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How Blockchain and IoT are Redefining the Travel Experience for Customers

The number of air travellers is set to double in the next few years, with expectations rising; so what opportunities does this present to airports?

By April Slattery

The need for businesses in the digital era to remain connected across the globe has rendered air travel a necessity for many, resulting in unprecedented passenger growth. The number of air travellers is set to double in the next few years, with a staggering 7.8 billion passengers set to travel in 2036, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Not only is the number of passengers rising, but their attitudes towards air travel and their expectations from airports are also evolving.

Airports are no longer considered to be merely entry and exit points, but hubs that must cater for all passenger requirements including parking, retail, banking and recreation. The automation of manual processes and a more efficient use of resources can make the airport experience smoother for passengers.

What’s more, rising passenger expectations an untapped revenue opportunity to airports.

The aviation industry is already reforming their operational practices by leveraging new technologies to keep pace with changing trends. To do this, collaboration within the airport ecosystem is vital — covering everything from airlines and government regulatory entities to fleet services and baggage management. In order to enable integrated operations, the underlying data needs to be available to all relevant stakeholders in a compatible form. This is where blockchain technology combined with the Internet of Things (IoT) could prove to be a game changer. This unique combination provides a collaborative platform for storing and sharing information in real time, resulting in a unified, seamless airport experience for each passenger.

Blockchain for airport travel operations

The air travel industry is particularly challenging due to the multilayered interdependency throughout the travel life cycle, where all services are interlinked and impacted by inevitable factors such as flight delays. However, problem areas such as the wait time before boarding can be addressed using timely customised alerts on key services for each passenger. . However, for this to work, air travel operations have to be treated as a single ecosystem.

Blockchain and IoT can make this kind of integration possible, and enable the development of collaborative stacked architecture as well as catalyse decentralisation, trust, virtual-continuity, and authorized access. This system can enable the secure exchange of real-time information, resulting in improved operational efficiency and thereby enhanced profitability. The seamless experience that this technology creates can help to retain passenger loyalty, which can benefit airports in terms of passengers’ travel choices.

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One passenger, one digital footprint

Passengers are increasingly looking to technology to provide them with more “personal control over their travel experience”, according to a global passenger satisfaction survey conducted by IATA in 2017. Blockchain and IoT can help by enabling a customised experience starting at ticket booking and going all the way through to being met by a hospitality partner on arrival at their destination. With its unique identification system, blockchain can create a single digital travel identity for the passenger, through which all their travel services can be authenticated.

The blockchain-powered passenger experience could include personalised add-ons based on the passenger’s travel history, such as shopping tips based on their purpose of travel and their destination, updates on booking onward travel options, traffic predictions and parking notifications based on car size and terminal entry gate. Passengers could also benefit from automated border security control, alerts for food and drinks offers and the ability to make additional payments, digitally. Using blockchain’s virtual continuity capability, all of a passenger’s transactions are updated across a single ID, while the information gathered for each trip further improves passenger experience over time.

Baggage management and unified payments

Mishandling of baggage is one of the main reasons leading to customer dissatisfaction, so it’s an important area for airlines to address. Blockchain and IoT can combine to form an error-free baggage management system using real-time tracking through RFID tags, for example. IoT devices can exchange information at different checkpoints, minimizing the chances of a misplaced bag and helping identify a particular bag or customer, in case of any security concerns.

Secure and easy payments could also help to transform the airport experience. Cardless payments are the new benchmark in the banking industry and can help airports to create a more seamless passenger journey. With a unique ID enabling unified payments, passengers can take care of all airport spending easily, whether that’s paying for parking, extra baggage or food. This seamless process lowers transaction fees and time spent on transactions, while offering a secure way to pay with minimum fuss, which will undoubtedly be appreciated by customers.

The future for Blockchain and IT in airport operations

With its robust cryptographic techniques and distributed messaging system, blockchain provides a secure and shared platform where data can be made available in a standard form for all authorised stakeholders. Combined with the device-driven real-time information sharing offered by IoT and the increasing adoption of digitalised business processes, blockchain is an ideal choice for the airport industry   to optimise operations and tailor-make passenger experiences.

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