Perhaps no feeling in the world is as disheartening as standing in baggage claim after a long flight, and not seeing your bags on the carousel. Not only do you now have to figure out what you are going to wear for the next few days, you have to deal with the airline and jump through hoops in an attempt to locate your bags, which have apparently gone to Pago Pago when you went to Phoenix.
Thanks to developments in the Internet of Things, though, the days of lost luggage could be numbered. In fact, the travel industry is one that stands to benefit from the IoT across the board. By connecting everything from suitcases to airplane seats, travelers may soon be able to experience more efficient, safer, and more enjoyable travel.
Magic Bands and Beacons
In 2013, Walt Disney World Resort in Florida launched one of the most ambitious projects in its history, and in effect, the age of the IoT in travel. With the introduction of Magic Bands, Disney eased many of the pain points of a visit to the theme parks. Visitors are issued the bands, rubber wristbands similar to a fitness tracker, which serve as a form of “all access” pass to everything on their vacation: hotel room key, park tickets, dining plan credits, and even charging privileges are embedded into the bands, making it possible to enjoy a vacation without having to carry anything else.
One of the most talked about features of the Magic Bands, though, has been the addition of Fast Pass Plus, which allows park visitors to schedule certain experiences up to 60 days in advance of their trip. A simple tap of the wristband on the reader at the entrance of the attraction, and you can ride with little to no wait. All of this can be controlled via a dedicated app, My Disney Experience, which allows you to make changes on the fly, and make the most of your time in the park. The whole idea of the Magic Bands was to simplify guest experiences — and increase the idea of “magic” in a Disney vacation.
Disney isn’t the only travel company making use of sensors to improve customer experiences, though. Airports are also making use of IoT technology to address some of the biggest challenges that travelers face. Many airports, for example, have put the “beacon” technology common in shopping areas to use helping track traveler luggage.
Airlines including Delta and American have begun using RFID-enabled luggage tags, which when they pass certain beacons during the loading and unloading process, send alerts to travelers about the progress of their bags. Luggage manufacturer Samsonite is also getting in on the tracking trend, and is developing suitcases that are equipped with sensors that connect to an app that travelers can use to track their belongings.
Microcontroller equipped sensors are also being employed to help make aircraft maintenance delays a thing of the past. Newer aircraft is being equipped with intelligent sensors that can alert aircraft maintenance crews of potential issues, so they can be addressed well before 300 passengers arrive for their cross-country flight. Sensors are also being used to help improve fuel economy, which could potentially lead to lower airfares in the future.
And once you arrive at your destination, the IoT can make your hotel experience more streamlined as well. A number of larger hotel chains have begun offering guests the opportunity to check in via an app, and receive a “room key” on their mobile device, allowing them to skip the front desk check in altogether. Guests can also order food, adjust the room lighting and temperature, and request other services from their mobile devices, creating a streamlined and personalized service.
The Goal of Travel IoT
Most companies that are working on IoT projects for the travel industry note that the ultimate goal is a personalized service. In fact, according to one survey, 86 percent of airlines believe that the IoT will present clear benefits to both travelers and their businesses in the next three years. There are certainly challenges, including security and getting consumers to adopt the new technologies, but developers are optimistic that in time, consumers will begin to realize the benefits of the IoT and embrace them — especially when they no longer have to waste time tracking down their wayward bags.