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How the Internet of Things improves air travel

Bruce Harpham | May 25, 2016
Let’s face it: These days, flying is the pits. Here are some ways the industry is using IoT technology to make the friendly skies a little friendlier.

Air travel has come a long way since the dark days of 2001. Security remains a concern, but the industry is paying increasing attention to innovation and customer service, and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies are playing a big role in efforts to make aviation more efficient and improve the passenger experience. As the costs of Internet-connected sensors and networking equipment continue to plummet, airlines, airport operators, airplane manufacturers and other travel and aviation industry suppliers are finding new ways to deploy and use IoT technologies.

IoT-related developments in the air travel market could be applicable in many other industries. For example, IT managers in retail may find inspiration from the ways IoT technology is being used at Miami International Airport. And aircraft and engine makers have found applications for connected systems that could be beneficial to companies throughout manufacturing and heavy industry.

Improving the traveler experience at Miami International Airport

As a primary hub for travelers heading to the Caribbean, Latin America and beyond, Miami International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the United States. In 2015, more than 21 million passengers went through the airport. In such a high-traffic environment, traditional approaches to improving productivity will not suffice. That’s why the airport turned to Internet-connected sensors and IoT apps to improve the travel experience.

In February, the airport introduced a mobile app called MIA Airport Official. Available for iOS and Android, the app is designed to provide detailed information to passengers based on their location and needs. According to airport officials, it has been a hit. “We had 3,000 downloads on the first day, and it has been great to see the positive feedback from travelers,” says Maurice Jenkins, division director for information systems at Miami International Airport. The airport’s IT team developed the app in partnership with SITA, a technology company specializing in air transport communications and information systems.

The MIA Airport Official app relies on a network of 400 beacons that transmit location information throughout the airport. Each beacon “is about the size of five quarters in a stack, so they are easy to deploy and install,” Jenkins says. “For passengers, the app provides personalized directions through to airport and helps passengers to find restaurants, services and baggage carousels based on their location.” In the future, the app may gain the capability to provide estimated wait limes at security checkpoints and customized marketing messages.

“Our management is very interested in the data produced by the app, because it helps them to understand passenger behavior better. For example, we can understand and forecast times of peak demand better and plan accordingly,” says Jenkins, adding that airport officials are studying the data to identify opportunities for improvement.


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