The Internet of Things (IoT) is by far one of the most significant and influential emerging technology trends within the travel industry. Read this article to find out what the Internet of Things actually is and how it is set to benefit those in the travel industry.
The travel industry is one of the most competitive, where customers constantly expect greater innovation at ever affordable prices. Given this pressure to evolve with the rapidly changing demands of consumers, the travel industry has been the first to utilise IoT. The Internet of Things is a technological solution that connects devices through internet-enabled sensors that can exchange information between themselves. IoT typically refers to everyday physical devices that have been fitted with internet connectivity, making them capable of sending and receiving data. Essentially, this makes these devices and appliances ‘smart’ as they have the complex ability to talk to or interact with each other. This technology enables these devices to perform actions automatically and be controlled or monitored remotely.
IoT has the potential to completely transform how many tourism companies operate. Considering the sheer volume of businesses adopting IoT and its ability to offer advanced interconnection and communication among devices, systems and services, IoT is predicted to bring disruption within the travel industry. According to SITA Airline IT Trends Survey, 86% of airline companies believe that IoT will bring “clear benefits over the next three years.” IoT has the potential to completely streamline the end operations of hotels, airlines and many other travel-related businesses through the connection of smart devices, systems and processes. By taking full advantage of IoT technology, the travel industry will benefit from increased operational efficiency and a more personalised customer experience.
Travel agents have become relics of the past. With many travel businesses moving their services online, you can make all your travel preparations from your couch. Whether you’re choosing the destination, booking flights or hotels or making dinner reservations at a restaurant, this can all be done without any human interaction at all.
In addition, your trip can be easily tailored to your likely preferences. Given the huge amounts of data collected these days, the system already knows all of your preferences based on any previous trips, social media information, the feedback you have left, shopping lists and so on. The data gathered and analysed through various connected devices makes it much easier for travel businesses to find the perfect vacation for you in terms of cost, flights, hotel suggestions, food likes and much more.
This smart travel technology reduces the hours spent browsing different destinations, trying to decide and come to an agreement on which is most suited to you. Being given tailored holiday recommendations based on your pre-determined preferences makes the travel planning process much easier, less stressful and most importantly less time-consuming. Given that these recommended trips are based on your specific travel ideals, it is also unlikely that you are going to have any last-minute regrets that you didn’t go somewhere else, choose that other hotel or a different airline.
One of the main uses of IoT technology within the travel industry has been to optimise the level of personalisation within hotels and on flights. This is primarily achieved by enabling customers to control appliances and services through a centralised smart device, such as a tablet or smartphone.
Some examples of how this has been utilised include internet-enabled heating and lighting adjustment, scheduling wake-up calls and controlling TV and lifts. This allows customers to control these amenities from one convenient place, tailoring them to suit their preferences and having them be maintained automatically. Similar technology can be used in-flight, including the regulation of seat temperature or the level of air conditioning. You can now unlock your room door with an electronic key on your smartphone and provide access to only certain people. You can request additional towels or order room service while having a bath in your hotel room. Hotel maintenance also becomes more efficient – staff can use the IoT sensors to keep track of whether a room is empty of occupied and whether there is need for housekeeping.
This level of personalisation offered by IoT provides a superior level of convenience to customers, making them feel more at home and relaxed. Personalisation when travelling to new, unfamiliar places can make your journey much more pleasurable and less stressful. Unfamiliar hotels can become cosy home-like spaces and flights can become more comfortable than ever before with smart, tailored solutions.
As well as personalisation, IoT is incredibly effective in simplifying the travel experience at various points in the journey. By streamlining the travel experience, travel businesses can ensure the satisfaction of their customers. They can avoid long queues at the airport, lengthy and confusing check-in procedures and more efficient baggage handling. As travellers become increasingly more demanding in terms of the experience they want travel businesses such as airports must cater to these demands and one incredibly effective way of doing so is using IoT.
A good example of how IoT technology is helping to make the travel experience smoother is through smart speakers such as the Amazon Alexa. These smart speakers use voice assistance to allow passengers to make customised demands. Customers could ask for anything they like using this IoT technology, from ordering pizzas and booking taxis to checking in and much more. United Airlines have incorporated smart device check-ins through smart speakers from Amazon and Google Home as well as through Fitbit’s Ionic smartwatch. The app enables customers to view key information, including flight status and boarding passes. Smart speakers have already proven to be one of the most successful aids in online check-ins, with future passengers gearing up to manage all their travel preparations.
Not only will airports benefit from IoT, but hotels can also use this smart travel technology to make their check-in process simpler. Hotels have started delivering electronic key cards on guests’ smartphones, allowing them to automatically check into the hotel without the need of stopping at the front desk. IoT sensors can even be used to notify restaurant staff when guests have arrived so that they can promptly update them with the correct table number and when it is ready.
It is becoming increasingly important for businesses to cultivate green and sustainable tech solutions and travel is a prime offender in the environmental field. Naturally, planes contribute a large amount of pollution and when on holiday, people tend to become more liberal with their use of resources and the treatment of their home. Waste and the huge expenditure of resources when it comes to travel makes it important that the travel industry do all they can to minimise their impact on the environment.
IoT provides a brilliant solution to this problem, with a particular focus on minimising the inadvertent impact that travellers have on the environment. Most travellers make travel lifestyle choices which negatively impact the environment that they are not even aware of. For example, people staying in hotels are likely to expend much more energy in an unnecessary way than when in their own home. IoT-empowered hotel apps allow guests to control and monitor how much energy they are using. By giving travellers the ability to take control of their own energy consumption activities, they make them more aware of how their own actions are affecting the planet and the impact that they might have. Room temperature, lighting, heating and television can all be set and controlled remotely from a single smart device.
The Future of IoT in the Travel Industry
While many industries have the potential to greatly benefit from IoT technology, the travel and tourism industry is particularly well-placed to reap the rewards. The Internet of Things can enable customised travel planning, superior personalisation, a seamless journey and a more sustainable trip. It can streamline and automate everyday time-consuming and effortful tasks in hotels and airports, making the whole process of travel much more efficient and relaxed.
However, in order to capture IoT’s huge potential, travel providers need to be innovative, creating an IoT infrastructure that seamlessly connects their services with the customers. IoT makes collecting large quantities of data much easier, but trying to make sense of and understand this information requires investment in the correct technology. IoT is still very much in its infancy, but future innovations within the technology are certain to bring many more disruptions to the way we travel. It is vital that travel companies incorporate IoT into their existing initiatives in order to leverage these initiatives when they eventually arrive.