invest in passenger enhancing IT solutions.

Indeed, a major revolution in the passenger experience is set to emerge over the next three years as airlines invest in the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT), says SITA.

According to the SITA's 2015 Airine IT Trends Survey, the vast majority of airlines (86%) expect that the IoT will deliver clear benefits in the next three years and already more than one third (37%) have allocated budget to it.

The results of the survey released today, show that IoT investments will be focused in the areas of check-in, bag drop and bag collection.

The ‘Internet of Things’ is when physical objects are connected to the internet, which enables tracking, data collection, analysis and control.

As part of this revolution, more things in the airport are being connected up including buildings, equipment, bags, trolleys, tugs – basically all the ‘things’ that could emit a status.

SITA 2008 1421

In reality, however, because today the vast majority (83%) of passengers carry smartphones, passengers and staff are connected and can be part of the IoT, too.

SITA’s survey carried out among the world’s top 200 airlines shows that airlines are already considering the benefits of IoT and over the next three years more than half plan investments in this area.

Indeed, By 2018, 16% plan major programmes and a further 41% plan to invest in research and development.

Jim Peters, chief technology officer, SITA, said: “Our whole world is becoming more and more connected and airlines recognise that investment will be needed to harness the benefits of IoT efficiently.

"This year airlines are beefing up their investments in both business intelligence and data centres, which are key foundations required for the IoT.

"SITA is already working across the community, with airlines, airports and other stakeholders, to see how to make the IoT effective across every point of the business and passenger journey.”

All these things – objects, passengers and staff – that are being connected will create immense amounts of data and both business intelligence (BI) and data centers are vital to extract the data’s value.

This year’s survey shows that airlines are heavily investing in these areas.

Already 94% of airlines are investing in BI with 74% planning major investment programs by 2018. While 68% have a major investment program planned for data centres in the next three years, with a further 14% investing in R&D or a pilot programme.

Beacons for baggage

One of the first manifestations of the IoT in the air transport industry is the use of beacons.

This will be the first area that airlines will see the benefits of sensors and the ability to match location with other information.

Today just 9% of airlines are using or trialing beacons but this is set to rise rapidly to 44% by 2018.

Bag services are the steps of the journey where beacons will be most used by then – 44% of airlines are planning to use them at bag drop and 43% at bag claim.

These are the key pain points in the passenger journey over which the airlines have direct control and it is encouraging for passengers to see the airlines investing in new technologies at these steps.

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Location, location, location

Another area of progress identified in SITA’s survey is how communications are set to develop rapidly from the first wave of notification services, which are now established, to the point where interactive mobile communication becomes the standard for the majority of airlines.

The focus of these new services over the next three years will be to use location-based information, in many cases from beacons, to solve baggage-related issues and help passengers board on time with notifications based on their location, even before they reach the airport.

Today, close to 60% of airlines offer flight notification services to passengers via smartphone apps and by 2018 the numbers are expected to be over 96%.

This is already the number one service for which airlines are using beacons and in three years, 57% will use beacons to inform way-finding apps.

Peters added: “It is early days for the IoT but it is becoming a reality and this will be a game-changing and real-time revolution in the way we do things – not only in the air transport industry but across all aspects of our lives.

"Together airlines and airports can use beacons as a gateway to the IoT, creating intelligent airports and fully exploiting business intelligence and analytics to deliver a better passenger experience.”

Airport perspective

And the world's airports are actively embracing The Internet of Things with gateways such as Dubai and Miami  installing thousands of beacons and other technologies.

Dubai Airports CEO, Paul Griffiths, said: "The abiity to track and trace and optimise operations has huge benefits for the industry. It will make airports, airlines and passengers happy."

He noted that IoT would improve an airport's on time performance, transform airport design and increase the capacity of existing facilities.

Find out more about his thoughts in the next issue of Airport World.

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