One of the most intriguing technological developments of recent years has been the Internet of Things. This concept is very much based in the present, but also one that will become increasingly significant in the future. Yet although many people have heard the hype related to this coming phenomenon, most people are as of yet unfamiliar with what the Internet of Things actually entails.

Defining the Internet of Things

Even supposed layman’s definitions of the Internet of Things can be somewhat confusing for the uninitiated. Wikipedia defines the technology as “the interconnection of uniquely identifiable embedded computing devices within the existing Internet infrastructure.” To elaborate on this rather impenetrable definition, the Internet of Things will most obviously impact the general public via its ability to connect everyday items to the Internet, effectively making them smart devices.

This technology has hitherto been most associated with domestic homes, with the possibility of connecting appliances such as washing machines and fridge freezers to the Internet. While the benefits of this may not be immediately obvious, the theory behind Internet of Things is that people will be able to remain connected to their appliances whether or not they are at home. This is already being implemented with regard to such technology as electricity systems which enable consumers to alter thermostats while outside of their homes.

But it is not merely in the home where the Internet of Things can have a serious impact. Already airports are looking at the possibilities offered by this technology as part of the constant battle to improve the departure and arrival experience for customers. While both airports and airlines have attempted to differentiate themselves from one another in terms of price and value for money, promoting innovation and enhanced customer experience can be another way of attracting consumers.

London City Airport Piloting Internet of Things

And one airport is already dipping its toes into the water of opportunities offered by the Internet of Things. London City Airport faces a huge amount of competition from iconic competitors such as Heathrow and Gatwick, but it does benefit from a unique location adjacent to the financial centre of the city of London. As a consequence of this, London City Airport targets corporate travellers primarily, with this group representing 63 percent of the passengers that go through the airport on a daily basis.

Eighteen months ago, London City Airport became the first in the UK to test drive the Internet of Things, utilising the technology to pilot cross-technology networking around the airport. What it actually enabled was security lines to have the ability to communicate with each other, and then ping the mobile devices of travellers with up-to-date waiting times.

This potentially offers several benefits. For example, drivers will know the moment that customers are making their way through terminals, and food and beverage outlets can take pre-orders for customers and automatically begin preparing food as soon as customers go through security. Auto-bookings can also be easily enabled for travellers who are unable to make flights, as determined through their GPS-enabled devices.

There are many other potential applications and benefits of this technology for businesses related to airports and tourism, and it seems possible that this hi-tech project can be a precursor to widespread adoption by airports across the UK and indeed the world.

The development of the customer experience and the face of airports in the future were examined and discussed in-depth at the recent FTE Global 2014 event in Las Vegas. A raft of industry experts offered their thoughts at the event on what the airport sector should be preparing for over the next 15 to 20 years.

The 'Generation Y Traveller'

In particular, the event looked at the importance of the so-called 'Generation Y Traveller'. This was defined as a traveller of the future; an individual with less patience and greater requirements from airports than travellers of the past. These are people who are very technologically savvy, and also to some degree reliant on tech (and some might suggest even addicted to some degree). It is also suggested that this group expects superb customer service, has little tolerance for delays, and adapts quickly to new innovations that become available.

While one should be wary of generalisations, the picture of the future traveller was pieced together by looking at existing trends. And Dubai airport, which participated in the forum, is already developing the sort of flexible infrastructure required to handle the demands of the future. Mike Hardaker, Head of Business Improvement at Dubai Airport, explains that it is currently examining all of its procedures, in an attempt to improve the customer experience which the Dubai airport believes has stood still for around 30 years.

The Internet of Things can play a significant part in the re-shaping of customer experience related to airports, and both airports themselves and travel-related businesses likely to operate out of airports can benefit from paying heed to this technology as it develops.

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