Going Sky High with IoT

March 5, 2020

Long wait lines, flight delays, the hassle of navigating the airport and other inconveniences rarely make air travel a pleasant experience. But the implementation of IoT can help alleviate these pressures. In the near future, air travel may become a much more streamlined and pleasant experience.

Robots and Sensors Improve Parking

Baltimore Washington International was the first US airport to install smart parking technology. Thanks to sensors, LED signs can display the number of parking spots in each row, preventing the need for drivers to search themselves. Passengers can find parking quickly, increasing satisfaction with their overall flight experience. Airports can also fill parking lots to maximum capacity, reducing the need for expensive parking lot expansions.

Autonomous robot parking has been tested at airports in France and England. A kind of automated valet, passengers drop off their car as they arrive, and the robot parks it for them. Cars can be parked close together and multiple rows deep, allowing for high-density parking that saves airports space as well as the liability of human valets.

RFID Says Goodbye to Lost Luggage

In 2016, Delta implemented RFID technology to track passenger luggage. Sensors on conveyor belts automatically detect and scan tags, reducing the time and errors involved in manual scanning. This technology also allows airports and passengers to track luggage as it travels, preventing lost luggage and increasing customer satisfaction. Travelers can also receive notifications when their bags are ready for pickup and at which carousel they are located.

Beacons and Biometrics Cut Long Wait Lines

John F. Kennedy International Airport started using beacon technology to track line wait times in 2015. The wait length is displayed in real time on billboards. Passengers are more satisfied waiting when given reasonable expectations as to length. Knowing how long the lines are taking also allows the airport to deploy staff to overflow locations, optimizing operations and further increasing customer satisfaction.

In late 2018, Delta released the US’s first fully biometric airport terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, which uses facial recognition to confirm passenger identity. This saves travelers from presenting their passport and ID to check in, check bags, pass through security checkpoints and board their flights. This improves convenience and saves up to nine minutes of wait time per passenger. Though using facial recognition is optional, Delta reports 98% of their passengers choose to do so and has since expanded the technology to more airports.

Beacon Technology for Easier Airport Navigation

In 2016, Miami International Airport installed beacon technology that has provided many benefits, including helping travelers with airport navigation. Users of the airport’s app can get a real time display of their current location as they travel the airport or turn-by-turn directions to their gate. Passengers that are able to quickly and efficiently locate their gate have more time to spend dining or shopping, potentially increasing airport revenue.

San Francisco International Airport’s app helps direct visually challenged passengers by merging beacon and voiceover technology. In addition to visual displays, users can be directed where to go by voice as enabled on Apple devices.

Connected Cabins for a Personalized In-Flight Experience

Airbus is currently testing connected cabin technology. Sensors throughout the cabin allow for a more streamlined experience for passengers and flight attendants. Overhead bins light up red or green for empty or full, and finding green bins can be done quickly via an app. Automated safety checks inform flight attendants if all passengers are buckled and alert them if a seatbelt is unbuckled. Attendants can be alerted if supplies run low in the bathroom and passengers can see easily which lavatory is unoccupied.

Passengers can also place drink orders or service requests on an app without the need to flag down an attendant. And passenger preferences can be stored in their app profile, allowing them to receive predictive service on future flights. Collected data can give airlines valuable information on what food or drinks to keep stocked, which movies are popular among passengers and common duty-free purchases.